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Sleep with Me
Sleep with Me
Price: £1.89

4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read, which might have been even better, 12 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Sleep with Me (Kindle Edition)
This is a very good read, and it may be unfair to criticise it for not being better. But until about half-way through it, I thought it was shaping up to be something more. The simple, powerful idea of a man's growing attraction to another, very different woman, as his wife's pregnancy progresses, seemed to me like the stuff of major literature. I kept looking at the review quotes, and wondering why it was being classed as just a good page-turner. I found the second half a little bit too cleverly plotted, and the main character's emotional states might have been better expressed with a bit more restraint. However, it certainly did keep me reading, and engrossed, to the end. Joanna Briscoe is very talented. Maybe she could be more ambitious?


The Sound of the Mountain (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Sound of the Mountain (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price: £4.35

4.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic of post-war Japan, 12 Sep 2014
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This is a superb piece of writing, so far as I can judge from the translation. It is set in the period shortly after the Second World War. The central character, Shingo, is growing old, and beginning to suffer worrying lapses of memory. His two children are both experiencing marital troubles, so the serenity he might have hoped for is proving hard to find. Living with the consequences of decisions he made long ago, he is consoled by the affection of his daughter-in-law. Readers who require definite endings may be disappointed, but this is a beautiful read.


Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics)
Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics)
Price: £3.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe just too subtle, 12 Sep 2014
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I admire Tanizaki very much, and I would not write this book off as in any sense a failure. But to enjoy it fully, I would have had to know a good deal more about traditional Japanese culture, especially puppet theatre, than I do. The storyline about the breakdown of a marriage is not compelling, because there is very little drama in it. It would really not keep you awake at night.


Beauty and Sadness (Penguin Modern Classics)
Beauty and Sadness (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price: £4.35

5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of beauty and sadness, 2 May 2014
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This is a late work by one of Japan's finest writers, and it has, even before its darker purpose is revealed, a sense of melancholy about it. Readers of Kawabata's 'Snow Country' will recognise many of Kawabata's motifs, but in my opinion, this book is even better. It is beautiful, subtle, intriguing and compelling. I was reminded of Thomas Mann's 'Death in Venice', not so much by any similarity of theme or plot, as by the sense of mastery achieved.


McEwen: Solway Symphony, Hills o' Heather, Where the Wild Thyme Blows
McEwen: Solway Symphony, Hills o' Heather, Where the Wild Thyme Blows
Price: £14.70

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Music which deserves to be much better known, 22 Dec 2013
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These are very enjoyable late Romantic works, likely to appeal to anyone with a love of landscape, and those who know McEwen's own Galloway, and especially the Solway Firth in the south-west corner of Scotland, will probably find them particularly evocative. There are no obvious external claims on Scottish attention - no bagpipes, reels, or - so far as I could tell - folksong quotations. This is not music for tourists. It demands to be taken seriously, and gives a lot in terms of melody, structure, and beautiful orchestral sound. Each of the three works has a lot to commend it, but the central piece, Hills o' Heather, for cello and orchestra, is maybe the most immediately attractive, and deserves to be better known. I can't remember hearing any of McEwen's music on the BBC, which seems to be all it takes to prevent a composer from getting a hearing in the UK. Since it is an organisation which seemingly considers Percy Grainger a more important composer than Martinu, no-one should be surprised!


Botchan (Master Darling)
Botchan (Master Darling)
Price: £0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Spoiled by unacceptable translation, 13 Dec 2013
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I was looking forward to this, after reading the same author's wonderful book 'The Three-cornered World'. This is a very different novel, narrated by a thoroughly non-literary, non-artistic character, neither very clever nor particularly sensitive. The author might have been setting himself a difficult enough challenge in trying to make this work. But his character's way of speaking, in a sort of long outdated, informal schoolboy slang, has proved too much of a challenge for the translator. The result is a book which is, frankly, more trouble to read than it is worth. Often, I found myself re-reading passages to try to make sense of them, and sometimes simply having to give up and move on. It is a pity that this translation is being offered to the public, because anyone reading it, as a first encounter with Natsume's work, would be unlikely to persist with this author. And they would be missing something special.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2014 8:08 PM BST


J.S. Bach: Organ Works
J.S. Bach: Organ Works
Price: £13.72

5.0 out of 5 stars A Revelation, 5 Dec 2013
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: Organ Works (Audio CD)
I knew very little of Bach's organ music before I bought this - the D minor Toccata and Fugue, the great C minor Passacaglia and Fugue, and a few chorale preludes. On the whole, I found organ music a bit indigestible. But hearing Walcha play part of the Art of Fugue with a light, clear sound which really let the music speak, convinced me to buy this set. This is a feast of great music. I can't compare Walcha's interpretations with those of other organists, but for me, he has lit up a whole field of music which I'd never explored before. Of course, it doesn't include the Art of Fugue, which wasn't written expressly for the organ.


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