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A Strange Story - Complete
A Strange Story - Complete
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Parson's Egg, 28 Feb. 2013
I came across this novel when leafing through a copy of Dickens' magazine "All the Year Round"- where it was first serialized. I'd never read any Lytton and had a feeling at the back of my mind that he was a great 19th century writer with mystical leanings who is unjustly mocked for his poor prose style. I thought- well- if Dickens invited him to write for his magazine, he can't be that bad. So I downloaded the one-volume Project Gutenberg edition.

Imagine a story by, say, Hoffman. A disconcerting story in which an unimaginative doctor arrives in a new town and stats to make his career there. The town is a hot-bed of superstition, but the doctor is a scientific man and his good nature, common sense, and obvious skill with his patients win him a considerable following. But the local quack still has a strong following and the community is polarised. Our medical man finds himself a figurehead for the forces of reason in the town. And then, little by little, strange, inexplicable things start to happen. Mysterious strangers, sleepwalking, weird visions, travellers recently returned from the East with strange and powerful elixirs. And through it all, our doctor heroically sticks to his post: everything can be explained by Reason and Science.

Yes- Hoffmann, Conan Doyle or Maupassant could have done something wonderful with it. It's a good story, packed with ideas, and with a pleasing ambiguity: two possible explanations for everything, one rational, and the other supernatural. Sometimes a lingering doubt about the limits of the possible is more effective than full-on fantasy. But- in Lytton's hands it becomes an inflated, bloated epic. And, sadly, much as I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, what they say about his prose style is true. To call it leaden is to put it mildly. Getting to the end of a paragraph often feels like wading through a swamp.

There's not much humour here. Lytton is quite serious- he's trying to educate us. He's like a professor who tries to tell an after-dinner story but again and again ends up lecturing his audience on metaphysics. He gives us a pseudo-scientific Preface that includes sentences like this one:

"In the successive developments of his own mind, Maine de Biran may, indeed, be said to represent the change that has been silently at work throughout the general mind of Europe since the close of the last century. He begins his career of philosopher with blind faith in Condillac and Materialism. As an intellect severely conscientious in the pursuit of truth expands amidst the perplexities it revolves, phenomena which cannot be accounted for by Condillac's sensuous theories open to his eye."

And it goes on and on. It's not just the Preface - many of the dialogues feel like something written in imitation of Plato. And then there are the footnotes. Lots of them. These aren't the light hearted entertaining footnotes of Edward Gibbon or Terry Pratchett, which add spice to the narrative and increase our enjoyment of it. No- these are dry-as-dust academic asides that try the reader's patience and sap his will to proceed. The road through this novel is littered with the bones of those who couldn't make it to the end.

So- dear reader- be warned. The 19th century is a wonderful place. The vast wealth of its literature is available to us, free of charge, a few mouse-clicks away. There are undiscovered treasures galore there. And there are books like this one- a parson's egg, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor, on steroids. I enjoyed it, but it tried my patience sorely.


The Wreck of the "Golden Mary" - illustrated edition and a link to download FREE audiobook
The Wreck of the "Golden Mary" - illustrated edition and a link to download FREE audiobook

1.0 out of 5 stars Misleading, 27 Sept. 2011
The Wreck of the Golden Mary was a joint project, with the first story written by Charles Dickens, and the remaining stories written by other contributors to "Household Words": Wilkie Collins, Adelaide Proctor, Harriet Parr, Percy Fitzgerald and Rev. James White. I bought this edition because the it claims to be by "James White , Harriet Parr, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Percy Fitzrgerarld (sic), and Adelaide Procter". In reality it contains only the frame story by Dickens, (freely available on the internet) and not the other stories. A misleading description.


"Kindle: WIKIPEDIA" How to Convert into Mobipocket Files to read the Web Page of Free Encyclopedia WIKIPEDIA on your Kindle. - TKP 0048 -
"Kindle: WIKIPEDIA" How to Convert into Mobipocket Files to read the Web Page of Free Encyclopedia WIKIPEDIA on your Kindle. - TKP 0048 -

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth buying, 27 Jun. 2011
This - and from their titles other books by the same author- is Kindle "spam": information that is very easy to find on the Internet, packaged and sold in the form of an e-book. This particular "e-book" is not even easy to read- it is presented as a pdf file or similar and needs to be magnified in order to read it. Don't waste your money and time- there's nothing here that you can't learn from Google.


The Flowers of Evil
The Flowers of Evil

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but incomplete., 13 April 2011
These are good translations- but this is just a selection of Baudelaire's poems from 'Les Fleurs du Mal'. If you want to use a translation side by side with the original French than this version is not ideal. My advice- request a preview- it only cointains the contents list and part of the first poem, but that's enough to check that this selection contains what you are looking for.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2015 5:09 PM GMT


A dictionary of the English language. Abstracted from the folio ed. by the
A dictionary of the English language. Abstracted from the folio ed. by the

3.0 out of 5 stars Needs proof-reading, 16 Feb. 2011
This has clearly been prepared using a text recognition programme from a scanned old copy and a lot of it is unreadable. Admittedly I only looked at the beginning, as I just previewed the book, but that was enough. A pity as this is the only Kindle- compatible version I could find.
Doctor Johnson's dictionary is available in scanned form free on the internet, as a DjVu or pdf file, if you want to have it on your computer.


Merriam-Webster's French-English Translation Dictionary, Kindle Edition (French Edition)
Merriam-Webster's French-English Translation Dictionary, Kindle Edition (French Edition)
Price: £4.75

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good if you're learning French, 16 Feb. 2011
I've been using this as my default dictionary for a month or so, as I read quite a lot in French.

The problem is- that it's a contemporary dictionary, and a fairly basic one at that. It therefore has all the words that the reader is already likely to know, including the words that are similar to their English equivalents, but not more unusual words. It can be frustrating if you are reading an older text- in which case it will often tell you the definition of every word in a sentence except the one you don't know.

There are good free public domain monolingual French dictionaries out there in Kindle format (I am using the Lettre one, which is superb for reading the 19th century classics)- but they don't work as a default Kindle dictionary. So it's worth buying this one if you want to make a French dictionary your default one.


Testament (Leviathan S.)
Testament (Leviathan S.)
by R.C. Hutchinson
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Testament, by R.C.Hutchinson, 2 Mar. 2009
This is a beautifully written, deeply moving and haunting novel about the Russian Revolution. The writer creates an vivid sense of having been there at the time- the horrors of the trenches of the Eastern Front in the First World war, the military hospitals, the drawing rooms of wartime Petrograd... Hutchinson's novel is on a similar epic scale to Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, but written a decade earlier. I've read this three times, and I know Russia and the Russian language well and to me the feeling of authenticity is extraordinary.

I fully agree with the review above- the novel is a requiem for a whole social class and for an old-fashioned code of honour that were destroyed by the Revolution.


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