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Alex y Robert
Alex y Robert
by Wena Poon
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Page-Turner, 6 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Alex y Robert (Paperback)
`Alex y Robert' is an absorbing read from start to finish. The subject-matter is controversial, but Wena Poon handles it really well. The story is of Alejandra Herrera (aka `Alex'), a young American woman and grand-daughter of a famous Spanish matador, who wants to follow in his footsteps. She goes to Spain and makes contact with Roberto de la Torre, a rising star in the bullfighting arena, whose grandfather was a matador-contemporary of Alex's granddad.

It isn't exactly plain sailing. Public opposition to bullfighting, at home and abroad, is growing. The majority of people within the bullfighting scene are opposed to women-matadors and won't have anything to do with them. There are close-shaves and crises of confidence. Roberto has his own personal and public crises to deal with. Will Alex ever realise her dream of fighting bulls in the great arena in Madrid?

The narrative speeds along with real fizz and energy, but not at the expense of character development. Wena Poon artfully structures the novel so that it switches between present and past without the flashbacks seeming in any way obtrusive. You'll end up caring about the fate of the two main characters (and some of the supporting roles), whatever your feelings towards bullfighting. Wena Poon obviously researched deeply, not just the bare facts, but the inner psychology of matadors, managers, fans, and those vehemently opposed to the whole thing, and weaves it seamlessly into the narrative.

This is a literary novel which is also a page-turner, an exciting story which is intelligently organised and very well written. It also asks questions on identity, on how opinions are shaped and cemented, on tradition and modernity, on danger, beauty, cruelty and violence, and shirks nothing. A fascinating read.

The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street (Salt Modern Poets S.)
The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street (Salt Modern Poets S.)
by Tony Williams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Shadowland, 8 Sept. 2010
Tony Williams displays great invention, dark humour and a side-line in verbal gymnastics in a collection which will at least be different from anything else you read this year. Much of it centres on place, from countryside scenes to city margins, but there are few conventional pastoral idylls. The images are often unsettling, all the more so for their apparent familiarity. Williams makes the familiar seem strange, as in `Pressure', which closes:

It rains, on and off. Leaves and sap and aphids and putrid berries
cover the cars parked neatly down one side of the road.
The local stray trots down the middle: cautious, recalcitrant,
it barks responsibly when a back door slams.

The poems are complex, but rarely obscure. I never felt any of them unlocked all they had to offer in a single read, a big plus point in my view. Beneath the surface of a Williams landscape, there's usually a shadowland waiting to be discovered, much like the unknown, faceless predator of `Tenebrio', which drifts "across a city of bad sleep and prints on window-sills,/ finding sport among its bedroom hells/ and day-forsaken alleyways, lurking behind the silence."

Williams's subject-matter and themes are varied and imaginative, the formal decisions assured and intelligent. And he has a gift for finding great opening lines. For instance:

Not every song of praise begins
skulking around dingy shrubberies
in the grounds of old hotels (from `Variation on the Fourth Eclogue')


Its black, unopenable door
is what the village really thinks (from `The Lame Dog at Monyash')

This is a rich, funny, and satisfyingly curious book, which repays close attention in ways that only poetry can.

Boudicca & Co. (Salt Modern Poets)
Boudicca & Co. (Salt Modern Poets)
by Jane Holland
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 11 Jun. 2007
Boudicca & Co is an entertaining and varied collection of poems. The writing is precise and evocative, and even the sound of the words is often enough to convey a strong visual image. From 'Love Song for a Gargoyle':

Speak, rain-stone,

prodigal son of the buttress,

springing like a fist

foot-first from the mother,

foothold of birds

and deluge-summoner.

This collection includes many types of poems - elegies, personal memories, and mysterious reflections on landscapes - many of which are quite moving. 'Warwickshire' describes the flat rural land far from the sea:

my flat beleaguered sunken island -

no sign of a peak, only

that thin steely line

they must have seen from the ark

in those languorous days

before the dove came back

a green twig in her beak.

The final and longest section of the book concerns Boudicca, who briefly raised a rebel army against the Roman colonisers around 60 AD. The poems document her suffering, courage, ruthlessness and fragility. Jane Holland's language is rhythmic and full of energy, and a sense of humour runs through these poems, despite their, at times, gory subject-matter.

I'd certainly recommend buying this book if you are interested in finding well written contemporary poetry.

The Lady in the Lake (A Philip Marlowe Novel)
The Lady in the Lake (A Philip Marlowe Novel)
by Raymond Chandler
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than just crime fiction, 9 April 2002
A book that keeps the reader guessing. The plot is complex but flawlessly handled. The characters are realistic and well-drawn. The pace is fast, but subtly controlled. These factors make this book much more than the average detective fare that's served up by Chandler's imitators.
The descriptions and dialogue are characteristically astonishing and surprising. One character is described as having "a face like a gnawed bone", and there are plenty of other similes as good as that.
The dialogue is so well written that I found myself hearing the characters speak in their correct accent before Chandler specifically declares where they are from. He achieves this without recourse to writing in indecipherable dialect.
This book is very good, not maybe as outstanding as say, "The Long Goodbye", but it's better than most other detective fiction.

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