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Andrew Millar (Aylesbury)

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Simply Christian
Simply Christian
by Tom Wright
Edition: Paperback

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking explanation of Christianity, 3 Jun 2006
This review is from: Simply Christian (Paperback)
Sixty years ago, during the Second World War, C.S. Lewis delivered a series of radio talks which grew into his classic work 'Mere Christianity'. Tom Wright's book attempts to offer an updated version of 'Mere Christianity'. Both books attempt to explain Christianity in its basic form.

This is a terrific read. Wright is an accomplished, renowned theologian as well as Anglican bishop, and this shows in his writing: whilst attempting to be accessible, this is more of a work for those who already have some knowledge of Christianity, or who have already begun to think about the significance of Christian belief.

Nonetheless, Wright makes his point clearly and is both skilful in his arguments and wise in his handling of Scripture. Many will wish to challenge Wright on his views on a number of issues, but there is much to set one thinking here.

The Sea
The Sea
by John Banville
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.79

14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How I wanted to like this book, 3 Jun 2006
This review is from: The Sea (Paperback)
Reviewers have raved about the style of this novel. Well, it's certainly rich in vocabulary (frankly, it's pompous and pretentious) and equally rich in allusion (I might briefly mention Joyce, 'Great Expectations', Greek myth etc) but ultimately this novel fails to satisfy.

"Oh dear me the novel tells a story." But the problem is there's not much to the story here, and the usual post-modern 'frame' just doesn't work here. Of course, it's all done in a highly symbolic way (even peeling bananas is, I kid you not, symbolic here) and there's lots of coming of age type nonsense (snogging in the cinema, all done before) but it's a real effort to wade through much of this.

Banville clearly is a talented writer, with a fine ear for the music of his sentences, but somewhere along the lines convincing story and genuine emotion have been abandoned.

Try it - it might work for you. It did for me in places but ultimately I was disappointed.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2010 3:14 PM GMT

The Short Day Dying
The Short Day Dying
by Peter Hobbs
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tender exploration of one man's plight, 3 Jun 2006
This review is from: The Short Day Dying (Paperback)
This tenderly written debut novel sensitively deals with one man's discovery of love and crisis of faith.

It's a thoughtful, intelligent novel which almost deliberately calls into question the brutal cynicism of so much modern literature. The novel touches on many important philosophical and theological questions: the nature of suffering and of love, the relationship between nature and God, faith, reason and doubt.

In many ways it's beautifully done. Hobbs's imagery is subtle, and there's a refreshing simplicity to the narrative. But one niggle: written in the first person, and with a sense of the narrator's Cornish roots coming over in the cadences of the sentences, there are a number of quirks in the writing - particularly the absence of much helpful punctuation. I assume that this is attempting to replicate Hobbs's narrator's own style of writing - in which case, surely spelling and capitalization too ought to be suitably archaic and irregular? Yet even in this, there seems to be a purpose - sentences become ambiguous, particularly at some of the novel's most crucial important moments.

Apparently, Hobbs has a collection of short stories due for publication shortly; if this novel is anything to go by, we'll be in for a treat.

Oedipus Plays: Oedipus Tyrannos; Oedpius at Kolonos; Antigone: "Oedipus Tyrannos", "Oedipus at Colonnus", "Antigone"
Oedipus Plays: Oedipus Tyrannos; Oedpius at Kolonos; Antigone: "Oedipus Tyrannos", "Oedipus at Colonnus", "Antigone"
by Sophocles
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Epic Translation, 4 April 2006
The problem with all too many translations is that they are far too literal - in the quest for accuracy, poetry has been lost.
I have Latin, but no Greek, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of Wertenbaker's verse. But what I can remark on is her ability to write beautifully and forcefully. The full horror of the trilogy is truly brought across. At times frightening, at times tender, at other times lyrical or menacing, this is a translation which would appeal to the general reader and to those studying Theatre Studies and Drama at A level.
A friend of mine directed 'Antigone' (part of the trilogy) with her Year 12 class, successfully and in a way which really engaged the students. I've used 'Oedipus Tyrannos' similarly for workshops with a Year 12 class, again successfully.
More explanatory notes would be useful, as would more from the author on the background to the piece, and perhaps even consideration of the play in performance. But overall this is a fantastic translation of drama with a timeless appeal.

A Wayne in a Manger
A Wayne in a Manger
by Gervase Phinn
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Weep with laughter, 4 April 2006
This review is from: A Wayne in a Manger (Hardcover)
I heard Gervase Phinn speak at a teachers' conference two years ago, and I don't think I laughed so much all term. Initially skeptical - after all, although a teacher, the thought of someone's embelllished memoirs on their time as a school inspector in the Yorkshire Dales doesn't exactly sound like a page-turner.
Indeed, there's nothing particularly original about his approach. It's been done before for vets by James Heriot. Worse still, I think some of the stories in this volume appear elsewhere in his work.
That said, Gervase Phinn has a remarkable story telling gift, weaving the most outrageous, if harmless, yarns with a fine ear for the truly hilarious things children say. Beneath it all, shines a warm humanity - and this is a book to which you'll want to turn to again and again.
I bought this as a present, but read it first (sorry, Mum). It's not quite as strong as his initial Dales series (Up and Down the Dale etc) but it's still good stuff. Get one for yourself and anyone else who needs cheering up!

Dr. Johnson's Dictionary: The Book That Defined the World: The Extraordinary Story of the Book That Defined the World
Dr. Johnson's Dictionary: The Book That Defined the World: The Extraordinary Story of the Book That Defined the World
by Henry Hitchings
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what the doctor ordered!, 4 April 2006
Dr Johnson... star of one of the best episodes of 'Blackadder'... the one who got upset when his precious dictionary ended up in the fire.
Of course, the real Johnson had far more substance. By turns melancholic, sociable, pious, amorous, humorous and - most famously - witty, Johnson is often turned to today more for the story of his life and his oh-so-quotable quotes, and the whole Johnson industry, perpetuated by James Boswell.
This is a stunning book - intelligently structured around the dictionary , it draws its understanding of Johnson's character, opinions, failings and triumphs from the dictionary itself, looking closely at Johnson's definitions of words, and exploring sometimes what they reveal about eighteenth century society. All of this sounds perhaps a tad tedious - but Hitchings writes skilfully, and with a witty sense of humour where required.
Each chapter begins with, and takes its title from, a word from Johnson's dictionary and Johnson's definition, then relates the word to Johnson's work on the dictionary or biographical information - a neat formula which works, and is just a cut above the ordinary... especially as these words are then in alphabetical order - a nicely polished structure.
Johnson was a huge consumer of tea - so, in Johnsonian style, put on the kettle, retreat to your garret, then sit back with a brew and savour a fascinating read. Then head to the nearest tavern for some serious intellectual discussion on one of the eighteenth century's greats.

Appetite: So What Do You Want to Eat Today?
Appetite: So What Do You Want to Eat Today?
by Nigel Slater
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.40

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous grub, 16 July 2005
My brother's boss bought him a copy, which I nicked. I then bought my parents a copy.... No more is "It's Delia" heard at the dinner table... oh no, "It's Nigel".
This book hugely helped me as a cook. Nigel Slater teaches you cooking - not following a recipe. Indeed, the recipes are very vague in places, stating "a handful" of this, and "a pinch" of that. It's all about helping the reader develop their own skills as a cook. This is unfussy, everyday sort of food, the sort you want to cook after a horrid day at work, with an emphasis on using quality, fresh and seasonal ingredients.
I love the way the recipes have suggestions for adapting them. For example, his basic tomato pasta sauce has a page of variations, many of which are quite scrummy. After a while, you'll leave the book to one side and start improvising yourself!
But at the same time, this is a book you'll want to go back to. The illustrations are beautiful, and Slater writes clearly and with a warm humanity - he almost sounds as if he too has dreadful days when all he wants to do is escape home! There's also lots of useful information such as when particular foods are at their best according to season.
Great stuff for novices but (I'm told) also superb for more experienced cooks.

A2 English Literature for AQA A (AS & A2 English Literature for AQA A)
A2 English Literature for AQA A (AS & A2 English Literature for AQA A)
by Mr Tony Childs
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so great if you're an A grade student, 25 Jun 2005
I rushed to the click button when this was first available. A book specially for my students' A level syllabus!
Well, it has some useful advice, particularly for weaker students, but I found it all rather tedious. I'd have preferred a more radical or imaginative approach. Like too many recent textbooks, it's all about passing an exam (obviously a good thing) but passing an exam by ticking all the right boxes - not having really learnt anything of substance. The War Writing chapter epitomises the book: sound advice, boring tasks.
All round - useful reference but it will quickly date when the syllabus changes as it is very focussed on current syllabus texts.

Craft of the Classroom (The Craft of the Classroom)
Craft of the Classroom (The Craft of the Classroom)
by Mr Michael Marland
Edition: Paperback

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect guidebook for new teachers, 25 Jun 2005
I first encountered this readable book as a student teacher. One of our lecturers on my PGCE course constantly recommended it. And not without reason.
Michael Marland's tone is reassuring, thought-through and clearly coming from experience. I wish now I'd taken more of his advice earlier in my career.
This is a warm, humane volume. You won't find glossy illustrations or boxes of targets. Instead, you'll find practical advice on the day to day work of a teacher - and on such essentials for the classroom as pot plants! Especially useful is the chapter on working as a form tutor, an area often negelected in teacher training.
I've owned two copies of this book - the first I lent to a student teacher in my Department, and never came back... clearly a good recommendation; the second is under lock and key, but dog-eared and well-worn. Get your own.

Drama and Theatre Studies
Drama and Theatre Studies
by Sally Mackey
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb for home study, 25 Jun 2005
Students of A level Drama and Theatre Studies should rush out and purchase this - or click now!
It's clear, accurate and suitable both for high flyers and those needing extra support. There are classroom activities (which are somewhat dry compared with some other books on the market) but in my view this is primarily a book for using at home, when revising, researching or investigating a topic for the first time.
The chapters tie in superbly with A level syllabuses. Chapters cover such crucial areas as textual analysis, researching context and theatrical background, reviewing productions, and practitioners - not just Stanislavski and Brecht, but Brook, Grotowski, Artaud and Craig as well. Information on each practitioner - key terms, historical context etc - is logically and systematically presented in a way helpful for students.
Each chapter has extensive suggestions of further reading.

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