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An Awfully Big Adventure
An Awfully Big Adventure
by Beryl Bainbridge
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-written and often unpleasant, 14 July 2006
Bainbridge is an impressive writer, but so far from having a spare prose style, she has a tendency to over-write, for example: 'when the taxi, girdled by pigeons, swooshed from the curb'. The plot is intricate and the characterisation effective, but the book frequently contains disturbing incidents which are not necessary to the main theme, for instance: 'a boy carrying a sheet of glass under his arm came down the stairs. He was wearing outsize boots without laces. He tripped on the bottom step and, losing one boot, lunged forwards, cartwheeling across the pavement on that deadly crutch of glass. ...He lay perfectly still, brows arched in surprise, bare toes quivering as the blood drained out of him.'
This passage vividly illustrates Bainbridge's skill as a writer, but you may not wish to about such an incident. Overall the book might best be described as a tragi-comedy. There are some funny moments, but the ending is doubly sad.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 4, 2010 9:15 AM BST


Frost In May (VMC)
Frost In May (VMC)
by Antonia White
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written with a sad ending, 6 July 2006
This review is from: Frost In May (VMC) (Paperback)
The claims that this book is a modern classic are fully justifiable. The book is well written and lively. The convent school is convincingly described, and the change of atmosphere when the girls are talking in the break is also well rendered. The characterisation is good throughout. However, the ending is extremely sad in an unexpected way.


The Last Of The Great Romantics
The Last Of The Great Romantics
by Claudia Carroll
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Determinedly cheerful, 13 Jun 2006
This book is a sequel, which I hadn't realised before I read it, but it is easy to understand without having read the first book. The writing is very forced, as if the author is constantly thinking, 'What can I put in that would be funny?' Her flippant approach to the death of one of the characters jarred on me. There are some humorous passages, but the book needs to be funnier than it is to make up for the lack of realism. For example, it is hard to believe that a corporate lawyer would favour leaving his inexperienced sister-in-law in charge of the hall after having sunk a lot of money in it. Some characters, especially the mother, Lucasta, are stereotypes. At the end, the book just fizzles out. The writer may be preparing for a third book in the series, but I won't be reading it.


Love Rules
Love Rules
by Freya North
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.11

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated, courageous, but not very enjoyable, 10 Jun 2006
This review is from: Love Rules (Paperback)
The packaging and opening chapters of this book suggest that it's going to be a light-hearted romp. This may be a mistake. In fact, it is quite sophisticated and penetrating. It's not very funny and it's not heart-warming. Perhaps the reader needs to know this at an earlier stage.

The material luxury indulged in by the characters is presumably intended to provide an element of fun, and the same might be said of the rather graphic descriptions of their sex lives. The problem is that the nice characters are boring and the lively characters are not nice. The dialogue between the author and the reader which seems to have irritated another reviewer in this author's other books (which I haven't read) is quite short. However, it is difficult to care about these characters and so the question 'What do we want most?' in relation to them does not have much impact. The insight and seriousness the author displays are impressive, but it is not a pleasant book to read. The style can be rather pretentious: 'Under opalescent skies of Wedgwood blue, gluts of flowers burst from bud and juicy foliage unfurled in a gloss...' Perhaps this doesn't really work.

This is a better book than might be expected from the presentation, but it has a sharp cutting edge. It is difficult to explain more fully without giving away the plot, but you wouldn't like this book if you were looking for something light-hearted and frothy and you wouldn't like it if you wanted a romantic ending. If you are looking for something serious but sophisticated and indeed cynical, perhaps you would do.


The Control Freaks: How New Labour Gets Its Own Way
The Control Freaks: How New Labour Gets Its Own Way
by Nicholas Jones
Edition: Paperback

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive, 10 Jun 2006
If you have read Sultans of Spin by the same author, you do not need this book. Sultans of Spin is better - more analytical and more vivid. The fact that it covers a slightly earlier period is not really a disadvantage. Jones has little to add in this book.

If you have not read Sultans of Spin, you may find some interest in the comments of an experienced political journalist of conservative inclinations on the New Labour spin doctors, but there are better books such as the biographies of Campbell and Mandelson.


The Mill House
The Mill House
by Susan Lewis
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Involving but implausible, 4 Jun 2006
This review is from: The Mill House (Paperback)
This novel concerns a woman encountering difficulties in her relationship with her husband. Her estranged father telephones her teenage daughter out of the blue, but dies before she has a chance to meet him again, leaving her the mill house of the title. The background is realistic, and the central character and her immediate family are believable and easy to sympathise with, which makes it easy to become involved in the book. The character of her best friend, Sylvia, is less credible, but the scenes in which she is involved are quite compelling all the same. The style is rather flat and the book is very long, but its main weakness is that the resolution of the plot is implausible.


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative in content, traditional in form, 2 Jun 2006
This book is an original combination of a historical novel and a fairy story. The Napoleonic wars are not a period which blends very naturally with magic, but the author carries it off with vivid description and an ingenious plot. The leisurely nineteenth century style is part of the book's charm: I have read a lot of nineteenth century novels and generally prefer that style of writing to the shorter sentences and spare style admired now. The book is very long, but characters who appear at the beginning have their fates resolved at the end, often in unexpected but satisfying ways. The book is entertaining rather than profound. It does entertain, however.


Bonjour Tristesse (Essential Penguin)
Bonjour Tristesse (Essential Penguin)
by Francoise Sagan
Edition: Paperback

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but implausible, 1 Jun 2006
This review relates to the translation by Irene Ash for Penguin Books. Despite being a translation, this book is beautifully written. It is unconventional and the youthful protagonist has an interesting perspective on life. She is manipulative but also expresses doubts and remorse, which make her a more realistic character. However, the ending is unlikely. It is difficult to believe that the character named Anne would act in the way she is supposed to have done, bearing in mind the description that the author gives of her personality and approach to life. The book is nevertheless well worth reading, especially as it is so short.


High Fidelity
High Fidelity
by Nick Hornby
Edition: Paperback

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and bittersweet, 31 May 2006
This review is from: High Fidelity (Paperback)
This is the story of music shop owner Rob, whose girlfriend, Laura, leaves him but then returns. It is a funny and perceptive book which casts light on modern culture generally.


The Other Side of the Story
The Other Side of the Story
by Marian Keyes
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A few good ingredients don't make a good dish, 29 May 2006
There are three main characters in this book. The most interesting, Jojo, a literary agent, is having an affair with her married boss, which lost my sympathy. The conclusion of her story could have done with being more explicit, not about her sex life, but about her values: belief in literature and belief that the glass ceiling needs to be shattered. The other characters are quite boring and not easy to distinguish from each other, although they have different functions in the plot. There are some funny moments in the description of the career of the events organiser though.


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