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Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
by Richard Seymour
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will the Left be proved right?, 7 Jun. 2016
Fascinating analysis of the history of the Labour Party with obvious focus on the current leader Jeremy Corbyn and the obstacles to his success on a wider scale. I am a lifelong Labour voter who struggled to feel at home for many years, especially the Blair ones. Seymour is very good at explaining the way that leadership thinking in the Party has evolved, if that is the right word. He is depressingly accurate in his description of the forces ranged against Corbyn, but not quite as conclusively depressing on future prospects as I feared he might be. Must-read for anyone interested in UK politics, of whatever political hue


Evelyn Dunbar - The Lost Works
Evelyn Dunbar - The Lost Works
by Edited by Paul Liss and Sacha Llewellyn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too little known, 5 May 2016
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5* for Dunbar whose quirky work should never have been forgotten- I dropped a star for this particular book as parts of the commentary are exceedingly patronising and annoying


Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies
Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies
by Alexandra Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.96

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weather, blether, 2 April 2016
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I found this book intensely irritating, and one in what is becoming a depressingly long line of books by academics about, essentially, nothing, as they string together unconnected art and texts in increasingly spurious ways, often with a hefty chunk of memoir thrown in. Harris has written a book on Virginia Woolf, whose articles and novel Orlando are clear influences here. There are some lovely pictures and some interesting quotes but the overarching 'argument' is thin and stretched to unbearable limits.The weather is always with us, and writers and artists respond.- better read original texts and go to galleries than waste your time with this.


Story of the Lost Child, The (Neapolitan Novels 4)
Story of the Lost Child, The (Neapolitan Novels 4)
by Elena Ferrante
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.79

5.0 out of 5 stars The ties that bind us together and tear us apart, 12 Jan. 2016
I just finished this, the last Neapolitan novel, having doled it out to myself a few chapters a night to make it last as long as possible. But the last 100 pages I raced through, desperate to see a conclusion to the mystery disappearance described at the beginning of Brilliant Friend. I feel drained and bereft. Was the ending a cheat, a contrivance, a sop to the lit crits, or was it perfect? All these, I suppose. For throughout, Ferrante has been demonstrating the illusory and fleeting nature of our strongest convictions and analyses of our lives and the lives of those we think we know, and the refusal of life to conform to tidy explanations and endings. I'm reminded on some levels of the great Visconti film, Rocco and His Brothers, which graphically illustrates some similar themes. These books are a phenomenal achievement, meriting for once the enormous acclaim they have received. They are the strongest representation of lifelong female friendship and the ties that transcend even motherhood that I have ever read - in fact, I can't think of anyone else who has attempted this, and the background of Italian life and politics ground the story without losing its universal application. Two formidable, unforgettable female main characters, a host of minor memorable ones, 4 page-turning novels that etch themselves on your brain. Genius? Very possibly.


My Brilliant Friend: 1
My Brilliant Friend: 1
by Elena Ferrante
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to its reputation, 29 Dec. 2015
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This review is from: My Brilliant Friend: 1 (Paperback)
I got to the end of this book and immediately did something I've never done before with a just-read book - I reread it. I had found it mildly irritating first time around yet something kept me going and by the finish I desperately wanted to get my head round it properly. Ferrante, whoever she is, has splendidly depicted the lives and times of a group of Neapolitan schoolchildren born towards the end of the 1940s. The children's fears and gradual awakening of understanding about the wider world are so skilfully written I'm sure this book will become a classic. The four books in this series constitute a wonderful achievement in illuminating and linking the lifetime friendship of two women with the impact on their lives of the changing societies and cultures in which they live. This first book may take a little effort to get into hut handsomely rewards it. I'm baffled by reviewers who refer to 'bad translation' to as the translator seems to me to have done a great job with the urgency and passion of Ferrante's writing burning up the pages. I've recently been downsizing my books with fiction being the main throw-outs: Ferrante is up there with the greats as a keeper.


Where the God of Love Hangs Out
Where the God of Love Hangs Out
Price: £7.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing, 2 May 2015
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When I finished this book, I did something I've never done before - I went back and read it again. The prose is that good. From the first page, you know you are in the presence of a great writer who also understands the vagaries of the human heart. Bloom constantly changes perspectives which make the stories very rounded and immensely satisfying. One reviewer said they nearly gave up reading because the start of the first story made it feel as if it were going to be about "pensioner sex" - well, firstly, as someone rather advanced in years, I see nothing wrong with that! and, secondly, the story is about so, so much more than sex.


Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Price: £5.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Living past Mrs. Winterson, 23 Mar. 2015
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Brilliant title - courtesy of Jeanette's adoptive mother - for an engrossing book. Winterson's prose for me has the same quality as Virginia Woolf - although the number of pages may be few, this is not reflected in the time the book takes to read, for each immaculately-crafted sentence requires lengthy reflection, appreication and makes ripples in your mind. This is to some extent the non-fiction version of Wintersons' first success, 'Oranges are not the only Fruit', giving the skinny on the extraordinary Mrs. Winterson, an almost-literally larger-than-life character whom Winterson is finally learning to understand and forgive. So the book is in essence a truly amazing account of how Winterson fought her way from this background via Oxford and on to becoming a very successful novelist and her continuing battle with all the ensuing demons. Interestingly, another reviewer here says someone reading it without knowing anything of Winterson would read it as an 'unusually literate sob-story'. I was in W H Smith's yesterday and as always had a chortle by the shelves marked 'Tragic Life Stories' for which there is clearly an unending public appetite, but which begin to blur and come out sounding like the sad old guys in Monty Python trying to outdo each other for the misery of their youth, always either without shoes or without feet... But I think that the quality of her mind and thinking - part of what makes this account 'unusually literate' - lifts this way above the average Pelzer-type story.and take her book to a more universally applicable level, if you need justification for reading it. I pondered on the title, Mrs. Winterson's words of wisdom - who'd like to define 'normal' anyway? The older I get, the more elusive a concept it seems. Given a choice I'd definitely opt for being happy.. One thing I know though - Winterson is one of the great writers, immensely readable and entertaining and always thought-provoking.


11.22.63
11.22.63
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Slip through the tunnel of time, 23 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: 11.22.63 (Kindle Edition)
I have never read a Stephen King book before, was probably a little snobbish about him, thought the books sounded a bit schlocky and sensational. Well I don't know about the earlier ones, but this is, for me, a masterpiece. I couldn't put it down (and it's 74-odd pages long) but I didn't want it to end. As well as being a very clever time-travel novel, it addresses all sorts of issues about the quality of life, now and in the 50s and 60s, makes comparisons but acknowledges the impossibility of coming to a conclusion (50s/60s - kinder, more innocent times, people more friendly but segregation, rampant racism, sexism etc), about conscience, about the immense consequences of apparently minor actions, about love (it's a beautiful love story too). I read a newspaper review saying that the book was boring - I wonder if this is an age thing - I am a bit younger than King and not an American but I still loved the careful detailing of 50s/60s life, perhaps that would be boring to someone younger, but it seemed very rich and evocative to me. There's plenty of the gore I associate with what I know about King's work, but at the end of the book you feel you have spent time with some decent people about whom you have come to care. It's beautifully written too, very funny in places, and capable of moving you to tears. Can't imagine anything topping it as my book of the year


Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare ?
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare ?
Price: £4.68

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refuting the conspiracy theorists, 23 Mar. 2015
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So, this book has been waiting on my shelves a long while for the receptive reading moment (you know how it is when you really, really know you are going to enjoy a book but the time has to be right). I have been growing increasingly fascinated by the idea of biography (see The Stranger’s Child and any early biography of Rupert Brooke), plus the ever-shifting emphasis on interpretation of works based on lives.
I was very impressed by Shapiro’s 1599 and this book, though tangential to the plays, is just as fascinating (he should stick to academia and book-writing though; he’s an unimpressive t.v. presenter with a headache-inducing voice). From the clever play on words of the title onwards, Shapiro writes refreshingly jargon-free readable prose as he presents the case for Shakespeare as the author of his plays, and describes the history of the various opposing theories and candidates. We see the growing need to identify the life with the work, to give to the Tudors modern sensibilities. Most of all, we see a refusal to accept that a glovemaker’s son could have the imagination to piece out his imperfections with his thought; a snobbish, patronising attitude that belittles the fine grammar-school education of the time and the passionate curiosity that continues lifelong self-education (indeed, one is led to think that Sir Derek et al. have had their brains abducted by aliens...and sadly, I have to include my beloved Henry James here). Shapiro describes how the Baconians and Oxfordians etc. had practically given up their ghosts in the late 50s, when, astonishingly, the anti-Wills suddenly gained academic credence and are apparently being taught in degree courses. It has also become acceptable in academic circles to read the life from the work, and i am now questioning my unquestioning acceptance of Greenblatt’s Will in the World and wonderful Michael Wood’s Shakespeare t.v. series, both of which interpreted Shakespeare in this way. Another point raised which I find uncomfortably close to home is that the obsession with literary lives stops us reading the actual works, or as Shapiro more elegantly – and topically in this year of the 50th anniversary of The Bell Jar -- puts it: ‘many literary biographies are supplanting the fictional works they are meant to illuminate, to the point where Ariel and The Bell Jar struggle to find a readership that books about Sylvia Plath’s marriage and suicide now command’. Later in the same chapter he makes another important point: ‘In the end, attempts to identify personal experiences will result only in acts of projection, revealing more about the biographer than about Shakespeare himself’. Shapiro makes telling points about our general growing scepticism and the belief in conspiracy theories leading to a readiness to imagine all sorts of bizarre ideas about various secret children of Elizabeth (if only the dates could be manipulated, as so many have been in the course of fitting Oxford and others to the playwright’s role, so that Shakespeare could have been one, farmed out to the glovemakers’ family!). An excellent, thoroughly-researched and absorbing piece of literary detective work. (


The Stars in the Bright Sky
The Stars in the Bright Sky
by Alan Warner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Manages to be exhilarating when it should be depressing!, 23 Mar. 2015
Alan Warner's cracking sequel to 'The Sopranos' gives us the girls in their twenties now, Orla gone so the group is augmented by a posh uni friend of Finn's, thus balancing out the educated/non-educated ratio. It has to be said that the educated ones aren't always the smartest. Using Gatwick as a metaphor for modern life in his 9/11 novel, Warner mercilessly exposes the bleak aridity of our materialistic, celebrity-obsessed society. Manda, the working-class single mum has evolved to become token manageress in her sister's beauty parlour, and is surely one of the great comic monster literary characters, while Warner still manages to retain our sympathy for her. The drinking remains epic. In fact, sex, brand names and drink remain the great points of life for girls who can imagine little else (though in the case of rich philosophy student Ava, coke is good too). A hilarious, chilling fable for our times


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