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PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future
PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future
Price: £6.64

5 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Infantile Twaddle, 2 Aug. 2015
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This silly treatise, the type of claptrap undergraduates spout before they grow up, willfully ignores the reality of human nature and societies - notably events as lived and experienced in Eastern Europe across the twentieth century. Owen Jones and Andrew Sayer make similar cloud-cuckoo suggestions for the reworking of society along lines that would – inevitably – be authoritarian, with the freedom of the individual curtailed. Of course capitalism is not perfect (why isn’t Fred Goodwin behind bars?) but history shows it is more the bedfellow of democracy, plurality, open-expression and liberty, than is any Marxist-centric philosophy.

Channel 4 News is well worth watching as it informs, while challenging comfortable perceptions. However, having read this book, I question whether viewers will be convinced that, with writing like this under his belt, Mason has it in him to be even-handed and unbiased in his reporting (he might as well have been wearing a ‘I love Syriza’ badge during his recent coverage of the Greek referendum).

Three stars from me, though, as Mason does, at least, clearly articulate his never-never land position.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 3, 2015 6:09 PM BST


The Improbability of Love
The Improbability of Love
Price: £5.03

3.0 out of 5 stars The Improbability of Coincidence, 15 July 2015
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I'm reminded of the curate's egg. There are some very good parts - notably the author's knowledge of both the commercial art trade and the museum world. The story - based around art stolen from Jewish families by the Nazi regime - is 'a la page,' on-going and relevant. Set against this is Ms Rothschild's over-dependence on coincidence. I've always understood that an author of commercial fiction needs to steer well clear of coincidence for - while this is indeed a feature of everyday life - a reliance on it in print can be interpreted as a structural weakness. Here, the Watteau painting keeps turning up at exactly the right place in the right time; abracadabra! It's there! The characters, with the exception of Rebecca, are thin and one-dimensional cut-outs from central casting (with the Prime Minster and the art historian's plumber-cum-ambassador nephew being hardly credible). On the other hand, the author keeps up a cracking good pace and - as a holiday read for the educated mind - you could do a lot worse.


Cold Feet
Cold Feet
Price: £1.91

4.0 out of 5 stars Oh, that it could always be like this!, 19 May 2015
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This review is from: Cold Feet (Kindle Edition)
A charming, if aspirational, story of young love. A bit light, a bit fluffy - but that's how we all yearn for love to be! In the real world 'the course of true love never did run smooth' and this is more so for same sex couples than for straight. Each passing year it gets easier for gay people to establish a relationship within an everyday context, as Sam and Ryan do, rather than at a club or bar - but this isn't yet as easy as it is for straights. So, a lovely heartwarming tale, but one that, regretfully, teeters on the unrealistic.


The Establishment: And how they get away with it
The Establishment: And how they get away with it
Price: £3.66

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Twaddle, 10 May 2015
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I've waited until after the 2015 General Election before commenting on this 'Dave Spart' Twaddle. It seems the electorate disagrees with both the wisdom and the morality of government dipping its hand ever deeper into somebody else's wallet - one of the core recommendations, ipso facto, throughout this dreary book. Of course those in real need through no fault of their own need protecting and, yes, there is a lot about capitalism that stinks and needs to be kept under review (why the hell isn't Fred Goodwin behind bars?). But no system is perfect and - at its heart - capitalism is the bedfellow of freedom, individuality and democracy. On the other hand, Owen Jones, Ed Miliband, Polly Toynbee, Andrew Sayer and fellow travellers have a passion for regulation, invigilation, regimentation - and for taking. Well, the electorate spoke loud and clear.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2015 11:56 AM BST


Why We Can't Afford the Rich
Why We Can't Afford the Rich
by Andrew Sayer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In praise of high taxation and extreme regulation, 29 Mar. 2015
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This is the most persuasive, articulate and stimulating political treatise I have read in many a day. I disagree with most of it but, my goodness, Andrew Sayer has a passion for his subject. I'd recommend starting at the end - Conclusions - so the potential reader knows how large a pinch of salt to take. One nugget here stood out for me: "it's necessary to reduce movement "(of people). At the core of this book is, ipso facto, the recommendation for massive state regulation, invigilation and monitoring of daily life. Such a philosophy is quite totalitarian - and ignores the history of Russia and eastern Europe in the second half of the twentieth century (China, too - bar Taiwan and Hong Kong.....) Taxation would, naturally, go through the roof - though Andrew Sayer's call for a global wealth tax reveals a nativity which unbalances his credibility. He's selective, too. The grotesque sums now paid top professional footballers is lightly glossed over, while that of CEOs gets the full spotlight; naturally one wonders if this has something to do with footballers being, generally, working class lads and thus 'good eggs.' Turning to Inheritances - much disapproved of - Professor Sayer ignores the nobility of nurturing. It is surely one of the most commendable of human aspirations - no matter what your circumstances - to want to better the lot of your loved ones, and a humane state should encourage this. Needless to say, if you want - of your own free will - to make a testamentary benefaction in aid of, say, the Treasury, then - as a free person in a free society - you should be able so to do. Yes, some will be in a better position - by virtue of their societal background - to leave larger estates, but where, then, do you stop in attempting to rewrite the personal history of millions of people? You'll need a Big Brother committee (one of many) for that one. Union power in the 1970s is glossed over, too, with the great 'beer and sandwiches at number 10' barons affectionately described as only "a bit abrasive." Like Professor Sayer I was around at that time - and, conjuring up Hugh Scanlon's grim features in my mind's eye, that's not how I remember it. Of course there is a lot about capitalism 'as is' that needs to change; I would quite agree that Banks should share losses with those they lend to - and why isn't Fred Goodwin behind bars? But change is not a need for an unnecessary politically-motivated revolution.


Broke: Who Killed the Middle Classes?
Broke: Who Killed the Middle Classes?
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I'd discovered this superb book sooner, 4 Mar. 2015
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This superb book should be required reading for all candidates standing in national or local elections within the UK. David Boyle makes the case that, in the world of finance, change was needed - but the change we got with Big Bang pulled the rug from under the long-established and largely respectable ways in which the middle classes did business and earned their living. With the old system of `brokers' and `jobbers' swept away in the City, the healthy divisions needed for a fair market went down the drain. So it was in the Fine Art Trade, too. For centuries - certainly well established by 1800 - the arrangement was (with some grey areas, of course) that the auctioneers dealt with sellers and the art dealers dealt with buyers. Any conflict of interest was thus avoided. But auctioneering is expensive - with armies of porters needed, the overheads are high. So - cutting a long story short - the auctioneers (middle class folk on auto-destruct) introduced a buyer's premium, now taking commission from both buyer and seller. The Office of Fair Trading did not accept that there had been collusion (as the art dealers at the time alleged) between the great auction houses in coming - nigh simultaneously - to this decision. Thirty years on, most of the respectable and long established Old Master dealerships - bastions of the middle classes - have been swept away as the financially empowered auctioneers, run for their new overseas owners by humourless German boys and brittle east coast girls, hoover up all areas of the business. Does this matter? Yes, it does. Put simply, if I want to sell a ring (say) and go to a London auctioneer, he contracts to get me the best possible price for it. My neighbour goes to the same auctioneer and says he wants to buy a ring. Thirty years ago, the auctioneer would have recommended where he could get independent advice. Today, the auctioneer welcomes my neighbour with open arms and contracts, ipso facto, to advise him on acquiring a ring at auction for the lowest possible price. Across the board - and causing great damage to the middle classes - the biblical truism that "no man can serve two masters" has been swept out the window.

Returning to David Boyle's text there are couple of elephants in the room. Notably, the author shies away from referencing the Sloane Ranger (perhaps a nod here to his Lib-Dem affiliation?). Of course, critics tend to focus on Hooray Henry, of the bread-roll throwing ilk - a minority within this upper-middle class grouping. Yet the demise of the Sloane Ranger is as much a cause for regret as the loss of any other sector of the middle-classes. For underneath the Sloane's `wah-wah' voice and robust, patrician conservatism was the person who got things done in the local community. The Sloane was up before dawn to deliver Meals-on-Wheels and baked cakes all night for the church spire or village hall appeal. The Sloane was a "we" person, not the "me" person so prevalent today. In many a town and village, as people spend their leisure time on the Internet or at out-of-town shopping centres, nobody now wants to take the Sloane's place as churchwarden or local parish councillor (and certainly not the overpaid footballer in his gated Surrey compound, whose charitable work - if it exists - is rendered by a cheque for a fashionable, global cause. Commendable, of course, but not supportive of the crucible of middle-class life in Britain).

The second elephant is the rise of UKIP (noted dismissively, only in the postscript to the book). Yet it is the middle classes who make-up the backbone of the respectable membership of UKIP. Of course they used to vote Conservative, but have been appalled at how David Cameron has deserted them in favour of his `hey, call me Dave' Blairite vision for Britain - a Britain which has little time for traditional middle-class values. Cameron's failure to up the threshold for inheritance tax (something that would greatly assist the survival of the middle-classes) is seen as proof-positive of this treachery. The Sloane is, though, no Luddite - setting his face against change and refusing to adapt - he just wishes he wasn't assailed on so many fronts and, bizarrely, as a fundamentally decent person, made to feel worthless and unwanted. What worried him about Danny Boyle's opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics - praised by Dave, George and Boris - was not what it contained, but what it did NOT contain. Where were conservative (small `c') mores? Where were the folk beavering away on the village fete committee/warding the local National Trust House/organising the charity point-to-point? Why, in short, were middle-class values and certainties glossed over in favour of the metropolitan Britain beloved by the Bien Pensant of The Guardian and Channel 4 News? What on earth has the Sloane and other middle-class people done that makes today's Conservative party so dismissive of them? Small wonder they fall into Nigel Farage's tweed-jacketed arms.

This thoughtful book is an elegy, making an eloquent case about the decline of the middle classes. It also serves as a timely warning - if the middle-classes are indeed abolished, along with their values and all that they did for Britain, what comes next?


Edward II: The Unconventional King
Edward II: The Unconventional King
Price: £11.86

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Was he Gay? and how and when did he die?, 10 Feb. 2015
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A fascinating insight upon an undoubtedly troubled and hopeless monarch. Kathryn Warner makes clear, and convincingly so, we should not "take as read" that Edward was Gay. His relationship with the Queen was loving and supportive until the final furlong. Certainly Edward had crushes - disastrous crushes - on male companions, but whether these embraced genital sexual acts will remain forever unanswerable (perhaps, with a father like Edward I, he merely desired male approbation?). Equally, the salacious and horrifying received-wisdom as to the manner of his death, may well be false. Indeed, Ms Warner makes a strong case that Edward could have escaped Berkley Castle and lived a wandering life for several more years. This is a "must read" book for anyone interested in Edward II and this period of English history.


The Nudists
The Nudists
Price: £3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disagreeable people being disagreeable, 30 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Nudists (Kindle Edition)
The main problem with this book is that the characters are so unsympathetic - I could not warm to any of them; they are self-serving and uninteresting people. My jaw hit the ground at the accolades that this is a "comic" book - full of subtle wit - when toward the end the greatest, most gut-wrenching, tragedy that can befall any young family slips casually into the narrative.


The Badger and Blondie's Beaver (A raucous Tom Sharpe style comedy)
The Badger and Blondie's Beaver (A raucous Tom Sharpe style comedy)
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Coincidence galore, 24 Jan. 2015
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Started well but soon became obscure. The biggest weakness is: Coincidence. A talented writer understands that, yes, coincidences can abound in real life BUT - when penning a novel - an over-reliance on coincidence is to be idle with the plot's structure. France is a vast country and, even allowing for the technical marvels of SatNav and the Find-a-Friend Ap, it raises an eyebrow that the dramatis personae have an agreeable habit of ending up together in the same place and at the same time. I'll give Giles Curtis one thing, he's no sexist and quite even-handed in descriptions, when needed, of the male and female naked form. This is an "okay" read (Amazon's criteria for three stars) and if you want a jolly romp where reality is mostly suspended, then you could do worse


Kevin and I in India (Frank's Travel Memoir Series, Book 1)
Kevin and I in India (Frank's Travel Memoir Series, Book 1)
Price: £1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open your eyes!, 3 Jan. 2015
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If you worry the world is boring, with voyages of discovery no longer possible, read Frank Kusy's books. He proves that "now for something completely different" is but an Air India flight away. 'Kevin and I in India' is the grittiest of the trilogy, with no punches pulled. Descriptions of what pigs eat - and how human corpses react in the heat of a funeral pyre - do not disgust, but show the reality of a world far removed from a cosy English high street. Of course, there is immense beauty and poetry in India, too, which Frank fluently articulates; so put your "first world problems" into storage and be tempted, as I am, to visit this thrilling subcontinent.


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