Profile for Dr. R. Brandon > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Dr. R. Brandon
Top Reviewer Ranking: 679
Helpful Votes: 1966

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Dr. R. Brandon (England)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
A Genius for Failure: The Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon
A Genius for Failure: The Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon
by Paul O'Keeffe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderfully Engaging and Readable Biography of a Tragic and Neglected Artist, 1 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It is our amazing good fortune that Benjamin Haydon left behind a partial autobiography and copious diary notes, and it is from these that Paul O’Keefe has constructed this most vivid and engaging biography of this tragically self destructive artist and writer.
O’Keefe has a very lucid straightforward style and beautifully reconstructs the life and times (1786 – 1846) of this sadly neglected and tragic figure. The author provides a classic chronological narrative telling us something of the parents and early life of Haydon, on to his early triumphs and recognition, only to be brought low as debts mount and he is consigned to prison. There follows further triumphs and then the start of the self-inflicted and disastrously ill-judged project that finally leads to the demise of this prodigious talent. Haydon toured the country extensively making use of the new railways and was a highly successful lecturer on art and artists. He published a number of books on the subject and received painting commissions from some of the greatest people in the land. Yet personal tragedy, continuous debt and a lifelong animosity between himself and the art establishment, largely represented by the Royal Academy, blighted his life. In some ways the tragedy continues to this day with many of Haydon’s paintings consigned to storerooms or obscure locations with the notable exception of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
Haydon numbered among his closest circle Wordsworth, Charles Lamb, Elizabeth Barrett, Keats and for a short period Leigh Hunt. He also met the leading politicians of the day, Melbourne, Robert Peel and Wellington, to say nothing of the Monarchy and provided detailed descriptions of these renowned characters. The author brings all these events and encounters vividly to life, often utilising reported conversation of Haydon and his contemporaries. This wonderfully engaging and very readable book is highly recommended to all interested in the art and cultural scene of the day and to those who will simply enjoy an excellent biography.
Some readers will recognise a very fair vignette of Haydon in the recent Mike Leigh film, ‘Turner’.


Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum
Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum
by Nicholas Tromans
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Produced But A Disappointing Text, 4 Jun. 2015
I have to confess to being disappointed with this book. It is beautifully produced and profusely illustrated with excellent high quality graphics as you might expect from Tate Publishing. However, it was disappointing to encounter a rather tortured style of prose from the author Nicholas Tromans. I found myself quite frequently re-reading sentences, sometimes whole paragraphs, in order to understand their meaning and even then not always being sure of the point being made. The straightforward biographical details of the artist Dadd, or the histories of Bethlem and Broadmoor Hospitals are fine but when the author sets forth on an interpretation of Dadd’s paintings and their possible relevance to his clinical condition then the text becomes somewhat impenetrable and overly erudite. Time is spent invoking ancient Greek ideas of each individual having a ‘genie’ or second self who may advance views that differ from those of the first person or self. This theme has been taken up in recent times by the writer Philip Pullman. The author uses these ideas to try to interpret Dadd’s reported conversations and paintings, to my mind not very convincingly.
The book covers the full life work of Richard Dadd, his epic journey across Europe and the Middle East with his patron Thomas Phillips, his descent into madness and the murder of his father, and his arrest and incarceration at the age of 27, in 1844, for the rest of his life in the Bethlem and Broadmoor Hospitals. A description of the foundation and brief history of Bethlem and Broadmoor Hospitals and a commentary on the prevailing state of psychiatry during the 19th and 20th centuries are also provided.
Despite my criticism of the style and text the book is still worth buying for the profuse illustrations and general history of Dadd and the asylums he occupied.


The Night of Wenceslas
The Night of Wenceslas
by Lionel Davidson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent, Highly Entertaining, Well Written Thriller., 30 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Night of Wenceslas (Paperback)
This is a very well written and very entertaining ‘thriller’. Although Lionel Davidson’s first work of this type it already displays a masterly talent in style and construction. Right from the very first paragraph you find yourself drawn to the central character, something of an anti-hero, Nicolas Whistler, and are interested at once in what awaits him and how he will cope with the many vexations that life seems to throw at him. The characters are well drawn and interesting. As readers may guess from the title, part of the action takes place in 1960s Prague, the city is still under Communist rule and the author conjurers up that fascinating mixture of apparent normality and gaiety but with an undercurrent of distrust and menace. Davidson is very good at scene setting and topography and having visited Prague I could easily follow the movements of the characters. The book maintains a good pace throughout and readers may rest assured there are no dull patches. Other reviewers have compared Davidson to Eric Ambler, but for me Davidson, particularly in this work, demonstrates more interesting characterisation and greater emotional content, but I feel sure others may have their own preferences. It should also be said that this book contains a fair amount of first rate situational humour and I laughed out loud on a number of occasions.
An excellent, well written, thriller recommended to all who like this type of fiction.


Peron & The Enigmas Of Arg
Peron & The Enigmas Of Arg
by Robert D Crassweller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent History of Argentina and Its Charismatic Leader, 23 May 2015
This is a well written and carefully constructed book that covers the history of Argentina and the prevailing circumstances that gave rise to Peron and the period known as the ‘Peronato’, before dealing with the life of Peron himself.
The author introduces us to some thoughts on the attitudes of Argentineans which he suggests are inherited from their Spanish and Moorish ancestry. In particular he describes the importance of respect for strong men, or men of power and wealth, and of the importance of honour and loyalty. He further suggests that the adversarial and compromising norms associated with North American or British democracies do not sit well with such traits and that this gives rise to the periodic appearance of strong charismatic leaders in Argentine history. Crossweller stresses the influence of such figures as the 19th century creator of Argentina Juan Manuel de Rosas and the later social pioneer Hipolito Yrigoyen in the early 20th century on Argentine leaders.
The author runs through the history of Argentina from early settlers moving down from Bolivia and the growth of Buenos Aires. The rest of the northern part of the country being occupied by vast and distant cattle ranches run by the aristocrats of the country or ‘caudillos’, families of immense wealth providing jobs for impoverished ranch hands or ‘gauchos’. Finally the south of the country was conquered with settlers overcoming the native Indians and occupying parts of the vast scrubland of Patagonia down to Tierra del Fuego. Subsequent development of the country and vast inward foreign investment, particularly by Britain, generated wealth and a large body of industrial workers. These changes were to have profound consequences in providing the working-class power-base that Juan Peron was later to so successfully utilise in his rise to power.
Peron rose through a military career and was noted for his ability and charisma. He appears to have displayed a tendency to take risks but at key moments to demonstrate caution and await the turn of events (one of the enigmas of the title). It may be a surprise to some but Peron always insisted on being elected to power and having a mandate from the people through properly run elections. He never seized power by force. His secret was to be able to appeal directly to the workers and to be able to mobilise the big unions in his favour whilst at the same time not antagonising the ‘caudillos’. This latter point being illustrated by the passing of much social legislation and the role of the charitable foundation run by Evita, but the complete absence of meaningful land reform.
Declassified US documents demonstrate that the United States State Department frequently misunderstood what Peron was about and formulated policies based on misconceptions. They suggested that Peron was a Fascist, a sobriquet that seems to have come down to the present day. (The author somewhat disappointingly never deals with the subject of providing a safe haven for Nazi exiles whilst happily boasting a sizeable Jewish population in the country.) The fall of Peron and his 18 year exile in a number of countries before settling in Madrid (and ignored by Franco) are described, and his brief and triumphant return to power with his second wife and successor, Isabel.
Although we are familiar with the rise of terrorism in Argentina and the phenomenon of the ‘disappeared’ or ‘desaparecidos’ these things did not take place during the main period of the Peronato but were a right wing response to radical left wing movements that grew after the fall of Peron and which appeared again in the final months of his second period as President. Perhaps again a surprise to many that the Peronato was not a period of repression and violence. A short section brings the book up to the period of the rule of President Galtieri and the Falklands War.
This is an excellent history of Argentina and an even-handed biography of Juan Peron. Although the book is perhaps lacking in emotion and personal detail at times it is recommended to all those with an interest in this fascinating country and its leaders.


The Discobolus (Objects in Focus)
The Discobolus (Objects in Focus)
by Ian Jenkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Well Written, Profusely Illustrated, 4 May 2015
This is an excellent little book, very well written and profusely illustrated. It is one in a series of books published by the British Museum that takes a specific object in the collection and examines it in detail. The (Townley) Discobolus is an iconic piece, immediately recognisable, and a masterpiece of Roman skill being a marble copy of a Greek bronze original. The book tells us about the original sculptor, the provenance of this piece and alterations that have been wrought. The author examines similar works and possible companion pieces and considers what they tell us. A short section deals with modern perceptions and the impact on modern politics. Highly recommended.


Huyton with Roby (Pocket Images)
Huyton with Roby (Pocket Images)
by Alison Cassidy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Collection of Interesting Pictures, 1 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very nicely presented little book containing some 200 photographs of the Huyton and Roby area. It will be of great interest to those who used to reside in Huyton or Roby or who still live in the area, and to family history buffs alike. All the pictures are black and white and of surprisingly good quality. I have two minor criticisms, firstly a small map printed on one of the inside cover pages would have been helpful. Secondly, no pictures are included of Edenhurst House, now known as Derby Lodge, built for the estate manager of Lord Derby and a very distinctive feature in the area.


Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes
Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes
by Richard Davenport-Hines
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.29

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Packed Full of Fascinating Information and a Good Easy Read, 11 April 2015
This is a good book, and a boon to those interested in the life and work of Maynard Keynes but who were daunted by the multi-volume biographies of Skidelsky or Moggridge. The author, Davenport-Hines, has chosen to present the life of Keynes in seven overlapping chapters dealing with him as ‘Official’, ‘Lover’, ‘Connoisseur’ etc., rather than a straightforward chronological narrative. Generally this works well although the chapters as a ‘Lover’ and a ‘Connoisseur’ can become slightly tedious as they drift in towards being lists at times. However, that said, this is a really interesting book and an easy read given that the author states from the beginning that he has no intention of trying to elucidate at length Keynes’ various hypotheses on political economy.
The book is packed with facts and revelations of networks established by pupils, and subsequently graduates, of Eton and King’s College, Cambridge. The influence of these two establishments and the association of ‘The Apostles’ on Keynes and his acquaintances, and as a consequence upon British political life, will be quite astonishing to the uninitiated. In many respects we must be grateful that such a network of gifted and accomplished men were available to help redeem the country from the limited and often frankly incompetent politicians of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The rage of Keynes following the economic settlement following WWI which resulted in his publication, ‘The Economic Consequences of the Peace’, and the prodigious and eventually personally fatal work carried out by Keynes for the Treasury in 1946 which effectively saved the Labour Government from destruction makes exciting reading.
Keynes was always a man of wide cultural interests who believed that appreciation of the theatre, music and art should be encouraged and nurtured for the nation. He was a prime mover of the wartime CEMA (Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts) which later morphed into The Arts Council of Great Britain.
The author presents a ‘no-holds-barred’ review of the highly promiscuous love life of Keynes. It is a wonder that given the illegality of his exploits that these events never hindered his long and many faceted career.
Finally it was a revelation for me to discover that Keynes was a life-long Liberal and disagreed with the strictures of socialism and of the British Labour Party. He viewed the socialist philosophy as ill-judged, destructive to personal initiative and innovation and therefore to the creation of wealth, and contrary to established economic experience. My surprise arose from the number of times that ‘Keynesian economics’ has been invoked by the media and recent governments, particularly to justify deficit financing, only to now find that his theories have been completely misused and quoted out of context. Keynes was an advocate of balanced budgets and seldom promoted deficit spending to stimulate the economy and particularly not when already in debt.
This is a very good book and packed with so much interesting information that some sections surely merit reading a second time. It is highly recommended for all those who want to know more of this fascinating, highly intelligent and accomplished man.


Fu Manchu - The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu
Fu Manchu - The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu
by Sax Rohmer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Crude in Structure But a Fascinating Read, 2 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was attracted to this book, republished as a centenary edition in 2012 by Titan Books, as it is one of those works, often referred to, but seldom read and I decided to correct this deficiency in my reading. The first story about Dr. Fu-Manchu appeared in October 1912 in ‘The Story-Teller’, a popular magazine of the day. This was written by Sax Rohmer (Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward), born in Birmingham in 1883 and whose initial career included work in the civil service, then as a comedy sketch writer and music hall songwriter before finally becoming a successful author. Rohmer wrote a further nine more Fu-Manchu episodes for the magazine and in 1913 the stories were collected to form the present book. It is very clear when read that the book started life as separate stories as it is very episodic (no shame in that, Dickens started the same way) but it contains little forward motion or development until the final chapters are reached. One could well imagine the episodes continuing endlessly such are their repetitive nature.
The main characters are described but have an oft-repeated set of mannerisms, the intellectual hero, Nayland Smith, and his accomplice Dr. Petrie a medical man, bear a great resemblance to Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Dr. Watson. The arch enemy, as is useful for all such arch enemies who have to re-appear in many adventures, has great skill and ingenuity and is possessed of great evil. Such a character was a pleasant foil for intrepid adventure heroes until recent times when real life characters have shaken us out of our pleasant reverie.
This is not great literature, nor a sophisticated thriller, but it is a fascinating read, much as one may appreciate an old silent film without literal comparison to the modern product. I suspect the later works which were written as books rather than collected short episodes possibly have a better progressive structure and plot line. This edition contains a short biographical piece on Sax Rohmer and a background article on cultural appearance of ‘The Yellow Peril’ and an appreciation of the Fu-Manchu books.


The Jewish State (Penguin Great Ideas)
The Jewish State (Penguin Great Ideas)
by Theodor Herzl
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Big Idea But Content a Little Disappointing, 26 Mar. 2015
This is another volume in the Penguin collection of small books on ‘Great Ideas’. This particular volume is essentially a reproduction of the pamphlet published by Theodor Herzl in 1896 in Vienna when he was 36 entitled ‘Der Judenstaat’. The pamphlet was written in response to what he refers to as the ‘Jewish Question’, i.e. anti-Semitism, and how to provide an antidote. This is a somewhat disconcerting phrase to a modern reader given the terrible history of the 20th century. The publication embodies Herzl’s proposal for a Jewish state and elaborates a process whereby this might be achieved following the establishment of two agencies: ‘The Society of Jews’ as a fund raising and directional body, and ‘The Jewish Company’ to be charged with carrying out the actual mechanics of the process. It is not for me to enter a debate into the merits or de-merits of Herzl's proposal but I was somewhat surprised by the lack of sophistication of the writing and the ideas. I was also surprised that Argentina was mentioned as a possible site for a Jewish state as an alternative to what he refers to as “our ever-memorable historic home” of Palestine.
Some of the views expressed and Herzl’s predictions of what might be achieved, now, not surprisingly, look rather dated but in 1896 who could have envisaged the events of 1933-1945. Given the importance of Herzl and this text in the history of Israel I can only say that I was a little disappointed in its content. However, Penguin must be congratulated in providing a readily accessible format for readers to peruse these important works for themselves.


A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel: A Bernie Gunther Mystery (Bernie Gunther Mystery 5)
A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel: A Bernie Gunther Mystery (Bernie Gunther Mystery 5)
by Philip Kerr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Excellent Volume in the Bernie Gunther Series, 25 Mar. 2015
This, the fifth in the Bernie Gunther series of detective novels, continues the winning formula established by author Philip Kerr. Gunther has now fled Germany to seek refuge in Argentina along with thousands of other Nazis under the sympathetic regime of Juan Peron. I do not want to reveal more of the plot other than to say the action swings back and forth from recollections of events in Berlin in 1932 and 1933 to Buenos Aires in 1950. As in previous novels Gunther comes across important real people of the day whose actions and historical placement always stand up to scrutiny if checked on-line. It should be noted that a small controversy has arisen as a result of some readers questioning the authenticity of the alleged events incorporated into the plot line. Not wishing to give away the story I would simply point out that Kerr has answered the questions raised very well, and again his responses may be found on-line.
The book seamlessly incorporates a wealth of local information and topography about 1950s Argentina and historical events around the accession to power of Adolf Hitler in Berlin. The writing is excellent, the plot line gratifyingly complicated but never unresolved, and the characters well drawn and believable even when attached to real historical figures. I unreservedly recommend this volume to Bernie Gunther fans, and the whole series to new readers of Kerr’s work.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20