Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now
Profile for E. Clarke > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by E. Clarke
Top Reviewer Ranking: 65,922
Helpful Votes: 234

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
E. Clarke "Cambusken" (Glasgow, Scotland)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
pixel
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Laugh?, 31 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
It is always a joy to read McEwan's cool, steady prose, with his wry commentaries on issues important to his favourite upper-middle class, liberal milieu. Bits of this book are masterly. His treatment of the process of musical composition was intersting and I doubt if anyone could top his description of the flow and development of imagined music. You'd think this was an opportunity for more purple prose, but no, the same elegant and efficient style is employed to leave you in no doubt as to the actuality of what is being described. The plot is unrealistic, but not in a Magic Flute or Hitchcock manner. It never really spoils the book, but it is not weird or magical enough to excuse the rather weak ending nor the several curiously farcical moments. I am still not sure it was not an elegant piece of leg-pulling, but it was an enjoyable read.


Castlereagh
Castlereagh
by John Bew
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.95

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine biography of a very fine man, 6 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Castlereagh (Hardcover)
I was genuinely shocked, near the end of this book, to read the details of the suicide of the subject of this biography. This is a mark of the subtlety with which John Brew has painted a character I had been brought up to despise, and subsequently learned the traditional reasons to hate. He paints a picture of a man who was almost relentlessly patient, polite, kind and agreeable to all he worked with, domestically, nationally and internationally. He explores the intellectual roots in the Presbyterian Scottish Enlightenment for his broadly conservative, but hardly reactionary, approaches to the challenges faced by Europe during and following the French Revolution. In many ways he was very progressive, but also very cautious. Witness Catholic Emancipation and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, to both of which causes he was unswervingly devoted. He is criticised for being too ready to compromise with opposing forces in both cases. I find it hard to criticise him in either case. I also find it hard to criticise Bew's picture of a man who worked steadily (at least in early years) for a Union of Ireland and Great Britain which would involve an end to religious and sectarian divisions and bring everyone the benefits of the world wide trade of the British Empire. At the end of his life he seemed curiously to think of himself as serving "England" and often spoke of himself as an Englishman. His contribution as War Secretary to expanding and equipping an Army big enough to be a formidable force on mainland Europe, together with enlarging an already powerful Royal Navy is hardly in doubt. He also fought for the appointment of the young Arthur Wellesley as Commander in the Peninsula, and defended him unceasingly. His contribution as Foreign Secretary is more disputed, but his contribution to the establishment of the Congress System, with the usual - or perhaps incipient - British caveats about to close involvement on the Continent is well argued for in this book. He is not made out to be a Titan, but his contribution is made to bear comparison with the achievements of any subsequent Foreign Secretary. I did not know he was the reluctant, but leading contender for the Prime Ministership when he died, but I can quite believe it.
The reasons for his suicide are still a mystery though Bew clears up a few loose ends and dispatches a few unfounded hypotheses. Nonetheless, it was arresting and deeply moving.
There are too many slips in editing or typography and Brew relies too much on comments and reminiscence from twenty, thirty, even one hundred years after Castlereagh's death. There are too many quotations from satires, poems and novels. However, it was a very enjoyable, deeply moving and very convincing portrait of a very attractive man. About time too!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2013 9:47 AM GMT


Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics)
Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics)
by James Joyce
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.48

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Molly farts in bed while Bloom slumbers ...or does he?, 1 Aug. 2012
You feel you have to visit certain iconic cities - London, Paris, Rome, etc - at least once. Even if you never manage it, the idea floats about on the edges of your consciousness, until one day ...
James Joyce's `Ulysses' has the same sort of status among books, though its reputation is more daunting. Deciding to read it is a bit like deciding to go to Naples, you don't expect everything to be sweetness and light. Perhaps you want to see whether you can measure up to the puritanical demands of a "Modernist classic", with all its references, ironies and subversions, all its "challenging" tropes and styles. Maybe you just want to confirm that you are not the sort of person who wants to spend time figuring out the originals of characters, or events, scenes, or dialogues, or styles or whatever. Maybe you fancy you can see through all that guff.

I think I probably had something of all these motivations but I protest my sincerity in reading the book. I had read "Portrait of an Artis as a Young Man" at school and was amazed at how much it paralleled my own school experience. I thought it was great - and missed the Modernist pretension. Later, I tried, several times, to read "Dubliners", with no success. I tried to read "The Wasteland", and found all the attendant literary archaeology and glossing much more interesting and entertaining than anything in the "poem". Then, just last year, I read Virginia Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway", which is I suppose a sort of ground level, or anyway easy, introduction to the "modernist" style of writing. I loved it and very quickly came to the conclusion that reading a "modernist classic" might not be so challenging after all. So I decided it was time to visit "Ulysses".

This book is now the object (and lifeblood) of a world-wide, and vibrant, industry of scholarship and commentary, much as Joyce intended, or at least presumed, it would become. I still cannot decide whether this is a hugely successful, and enjoyable, lark. I keep glimpsing the Emperor's clothes, then they disappear from view. One thing I do know is that it is hugely enjoyable, with delights, larks, jokes, and pleasures on ever one of its near thousand pages, some of them childish, almost banal, often filthy, others clever, scholarly, smart-alecky. You laugh out loud a lot. I am a half-educated Catholic of Irish ancestry, so I "got" a lot of the references, historical context, Catholic theology and all that stuff, which made me feel slightly smarmy. I got used to, and really enjoyed, Bloom's internal ramblings, though I was often lost, puzzled about where we were and what was going on. The "straight" narratives in (I think) various Irish styles were as near as dammit as good as the originals and were great fun in themselves. The set pieces - in the Tower, in the house, on the strand, at the funeral, in the national library, in the pub, in the brothel, and many more - were amazingly powerfully delivered. I loved the absurdly long and detailed stage directions in one section. "Ah", I thought, smirking, "That's Shaw!" You also get poems, Music Hall jokes and songs, Irish raconteurs, and public speakers, newspaper articles and advertisements, a catechism and/or a police/court report. These were great fun (but again, I often got lost about where any story or plot was supposed to be headed). No doubt I was performing my "Modernist" reader role appropriately. On the other hand, I had to plough through the very early English prose sections (getting lost more often than not) but since I fully intend to revisit "Ulysses", no doubt they will make more sense second time round. You also get detailed lists and schedules on all things historical and scientific, of people, and you get a fair sample of the various processes of the human body, all of them (now) legal, described in detail, with Joyce's usual wit, humour, cleverness and playfulness.
I have never read Homer's version, though I probably shall now, but I have no interest in how it matches up with Joyce's effort. Other people love this sort of game, but not me. On the other hand, I really, really would like to understand Bloom, Stephen and Molly better, so I shall re-read the book for this purpose. I suspect I am not really a genuine "Modernist reader" after all. But this might also mean the book is a failure as a pioneer of a new kind of literature. After all, its progeny doesn't really pack the bookshelves or shine in the Prize circuit. Perhaps it was a lark after all. If so, as I said, it is a hugely enjoyable one and well worth a second read, to say the least. (one of Joyce's million clichés)

The Introduction was a bit LitCrit - it's a pacifist book for a new humanity! - but useful in alerting you to a couple of curious themes.Unfortunately, AFTER you have read it once.


One Day
One Day
by David Nicholls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.84

5.0 out of 5 stars It's just great, 8 Mar. 2012
This review is from: One Day (Paperback)
What they say is true, he's a class A disaster, but so is ever male in the book, including his father. She is unbelievably trusting and loyal, but so is every lady in the book (even the bar girls). But it's brilliantly told, and they are all exactly as we all really are. It's funny and sometimes unspeakably sad. I suppose we should not support books that rely on long suffering women, but we do. It was great.


Superior Person
Superior Person
by Kenneth Rose
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life's still a struggle, 4 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Superior Person (Hardcover)
This is an enjoyable, very interesting and well written book. It succeeds as a biography in that it outlines the life events of Curzon and gives a convincing account of his salient characteristics. You will not get any detailed analyses of policy development, or even a close study of any particular course of action. What you will get - amazingly and intriguingly - is a vivid picture of how closely interlinked were the few hundred aristocratic/business families who controlled Britain and its empire at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th. Kenneth Rose has a keen interest in these connections and never misses an opportunity to go off on a riff about the cousins, inlaws or Eton companions connected with every step in Curzon's career. It was not their fault they were born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths - they, and their parents, still had to struggle, or weedle, to get a job after Eton and Oxford, whether in government, the church, the military or education (in competition, to be sure, with other cousins and companions) or if not a job, an heiress. I should have known this, but to see it so vividly laid out - up to the 1920! - was quite startling. It explains the snobbishness - they did not want competition in these struggles from people who were not "gentlemen". It may also explain the surprisingly heartfelt, even gushing, tones in which the companions express their devotion to each other, whether at 14 or 74. So much depended on these crucial relationships.
I doubt if anyone could doubt that George Nathaniel was very intelligent and almost pathologically hardworking, but this went alongside an impatience in dealings with inferiors (ie almost everyone else), though back pain may have contributed considerably to this. Apparently, his legacy is that he took steps to preserve the historic buildings of India, for which Nehru recorded his thanks. The focus of the author's interests on the ramifications of these networks results in a slightly ramshackle chronology, but this does not really detract from the enjoyment of this book. The style in which it is written is barely distinguishable from that of Curzon in his intimate letters and published books. It is clear, slightly reserved, occassionally ironic and always tinged with a barely concealed loftiness. That too is hugely enjoyable.


On Canaan's Side
On Canaan's Side
by Sebastian Barry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant prose, but ..., 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: On Canaan's Side (Hardcover)
There is no denying the brilliance of Barry's prose, even if some of it has the air of pastiche, or over-wrought parody. I feel the early chapters are written in a wondrously Irish idiom - as if paying direct homage to the peasant rhetoric of Synge, or the wild poetry of Joyce's characters. The later chapters represent either a decline, a cooling down or a segue into a more appropriately American idiom. Either way, as far as the prose is concerned, the book is a wonder and a delight to read, so long as you forget that such subtle use of language it is meant to be the final testimony of a simple, aged Irishwoman, unused to writing.

The narrative is a bit over-wrought too, everything tying so neatly to the various wars of the 20th Century, and with relationships, deaths and desertions linking to the main - by which I mean obvious - concerns of 20th Century liberals. How this ties in with the condition of the central character, I find hard to fathom. She leaves Ireland as it is throwing off British rule, and ends up the grateful tenant and pensioner of a wise and beneficent, and extremely rich, American landowner/industrialist. John McEnroe had the correct response to this sort of assertion.

I did like reading this book, but I'm not sure I was impressed by the substance of the book. I'm still thinking about it though, which might be a sign that it is better than my first impressions.


Serbian: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars)
Serbian: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars)
by Lila Hammond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor buy, 11 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a silly book, its main virtue being it is the only Serbian grammar readily available in English. It has been extremely badly edited, if it has been at all, with Latin script versions of Cyrillic suddenly turning into Cyrillic before the end of the sentence. There are many, more obvious, English typos. She lays out what she says are the patterns of declension for nouns, then follows this by an example of how the (singular) cases are used. The examples employ a noun that does not conform to any of the model declensions. In explaining the Nominative case, she explains that the interrogative for What? (Shta?) is invariable, but decides that she should right there illustrate full declensions for other declinable interrogatives. (There is no way to trace this in the Contents or Index). This, and many other instances, indicate that her organising principle seems to be, write down what occurs to you while writing.
Her overview of how the Serbian verbal system works will only be intelligible to someone who is already familiar with it, and even then it is hardly easy to follow. She is discussing the "present tense" and her examples suddenly start showing a "past" tense, and one wonders why. It is a truly bad book.


Complete Spanish: Teach Yourself
Complete Spanish: Teach Yourself
by Juan Kattan-Ibarra
Edition: Paperback

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy peasy, 3 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an attractive and effective way to learn everyday Spanish. The scenarios are realistic, the vocabulary up to date and the exercises challenging enough to make you feel good but not so hard as to be discouraging. I have absolutely no criticism whatsoever. (I did spot one typo but I forget where it was).


Why Marx Was Right
Why Marx Was Right
by Terry Eagleton
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rattling good yarn, 3 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Why Marx Was Right (Hardcover)
You get the impression Eaglton rattled this off without pausing for breath. This kind of makes you want to hang on and keep reading. There is no denying the lifetime of scholarship that lies behind this achievement though, nor the incisiveness with which he shoots down common (usually ignorant) criticisms of Marx's work and ideas. It is all very, very convincing when it relates to Marx's analysis of (and great admiration for) Capitalism, particularly its instability and its ultimate incompatiblity with a true democacy. Its biggest weakness - which it shares with Marx - is that it offers no alternative that is remotely either plausible or appealing. I wish it did, and and no doubt it is out there, but it is not in this otherwise excellent book.


Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy
Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy
by Bertrand Russell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.00

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit more than I could chew, 3 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is really not about philosophy, but rather it is a "popular" version of Russell and Whitehead's classic Principia Mathematica, presumably written before the paradoxes of the logical approach had become apparent. Typically of Russell, it is written in a clear and accessible, if ponderous, English, and I have no doubt it is a classic of its type (as one reviewer said). I hope one day to finish it, but I found the relentless argumentation hard to follow after the first four chapters (so much so that I deluded myself that I would probably follow the formal arguments better in the Principia, with its logical notation - a sad delusion of grandeur). The fault is purely mine, and I hope to return to it some day, but there does seem to be a lack of purely philosophical discussion in the book (which Russell admits in his preface). So my rating reflects a purely personal reaction, not the quality of the work, but it might give some future readers some pause for thought before diving in. Or encourage them to prove their intellectual mettle is better than mine (which would not be hard).


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8