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D. Cheshire (Liskeard UK)
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The Fall Of The West: The Death Of The Roman Superpower
The Fall Of The West: The Death Of The Roman Superpower
by Adrian Goldsworthy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clue's in the story, 6 Nov. 2011
Great book and he proves his point, that narrative history can also explain if well written. Thus the empire was too big from the start (so Rome the city was rarely the capital of the usually divided empire). It's leaders were more concerned with weakening their rivals than solving problems of government (because fall from power usually meant murder of you and syour family). And most tellingly of all, that it just got too hard for central government to get stuff done (pause to bang together heads of Obama & House of Representatives). Fab read.


Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics & Culture of Decline
Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics & Culture of Decline
by Theodore Dalrymple
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not even a whimper, 5 Sept. 2011
There's nothing like a good, entertaining, right-wing polemic. Unfortunately this is nothing like a good... Old joke, sorry, but this is more bad-tempered than well argued. Apart from the last chapter doubting the wisdom of colonialism this was just a predictable but mostly shallow series of prejudiced conservative rants. I respect that he has had a very varied, worthwhile career, and he can write, but journeys don't always broaden the mind. I didn't find this a provocative or stimulating read, just a bit tired and obvious. No doubt my own prejudices don't help but I also find his alleged theme - that we live in a society which is suffering terminal moral decline - equally tiresome and predictable. Times of rapid, massive change, like our own, are always painful for us oldies, but change isn't always decline. Lighten up.


My Father's Fortune: A Life
My Father's Fortune: A Life
by Michael Frayn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.54

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of Frayn, 31 Aug. 2011
I read this thinking it would be a conventional sort of family history, a cruise through the census records etc. How wrong I was! It's much more an extended and proufound meditation on memory. It's about both the things about your immediate family and friends you remember but also the things you later realise you missed or tuned out or just neglected to bother with because you were too obssessed with the full-time business of growing up. The honesty and perceptiveness of this amazing exploration of his early years make this an emotional and heartfelt memoir of a new and more intense kind. Simply a beautiful, must-read book.


On Roads: A Hidden History
On Roads: A Hidden History
by Joe Moran
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind how you go, 6 April 2011
If you ever go on a road you need this book. It combines hilarious facts (the AA made Ribbentrop an honorary member; they liked the Nazi's autobahns; returning First World War British soldiers tried to make us drive on the right because they'd got used to it driving in France; we couldn't because it was too dear to move all the tram-rails) with new conceptual vistas about our the history of our complex love-hate relationships with roads and other road users. A deadpan, original and profound contribution to contemporary history. And sheer fun.


Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three simple questions, 6 April 2011
This review is from: Cloud Atlas (Paperback)
What a stunning book. I'm not sure it totally comes off in terms of the author's massive ambition, namely of trying to write a dramatised meditation on the morality of power, past, present and future, but hey! How many novelists would dare to conceive of such a project? Let alone come close to pulling it off? Victorian Adam Ewing concludes the novel with the longer version of the novel's message. The embattled and heroic Luisa Rey does it more succinctly; confronted with a man of power "I ask three simple questions. How did he get that power? How is he using it? And how can it be taken off the sonafbitch?" - a brilliant statement of the manifesto of rebels, refusers and revolutionaries down the ages. And along the way you get SIX brilliant novellas, all linked, from the 19th to some distant future century, two of which are just marvellous pieces of sci fi, one page-turningly exciting, one hilarious, all compelling in different ways... you get the picture. If you like fiction which has depth, ambition, beautifully writing and artful construction, what are you waiting for? One Click awaits.


Room
Room
by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Make room for this must-read, 22 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Room (Paperback)
The last pages of this ambitious novel pack an emotional punch as great as any you'll read. I had genuine doubts about the book given the grim subject matter. But the child-narrator voice is so well executed, and the story is developed with such humanity - and, at the mid-point, dramatic tension - that the overall effect is overwhelmingly optimistic, hopeful and even uplifting. A moving and, strange to report, beautiful novel.


Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
by Frederick Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the maze, 5 Mar. 2011
Taylor does a fantastic job in this book. He not only lays out a crystal-clear narrative, but also skillfully navigates a path through the historical, moral and polemical maze that surrounds the events he describes. While acknowledging the horror of these events he does emminent justice to the historical context and complexities, What emerges for me is how Dresden became a symbol, whose image is refracted through the distorting glass of both Goebbels and Soviet cold war propaganda (Taylor shows how sometimes even the terminology is identical). Harris and the RAF aircrews became scapegoats for the "moral ambiguity" that always lay at the heart of Allied bombing strategy. Yet Churchill, one the key architects of this ambiguity, was only too anxious to distance himself from it by the end of the war. This book is a corrective to that "moral hindsight" which, from the calm and security of the moral philosopher's study, too easily condemns decisions made and actions taken in the midst of crisis and existential danger. Harris may have been wrong, but the aircrews deserved better treatment than they have often received. Taylor is an honest and scholarly guide through this minefield. Thoroughly recommended.


The Help
The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Mockingbird" updated, 4 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Help (Paperback)
I overcame some personal prejudices and dislikes to read this (it's sold as a book for girls and/or book clubs, it's written in several voices, and some is written in southern states dialect). I needn't have worried; it's terrific. Comparisons with the classic "To Kill A Mockingford" may be "ott", but not ridiculously so. This is at least a potential classic. The characters and context are effortlessly yet artfully executed. The "book within a book" is more than just a clever plot device, though it succeeds brilliantly as a generator of considerable dramatic tension (the undercurrent of racial violence is not side-stepped). But it's also a simple yet profound metaphor for the essence of "The Help", namely change: liberation and empowerment for some, challenge and pain for others. The black maids and their white mistresses are, in oppostite ways, superb literary creations. Yet it avoids the easy sterotypes; the subtleties and paradoxies of their complex relationship are explored with delicacy, intelligence and, to my surprise, humour. This is a compelling book about black/white relationships told from the inside. Get it, read it.


A Week in December
A Week in December
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaping the hedge, 9 Dec. 2010
This review is from: A Week in December (Paperback)
Excellent. A strong and thoroughly enjoyable novel that explores, through the lives of a set of unusual and occasionally interacting Londoners, the meaninglessness of contemporary life. They find, over a week, and to a greater or lesser extent, a degree of resolution to this meaninglessness. All that is except one - the investment banker - an appropriate baddie for our time. The cloak and dagger nature of his work and its utter surreality are a particular pleasure - the John le Carre of hedge funds.


In The Kitchen
In The Kitchen
by Monica Ali
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done, 9 Dec. 2010
This review is from: In The Kitchen (Paperback)
Unusual and unpredictable. I couldn't pigeon-hole what precise genre this was as I read it - a good sign no doubt. The characters are also unusual and convincing and the settings are frequently unexpected. The main character's inner life and personal development read true and his fate is satisfying resolved. A readable and engaging novel that avoids all the stereotypes.


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