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Travels With My Aunt (Vintage Classics)
Travels With My Aunt (Vintage Classics)
by Graham Greene
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dated, 21 Dec 2006
Other reviewers have been very enthusiastic about this book, but the opening chapters read as though they were written between the World Wars. The book was published in 1969, but it is only when a young American girl is introduced that there is any sense that the action is taking place in the 1960s. Even then, the contrast between her idiom and the older characters' speech is less amusing than it presumably was at the time. Even worse is the incorrect English of the novel's one black character. The passages where these characters appear are dull. It is only when Aunt Augusta forms part of the narrative that the book is really amusing.


The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
by John Le Carré
Edition: Paperback

7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant plot, implausible romance, 17 Dec 2006
This spy thriller, set in the time of the Cold War, starts with a man being shot as he attempts to cross the Berlin Wall. The intricate plot is full of ingenious twists, and le Carré writes as well as a 'literary' author. The only quibble is that it is difficult to believe in the romance. The ending is sad, but meaningful.


My Friend Maigret (Penguin Classics)
My Friend Maigret (Penguin Classics)
by Georges Simenon
Edition: Paperback

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Routine, 13 Dec 2006
This is a fairly routine police procedural. The descriptions of the Mediterranean island are good, but too many characters are introduced, so that it is difficult to become really interested in any of them. There are no plot twists before the end, so that too much of the book is taken up by the routine of investigation. Maigret is accompanied by an English police officer who is studying French methods, but this does little to enliven the proceedings. Apparently connoisseurs of Maigret prefer the earliest works, published during the 1930s; this one was first published in 1949.


Behind The Scenes At The Museum
Behind The Scenes At The Museum
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.47

13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant description, but can be confusing, 10 Dec 2006
This book narrates the story of Ruby Lennox from her conception in 1951, up to her attainment of independence in 1992. Her family background is explained in a series of footnotes. The author has a real gift for vivid description and can shift you from scene to scene and decade to decade very quickly. This enables her to play with the form of the novel, but neither the narration by an embryo nor the footnotes are particularly meaningful. The jumping about in space and time can be confusing, and the large number of characters means that it might have been better to adopt a more conventional method of narration. This is superficially a very funny book, but it has the highest body count of any novel I have ever read - expect black humour. The underlying emotional tone is melancholy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 4, 2010 4:30 PM BST


Faceless
Faceless
by Martina Cole
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced, but hard to sympathise with, 7 Dec 2006
This review is from: Faceless (Paperback)
The central character in this book is hard to sympathise with, especially at the start, and there are too many others. The author has a gift for giving the essence of a character in a short passage, but it is difficult to get involved with most of them as they are not developed enough. This makes it easier to tolerate the violence, which would otherwise be distressing. Although there is plenty of action, the book seemed too long.


Fox Evil
Fox Evil
by Minette Walters
Edition: Paperback

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The whole is less than the sum of the parts, 7 Dec 2006
This review is from: Fox Evil (Paperback)
There are some intriguing devices in this novel, but it does not live up to the promise of the opening chapters. An alienating feature is that the author makes it clear which characters she sympathises with, but it is hard for the reader to agree in the light of their actions. She is very hard on some characters and very tolerant of others. Other readers have already mentioned the disappointing ending. However, the author has a good style and her use of dialogue is effective. Since apparently this is not her best book, I'd be prepared to try others.


I Don't Know How She Does It
I Don't Know How She Does It
by Allison Pearson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Realistic, 6 Dec 2006
This is a realistic account of the pressures involved in juggling work and family life, with only occasional exaggerations for the sake of a joke. I used to work in the City and unfortunately can confirm the accuracy of the description of the general atmosphere. Whether you enjoy the book or not must depend on your sense of humour, as the plot is episodic and occasionally repetitive, and some of the characters are types rather than individuals, inserted to make a point. The central character, Kate, is believable though.


Le Grand Meaulnes (Penguin Modern Classics)
Le Grand Meaulnes (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Henri Alain-Fournier
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Romantic, implausible, perhaps better in French, 4 Dec 2006
This is a very romantic tale, although later in the work there are implied criticisms of romanticism, at least if that implies a refusal to mature. Although the central relationship is based on the author's own experience, some of the devices used to keep the plot going are unlikely, so you need to suspend your disbelief. There are lengthy descriptive passages about the French countryside, which were enjoyable, but might have been better in the original. The ending is sad.


I'm a Teacher, Get Me Out of Here!
I'm a Teacher, Get Me Out of Here!
by Francis Gilbert
Edition: Paperback

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny and realistic, 1 Dec 2006
The theme of this book is not new - a teacher who has enjoyed a privileged education himself is on a mission to benefit those less fortunate than himself by working in a variety of tough schools. He finds that it is not a straightforward business, but in compensation there are lots of funny moments. Mr Gilbert has an excellent style, but this is a work of description rather than analysis and does not offer any solutions.


Mr Norris Changes Trains
Mr Norris Changes Trains
by Christopher Isherwood
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, subtle, profound, 14 July 2006
First, the edition I have read is a Vintage Classics paperback dated 1999, not a talking book. Sally Bowles is not a character in this novel.

The book is set in pre-war Germany. The narrator, an Englishman, encounters the eponymous Mr Norris on a train and befriends him. What makes this novel so good is that Isherwood boldly takes a very important political theme, possibly the most important historical theme of the last century, but does not allow it to dominate the novel to the exclusion of the depiction of character. Quite the reverse, the characters, and especially Mr Norris, are exceptionally well realised. Perhaps one might make an exception of the narrator. Reference to this work in the critical literature indicate that Isherwood himself acknowledged that this was a problem. Nevertheless, this book is well worth reading. Its funny moments add to rather than detract from the underlying profound theme, and the style is excellent.


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