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Eleanor Fitzsimons (Dublin, Ireland)
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The Comfort Of Strangers
The Comfort Of Strangers
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Macabre but brilliant, 15 Jun 2007
`The Comfort of Strangers', McEwan's second novel was published at a time when this bright new talent was causing controversy and had been christened Ian Mcabre by critics shocked by the brutality of his themes and his fearless exploration of dark, previously taboo subjects such as incest, sadomasochism and child abduction. With its theme of unhealthy homoerotic obsession there are echoes of the later Enduring Love here. The story opens with a coldly voyeuristic intrusion into the lives of Colin and Mary, an English couple holidaying in an unnamed European city (assumed to be Venice) in an attempt to recapture the passion that has drained out of their relationship. When we join them they are distant from each other, not speaking and sleeping in separate beds. This gulf is apparent in the fact that even their dreams are at odds. Wandering the city in a torpor late one night they encounter Robert, a smooth talking, cruel and sinister local who seems to mesmerize them against their better instincts and takes them to a seedy bar nearby. Despite being unsettled by the encounter they are persuaded by Robert to visit his home the next day. Here they meet Caroline, his put-upon Canadian wife and quickly detect that something is seriously amiss. It soon becomes clear that the gap between these couples is not as wide as it initially appears. Without a doubt Colin and Mary are complicit in their own downfall and their desires, though previously unrealised, are as unwholesome as those of Robert and Caroline. One theme explored is the impact of fathers on children. Robert speaks of the admirable brutality of his father and Caroline, who defines herself only in relation to men, explains the subservience of her mother and herself to her diplomat father, a pattern repeated in their own relationship. The book is drenched in sexual menace and met with a mixed response on publication with one critic accusing McEwan of "squandering his extraordinary gifts". In summary, excellent, as is all McEwan's output.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 10, 2012 8:45 PM GMT


Tenderwire
Tenderwire
by Claire Kilroy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling book from a talented new author, 27 April 2007
This review is from: Tenderwire (Paperback)
What a relief to read a book by a young female Irish author that cannot be classified under the dreaded CHICK-LIT heading! No shopping, chardonnay or missives from beyond the grave. Instead Claire Kilroy, who has been justifiably compared with Patricia Highsmith, has written a compelling and edgy book with a quirky antihero in the form of violinist Eva Tyne. Eva is quite ruthless and thoroughly disreputable in her pursuit of perfection. She is as highly strung as her violin, can be vain and foolish and exhibits a persistent inability to behave appropriately. Her decisions are freewheeling and driven by instinct and emotion and her life is caught up in constant confusion and paranoia. Yet this is behaviour that is perhaps forgivable in a violin virtuoso and undoubted genius, and her flashes of vulnerability are endearing. This is a compelling and extremely accessible story that twists and turns until the last page. Lyrically written and backed up by evidence of thorough research there is nothing lazy or hackneyed about Kilroy's style and I look forward to reading more from this talented author.


Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forget the movie and read the book, 22 Feb 2007
This review is from: Breakfast at Tiffany's (Paperback)
Before reading Breakfast at Tiffany's you need to erase the image of Audrey Hepburn in a Givenchy dress from your mind. Though thoroughly delightful and beautifully written, this book deals with themes that are very dark indeed. It tells the story of Holly Golightly, an eighteen-year-old call girl with a tragic past who makes her living by keeping company with older, degenerate men. She refuses to accept the reality of her profession as she convinces herself that her companions are just generous towards her with no strings attached. Yet despite her debauched lifestyle she is stylish, witty charming and thoroughly engaging, as are all of the characters in the book. Forget all about the film, this book is so fresh and appealing that it could have been written yesterday and, as it is only 100 pages long even the most reluctant reader will love it.


In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)
In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 21 Feb 2007
When Trueman Capote noticed a 300-word article in the back of the New York Times describing a shocking and apparently motiveless multiple murder in the small town of Holcome, Kansas in 1959 the eventual consequence was the writing of In Cold Blood, a book which would propel him to incredible celebrity and change the literary world forever. Devoting six years of his life to exhaustive research Capote is credited with inventing a new literary genre, that of the non-fiction novel. In Cold Blood is a brilliant reconstruction of the murders and an insightful analysis of the minds and motives of the killers. Journalistic in style and intent this book is stunningly well written and events unfold in such a compelling and exciting manner that it outshines many imagined works of crime fiction. The story is gripping, chilling and truly engages the emotions. It is one of those rare books that you cannot help but read incessantly even as you dread the approach of the final paragraph.


The Brief History of the Dead
The Brief History of the Dead
by Kevin Brockmeier
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and ingenious, 21 Feb 2007
Laura Byrd is a scientist and reluctant polar explorer, stranded on Antarctica sometime in the near future. A devastating pandemic has wiped out humanity and she is possibly the last human alive. In parallel we read about "The City", an anonymous urban sprawl where the dead are reunited. Gradually the City's inhabitants realise that they are connected through Laura and try to make sense of their situation. Brockmeier's imaginative second novel borrows from African mythology to explore the notion that the recently departed are kept alive by our memories of them. This concept and his description of Laura's struggle to survive against overwhelming odds are uplifting. However, his depiction of the collapse of civilisation as a result of the twin horrors of war and pestilence is grim. A gripping and ingenious book that we must ultimately hope is more a fantasy than an extrapolation of where we are inexorably going.


The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly
by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable insight and a very moving book, 21 Nov 2006
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly is a truly extraordinary book and gives us a unique insight into a thankfully rare condition known as locked in syndrome. In 1995 Jean Dominique Bauby, Editor in Chief of Elle Magazine, suffered a massive stroke which rendered him completely paralysed and speechless. Communicating by blinking his left eyelid he painstakingly dictated this book and died two days after its publication. The ability of Bauby to keep his composure in the face of such a terrifying experience seems to be attributable to a futile belief in his ultimate recovery and a side effect of this syndrome where sufferers do not appear to experience terror, rather tranquillity tapered by sadness. Few sufferers have expressed a wish to die thus demonstrating the strength of the human spirit and the triumph of hope over adversity. There are moments of deep sadness and one of the most poignant passages describes father's day on the beach when Bauby longs to reach out and hug his young son. However, at times the book is a celebration of his former charmed life and the richness of his narrative is remarkable as he recalls his past in vivid detail. Very thought provoking and well worth the read


A Spot of Bother
A Spot of Bother
by Mark Haddon
Edition: Hardcover

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent follow-up, 26 Oct 2006
This review is from: A Spot of Bother (Hardcover)
As one of many readers who admired The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time I was keen to read this book yet aprehensive that it would disappoint. Thankfully it did not and although the book seems initially to be completely different in theme and style both books share the authenticity of their characters, the realism of their domestic setting and the sympathetic yet humorous treatment of a medical condition, in this case depression. George Hall is politely going mad whilst trying not to inconvenience his family. His wife Jean has embarked on a reasonably satisfying affair with his old work colleague David, daughter Katie is about to marry unsuitable husband number two, Ray and they are all trying to deal sensitively with son Jamie who is having commitment issues with his long term boyfriend Tony. All this inevitably comes to a head on the day of the ill-fated wedding. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking book with George showing quiet heroism whilst coping with a very well mannered bout of mental illness. The plot is a little contrived, perhaps even slapstick at times yet despite this A Spot of Bother is ultimately very funny and confronts real issues and situations with which we can all empathise.


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