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Sue Kichenside
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The Art of Waiting
The Art of Waiting
by Christopher Jory
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring human themes in a well-crafted novel., 22 April 2015
This review is from: The Art of Waiting (Hardcover)
Love, betrayal, revenge, endurance, loneliness, hope - all are explored here in this well-crafted novel set in Venice and the USSR during the 1940s and early 50s.

Two stories form the narrative backbone, both splintered by the Second World War and its aftermath: the love of a son for his father and the love of a young soldier for a girl who befriends him from beyond the barbed wire of a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp. The man is Aldo, a young Venetian and the book's main protagonist. Like all Christopher Jory's characters - even the minor ones - Aldo is fully fleshed out and all too credibly human. Jory's scene-setting is equally deft. Whether along the canals of the less salubrious side of Venice or on the frozen Russian steppe, the author brings everything vividly to life.

The almost linear narrative is something of a welcome rarity these days, yet the novel succeeds in portraying the shifting landscapes and timescapes of a war-torn world. Plotlines are perhaps a little too pat and their outcomes somewhat far-fetched but this remains a moving and thought-provoking piece of work that even manages to incorporate some wit into its early pages before the going gets tough. The tissue box should be fully charged.


The Discreet Hero
The Discreet Hero
by Mario Vargas Llosa
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Natural born storyteller disappoints in the telling., 20 April 2015
This review is from: The Discreet Hero (Hardcover)
2010 Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa gives the reader two good stories: in one, the principled owner of a trucking company, Felícito, refuses to give in to the demands of extortionists (though his principles don't get in the way so much when it comes to his mistress). The second tells of Rigoberto, accountant to an aged boss who weds his maidservant, a scandalous marriage that locks his greedy sons out of their inheritance. More worrying for Rigoberto is that his own son has started to have visions: is the boy going mad or is it some sort of religious revelation?

Both - or rather, all three - of these yarns are interesting and eventually intertwine (as indeed does much of the dialogue, a trademark of Vargas Llosa's writing style). However, the telling of them leaves much to be desired. There is far too much repetition, the language is often needlessly coarse and the translation is clunky to the point of distraction. I found myself skipping bits (never a good sign, obviously) but nevertheless wanting to know the outcomes of the various plot-lines. A mixed bag then, and one that could only be recommended with reservations.


SODIAL(R) Ladies Green Handle Eye Shadow Sponge Brushes Cosmetic Tool 6 Pcs
SODIAL(R) Ladies Green Handle Eye Shadow Sponge Brushes Cosmetic Tool 6 Pcs
Offered by PGTA
Price: £1.27

4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect little pads., 19 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These eye shadow pads are great - they seem to apply the shadow really smoothly. Very good value too. The only thing that brings them down from a 5-star rating is that the handles could be longer which would make them easier to use. Otherwise, highly recommended.


DIOR AND I
DIOR AND I
Dvd
Price: £2.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ninety riveting minutes., 19 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: DIOR AND I (Amazon Video)
I absolutely loved this documentary film about the House of Dior and the appointment of its new creative head, Raf Simons. The camera follows Raf as he gets to know the team (some of whom have been at Dior for forty years), learns about the unique demands of haute couture and puts together his first collection against a screaming deadline. The camera never intrudes, the music choices are spot on and the direction by Frédéric Tcheng is altogether perfect. Raf himself comes across as a really great guy with no pretensions whatsoever. I wish him well.


A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France
A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Searching for answers., 19 April 2015
This is the account of Miranda Richmond Mouillot's infatuation with her irrepressible, spiky grandmother, Anna. When the book opens, Anna and her ex-husband Armand are in their eighties and live on different continents. As Jewish fugitives from war-torn Europe in the Second World War, this terrifying period still casts shadows over their lives. They have not spoken to each other for five decades. Miranda is seeking answers.

I was completely baffled as to why Miranda felt unable to come right out and ask them about what had caused their irreconcilable break-up. She goes round and round the houses. The author's imagined 'reconstructions' of episodes from her grandparents' escape from France come across as inauthentic and cheesy. And her realisation of the painful impact Armand's role as a translator at the Nuremberg Trials must have had upon him arrives uncomfortably late in the narrative.

Although the writing itself is good, the author obsesses about what could have driven her grandparents apart without ever resolving the issue satisfactorily. A Fifty-year Silence is about Miranda's obsession, not ours, and unfortunately she failed to make it of significance to this reader.


Bedroom Athletics - Katy Ballerina Slipper Womens - Brown - 6 UK
Bedroom Athletics - Katy Ballerina Slipper Womens - Brown - 6 UK
Offered by Surfdome
Price: £17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and snuggly but not made to last - an updated review., 18 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These sweet, snuggly slippers have had lots of compliments! Unfortunately, the stripes don't match up across the pair which is a shame. Be sure to order at least half a size up on your usual shoe size as they are elasticated and come up quite small. Good value at the current offer price.

Updated 19/08/15: Unfortunately, the soles are not hard-wearing and despite only wearing these indoors, the slippers have today been discarded. So that's just four months' wear. A shame.


Fifty-Year Silence, A
Fifty-Year Silence, A
by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Searching for answers., 14 April 2015
This review is from: Fifty-Year Silence, A (Paperback)
This is the account of Miranda Richmond Mouillot's infatuation with her irrepressible, spiky grandmother, Anna. When the book opens, Anna and her ex-husband Armand are in their eighties and live on different continents. As Jewish fugitives from war-torn Europe in the Second World War, this terrifying period still casts shadows over their lives. They have not spoken to each other for five decades. Miranda is seeking answers.

I was completely baffled as to why Miranda felt unable to come right out and ask them about what had caused their irreconcilable break-up. She goes round and round the houses. The author's imagined 'reconstructions' of episodes from her grandparents' escape from France come across as inauthentic and cheesy. And her realisation of the painful impact Armand's role as a translator at the Nuremberg Trials must have had upon him arrives uncomfortably late in the narrative.

Although the writing itself is good, the author obsesses about what could have driven her grandparents apart without ever resolving the issue satisfactorily. A Fifty-year Silence is about Miranda's obsession, not ours, and unfortunately she failed to make it of significance to this reader.


An Unnecessary Woman
An Unnecessary Woman
by Rabih Alameddine
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In which the narrator *is* the narrative., 11 April 2015
This review is from: An Unnecessary Woman (Hardcover)
Aaliya Saleh, 72, lives a life of solitude surrounded by books in her shabby Beirut apartment. Words are infinitely preferable to people; no-one is welcome to intrude on her quiet life. Except for...us, the readers of this book. Aaliya tells us of her life as a bookseller, her life as an unpublished translator of great works, her life without friends (except for Hannah, long dead), her life without family - she has shunned them all.

Truth be told, I didn't actually like Aaliya very much. Aaliya, meaning 'the high one', is a cold woman. And although as a child her mother favoured her half-brothers, Aaliya's rejection of her family seems extreme. Likewise, her attitude to the friendly and rather jolly women who live in her apartment block is brusque to the point of rude.

However, Rabih Alameddine's writing is so gorgeous that this book is a pleasure to read. There is wit: "I don't hesitate when buying green bananas, but I'm slowing down." There are insights into the great writers and philosophers like Spinoza: "We so desperately need a Beiruti Baruch, a knight to slay the ecclesiastical dragons, or at least declaw them." There are new words to discover when she talks of contemporary writers: Junoz Díaz and Aleksandar Hemon's "wonderfully macaronic language". And she is pithy on the politics: "At the heart of most antagonisms are irreconcilable similarities." Aaliya's love of words is infectious.


Arab Jazz
Arab Jazz
by Karim Miskť
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Murder in a melting pot., 2 April 2015
This review is from: Arab Jazz (Hardcover)
Elements of a conventional murder mystery play out against the background of Paris's cultural melting pot in a moderately intriguing plot that keeps readers on their toes (it's quite hard to follow). This opens with the discovery of the murder victim by blood dripping from the woman's body onto the young Arab owner of the balcony beneath. The apartment block is situated in a neighbourhood where Salafists and Orthodox Jews co-exist peaceably by ignoring one another. The murder victim is the daughter of Jehovah's Witnesses. Religion swirls around the various tangled threads of the story, as do the mysterious blue pills that are suddenly flooding the city. Which will be the key to unlocking the case?

This is an unusual thriller that borders on the literary and yet I found it curiously unengaging. Whether this is due to the shortcomings of the author, the translator or this reader, I honestly don't know. The writing veers between the present and past tense and between the clumsy and the adept. There is a great deal of exposition, even - and unforgivably - in the dialogue. An odd book, this. Its contextual setting makes it relevant to the world we live in today but towards the end, the plot descends into abject drivel.


Family Life
Family Life
by Akhil Sharma
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Folio winner proves less is more., 30 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Family Life (Hardcover)
This slender novel not only hits home - it has also hit a home run. Akhil Sharma's tragi-comedy has recently been awarded the Folio prize for excellence in writing. It has been fourteen years since Akhil Sharma's debut, An Obedient Father. The answer as to why it has taken so long for his second book to reach us is perhaps contained in its semi-autobiographical pages.

When Ajay's accountant father sends airline tickets for his wife and two sons to join him in America, their whole Delhi neighbourhood comes out to celebrate the family's good fortune. Ajay is eight and can't quite believe this is really happening. As many an immigrant experience story has shown, the Mishras' new life in 'the land of opportunity' is a challenging one for them to navigate. But it is a devastating accident that changes everything more fundamentally for the Mishra family - and for Sharma's readers.

This is a deeply moving, funny, tragic, absorbing and brave account with an engagingly honest narrator. The author compels the reader to examine some of life's darker questions by leaving much unsaid and demonstrates here that less really can be more. A novel of 'distilled complexity' and 'deceptive simplicity' said the Folio judges. I agree.


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