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A Painted House
A Painted House
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good once it gets going, 17 May 2006
This review is from: A Painted House (Paperback)
This book starts very slowly, with long descriptions of rural life in Arkansas and baseball. However, after the first five chapters Grisham gets down to the plot, which he executes with the dexterity for which he is known. The book is narrated by a child, Luke, who is an engaging character, although he comes over as older than seven, which is the age he is supposed to be. There is a credibility problem: in order to stick with the first person narration by Luke, the author has him witness events that it is hard to believe he would have been present at. Not all of the characters are well drawn, perhaps because the child narrator cannot manage rounded characterisation. There are some funny moments. Some of the description is good, although Grisham is not a very lyrical author. The central metaphor of The Painted House has a rather tagged-on feeling, as though Grisham has decided to indulge himself with a device more typical of the kind of literary author he doesn't really pretend to be. Overall, this is only fairly good.


Manon Des Sources [DVD] (1986)
Manon Des Sources [DVD] (1986)
Dvd ~ Yves Montand
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £4.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, but make sure you see Jean de Florette first, 17 May 2006
The absence of Gerard Depardieu is amply compensated for by Emanuelle Beart, although I don't mean to imply that her role is comparable to his. Jean de Florette is beautifully photographed, but this is even more visually impressive. The only warning I have to give is that elements of the plot are sad. This is not a depressing film, however. In fact, I found it the reverse.


Jean De Florette [DVD]
Jean De Florette [DVD]
Dvd ~ Yves Montand
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £5.86

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and beautiful, 17 May 2006
This review is from: Jean De Florette [DVD] (DVD)
The only problem with this excellent film is that my French is not very good, so that I ended up reading the subtitles rather than listening to the dialogue. Having said this, it is beautifully photographed and very well acted. Gerard Depardieu is perhaps the best known actor, but all the cast are of an equally high standard, so that you end up being interested in the characters, not all of whom are conventionally 'sympathetic.' This is a very different world from any that I have ever lived in, but it is unexpectedly fascinating and leads you on the sequel, Manon des Sources.


The Closed Circle
The Closed Circle
by Jonathan Coe
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skilful, but rings hollow, 17 May 2006
This review is from: The Closed Circle (Paperback)
The Closed Circle is the sequel to The Rotters' Club. The adolescents in the earlier book are now middle aged. There are not quite as many characters, but the way in which the author dovetails the details of the lives of the characters is skilful. Once again the author shows his ability to convey the atmosphere of a period. However, one clever feature of the plot is unnecessarily unpleasant, and also involves one character (Paul) in behaving implausibly. It is not as funny as The Rotters' Club and some of the humour is decidedly wry. The underlying feeling is one of disillusion.


Snobs: A Novel
Snobs: A Novel
by Julian Fellowes
Edition: Paperback

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and neatly plotted, 17 May 2006
This review is from: Snobs: A Novel (Paperback)
This book is set in an upper class milieu with which I am not familiar - and to be fair, wouldn't want to be. The author is not exactly a revolutionary! He sends the upper class characters up, but does so with affection. Something I particularly liked was the long passages of explanation interpolated into the dialogue. There is a first person narrator reminiscent of the narrator of A Dance to the Music of Time. That is fine, but the author also describes the heroine's sexual experiences with another character, which the narrator cannot possibly have witnessed. This jarred on me a bit. However, I am not saying that the descriptions were bad in themselves. In fact, they convey everything we need to know in relation to the personalities of those involved and the relationship between them, without being pornographic in any way. This is basically a comic novel, but the plot moves at a reasonable pace despite the long (and enjoyable) explanations, and the ending is a satisfying one. I would not say that this is a profound book, but it contains some intelligent observations on life. An enjoyable read, provided you are not left wing and like social comedy.


Hotel Babylon
Hotel Babylon
by Imogen Edwards-Jones
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lively, but limited, 17 May 2006
This review is from: Hotel Babylon (Paperback)
This book is given an immediacy by the device of compressing the action into one twenty-four hour period. Obviously this has meant cramming events that would normally have taken place over a longer time into one day. The co-author has obviously worked in hotels and knows what he is talking about. It might have been more interesting if he had been slightly more senior and could have told us more about the economics of running a hotel and how different types of hotel compare with each other. Instead, there is an emphasis on the sex lives of the guests and the rip-offs by the staff. That's what you expect from the title, though, and it is quite entertaining.


The "Rotters' Club"
The "Rotters' Club"
by Jonathan Coe
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Evocative but occasionally a bit too clever, 17 May 2006
This review is from: The "Rotters' Club" (Paperback)
The evocation of the 1970s in this book is very good. I have never lived in Birmingham, but it is very accurate as far as I know and can remember. In general, the balance between humour and grimness is good too. There is a large cast of characters, but this is well handled and the way the author moves between parents and adolescents is good. Perhaps the book would have been even stronger if the grandparents had been brought in too, as this might have helped to explain the conservative reaction which took place in the 1980s, but I didn't feel this when reading the book.

One feature that I'm not happy about is the treatment of the Birmingham pub bombing. This is a sensitive subject, because I know someone who was injured by the blast. However, the author seems to have felt that artifice would alleviate the horror of the subject matter, which to my mind it doesn't.

Overall, this is a good book with an underlying seriousness enlivened by humour.


The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts
The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts
by David Lodge
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but inconclusive, 17 May 2006
This book is a series of newspaper articles, and it shows. There is a great deal in here that casts light on topics such as Stream of Consciousness, Magic Realism, Intertextuality, Epiphany and Metafiction. Despite this, it is not difficult to read. Most of the examples are interesting and some of them are funny. The author gives sufficient detail about the novels from which they are taken without spoiling the books if you want to read them later. Because it is a collection of articles, you encounter a number of separate insights rather than coming to understand a central theme. You would need to be a writer or a student or at any rate someone with a studious approach to reading to enjoy it. It is not a book for the general reader.


A Calculating Heart
A Calculating Heart
by Caro Fraser
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much chicklit influence, 17 May 2006
This review is from: A Calculating Heart (Paperback)
This book is part of a series, but despite that it is clearly written with just the right amount of explanation about the characters who have appeared before. I also liked the author's style - she is not afraid to use words of more than two syllables. However, there is far too much about the personal lives of the characters, jumping from one group to another instead of an interwoven plot. The most interesting part of the book concerns the professional life of the protagonist, and this is skilfully interwoven with his personal life; if all of the book had been up to this standard it would have been a better book than it actually is. Another problem is that although the author is convincing in rendering life in chambers, the subplot involving drugs is not. This is only a moderately good read.


Be Careful What You Wish For
Be Careful What You Wish For
by Alexandra Potter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny, but too trivial, 17 May 2006
This book is funny and well crafted, but too light to be really interesting. The lucky heather is the starting point for some jokes rather than a real superstition, but it impedes any genuine theme from emerging. Another problem is that the ending is too predictable - you can see it coming more or less from the start of the book.

Although I like humorous books, I am not normally a chicklit fan. If you are, you might enjoy this.


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