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Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics)
Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Kingsley Amis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic English comic novel, 25 May 2006
The theme of pretentiousness is still relevant today, although Jim's misdemeanours seem very mild by comparison with contemporary mores. There are some sad moments, but on the whole this is a very funny book. It has to be approached as a period piece rather than cutting edge satire, but people still do things to please the boss.


Ralph's Party
Ralph's Party
by Lisa Jewell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Sharp and lively with a disappointing ending, 25 May 2006
This review is from: Ralph's Party (Paperback)
This book is quite varied, at times funny, philosophical, romantic and coarse. This is better than the relentless breeziness of other chicklit, but the mixture only partly works. The central trio are interesting, but as Smith's character is developed his long friendship with Ralph becomes less convincing rather than more. The long passages about Siobhan's dislike of her own body are trying, and every time I saw that a new chapter concerned her and Karl I felt bored. To avoid giving the ending away, I won't explain exactly what was disappointing about it, but the author seems to have felt uncertain about whether she was writing a romantic comedy or a more realistic novel without having found an interesting solution.


The House Of The Spirits
The House Of The Spirits
by Isabel Allende
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good family saga, 25 May 2006
Allende weaves the political and the personal together in this wide-ranging work, held together by the family relationships which lie at its core. However, if you are looking for a political novel, you may not like this book, as there is a lot of emphasis on personal relationships. It was easy to become involved in the book, despite the fact that the main character, Trueba, has some unsympathetic traits. The changes between the generations are convincingly rendered and some of the characters are attractively quirky. This was an enjoyable read because of its exuberant spirit, but you have to be prepared for the occasional acerbic comment. Allende does write about romantic relationships but she is not naive, either about love or about politics. One reservation is that the magical elements don't seem to add very much. Allende might have done better to stick to straightforward realism. The style is good, although it might be even better in the original Spanish. In general, a book to be recommended.


Off Whitehall: A View from Downing Street by Tony Blair's Adviser
Off Whitehall: A View from Downing Street by Tony Blair's Adviser
by Derek Scott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stronger on economics than on politics, 24 May 2006
This is a highly technical work, in fact rather too much so for me as I have no qualifications in economics. No one could doubt the depth of the author's inside knowledge, but it is also very narrow. This is not a book I would recommend to the general reader, but if you are interested in the political dimension of economics it probably would interest you.


The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a historical novel, 24 May 2006
Let me begin by admitting that it is some time since I read this book. I have seen the film, which contains a great deal of additional content - enjoyable though. I am astonished that no one else has reviewed the book.

The plot of the novel can be read on a website dedicated to the author, so I will not summarise it here. Suffice it to say that this is a historical novel set in the middle of the nineteenth century. The author writes with authority about the period, and engages with some of its most important issues. His prose is extremely vivid and makes you feel that you are present at the events he describes. The character of Sarah is intriguingly mysterious, but whereas in The Magus (a lesser work by the same author) the mystery does not give way to a convincing characterisation in every case, in this book the events are plausible. An additional pleasure, however, is the author's experiment with the whole concept of the novel. His ability to write sensually means that this is not the dry, cerebral exercise you might imagine, but fascinatingly playful.


The Magus (Vintage Classics)
The Magus (Vintage Classics)
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

9 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Attractively mysterious, but too long, 24 May 2006
Fowles has an excellent style and uses a large vocabulary. He also creates an attractive air of mystery around his characters, so that this book has some of the pleasure of a thriller such as the James Bond books (written about the same period). However, the book is much too long.

It also displays a tendency to misogyny (like the Bond books again). For example, one passage runs: "it was partly a nostalgia for for the extinct Lawrentian woman of the past, the woman inferior to the man in everything but that one great power of female dark mystery and beauty." The female characters are presumably intended to be figures of mystery, but are often simply unconvincing, and the protagonist ends up hitting his girlfriend, which he seems to feel is a very profound act. It could be argued that this is the character's attitude rather than the author's, but it is irritating.

If you only have time to read one book by Fowles, either The Collector or The French Lieutenant's Woman would be a better choice.


A Strange Eventful History: Democratic Socialism in Britain
A Strange Eventful History: Democratic Socialism in Britain
by Edmund Dell
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history written from the inside, 22 May 2006
Edmund Dell was a Labour cabinet minister who left the party to join the doomed SDP. As might be expected, he takes a very negative view of 'Old Labour' economic policies. This book should be required reading for those Labour supporters who want a change from Tony Blair. It is first necessary to understand what it is that Blair and Brown were reacting against - the sheer impracticability of old Labour as recounted in a determined fashion by this intelligent author, who was at the heart of events. This is a sad tale in many ways, but political progress depends on an understanding of earlier problems, rather than attributing any failings simply to human selfishness.

Dell's style is reasonable, although this is not an easy read. What is remarkable is how impersonal the book is. It is not easy to diffentiate the earlier passages where he narrates the history of the Labour party, notably the Attlee government, from the events that he himself witnessed. This is a weakness, although it is to be found in works by Roy Jenkins as well.

Nevertheless, this is a book to be strongly recommended to anyone with a serious interest in politics.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 13, 2013 4:39 AM BST


My Sister's Keeper
My Sister's Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
Edition: Paperback

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed, 22 May 2006
This review is from: My Sister's Keeper (Paperback)
Ms Picoult has chosen a serious theme, obviously not one that occurs frequently in our everyday lives, but one that raises some interesting issues. She might have dealt with this better if she had not introduced an implausible romance between the child's advocate and another character. The craft used to make this a page turner is sometimes intrusive, and the narrators are not always differentiated enough. The character of Sarah (the mother) is irritating in that she seems to abandon all her professionalism to motherhood - it does not come back to her when she decides to present her case before a court. Despite these weaknesses, this is a book you may be glad to have read rather than feeling you have wasted your time - the underlying issues in conjunction with a workmanlike approach are enough to carry you through.


Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour
Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour
by Andrew Rawnsley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating if dated, 22 May 2006
An excellent book on politics. Rawnsley obviously had excellent access at the time of writing. He has a profound understanding of politics which does not detract from his ability to see the funny side. He is also a good writer with an extensive vocabulary and a sense of rhythm. It's just a pity that he decided not to write subsequent volumes or updated versions covering the whole period of Labour's term in office. This book can be whole-heartedly recommended to anyone who is interested in politics. We all should be. The more faults and failings our politicians have, the more we should keep an eye on them.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 28, 2013 7:15 PM GMT


The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade
The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade
by Piers Morgan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mildly entertaining but unnecessary, 22 May 2006
While this book contains some humorous moments, in many ways it is remarkable for the author's lack of understanding of politics bearing in mind his opportunities. If you want to understand New Labour,the Ashdown Diaries or Servants of the People by Andrew Rawnsley would be far more enlightening.


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