Profile for B. Ukiah > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by B. Ukiah
Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,959,161
Helpful Votes: 229

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
B. Ukiah (London, England)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3
pixel
Loser Takes All (Vintage Classics)
Loser Takes All (Vintage Classics)
by Graham Greene
Edition: Paperback

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Greene does light entertainment, 19 Feb 2002
This is an undemanding short story designed as entertainment pure and simple, without the depth of Greene's serious novels. It is light family fare, and instantly forgettable.
The story is about a dull accountant called Bertram, who finds himself by chance gifted a luxurious honeymoon by his employer. He spends time in a casino, and starts winning big. This affects his relationship with his wife, which is the main focus of the story.
It is compelling and well told and, undemanding as it is, can be easily read in one sitting.


The Human Stain
The Human Stain
by Philip Roth
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping tale of a secret life, 18 Feb 2002
This review is from: The Human Stain (Hardcover)
This latest novel from Philip Roth is about Coleman Silk, who led and reinvigorated sleepy Athena College until he was slung out on spuroius racism charges at the end of his career. The tale is told by his friend, similarly aged Richard Zuckermann, who is largely sympathetic to Coleman's plight.
This tale is background to the novel's true concern, which is to discover the real Coleman Silk through the eyes of his biographer. Needless to say, all is not as it seems, although the novel suggests that the shortcomings of Coleman Silk are a product of his environment.
Coleman Silk is a fascinating character, and Roth is at pains to link his environment to the larger and real world. For instance, Roth discusses Clinton's misdemeanours when rooting the book in the present, and paints a picture of the past which goes towards explaining why Coleman made the decisions he did as a young man. This is a great strength and gives the book a purpose which raises it above less elevated fiction. In fact, it is almost serious historical fiction in the way that it instructs about its period.
The book is populated by a crowd of believable characters, from Coleman's lover to his boss. All life seems to be here, and the voice given to the main characters is wonderful. The sympathy with which the characters are portrayed raises them above the level of supporting cast and creates more of an ensemble feel, although the quest to understand Coleman Silk is clearly what drives the book.
This is the best written book I've read for sometime and more accessible than the earlier and equally feted American Pastoral.


Girl With a Pearl Earring
Girl With a Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sparkling story, 22 Jan 2002
The Girl with a Pearl, is the beautifully told story of Griet, a maid who goes to work in the painter Vermeer's household in seventeenth century Delft.
The strengths of the book are that it is a genuinely moving story of a maid growing up in an unfamiliar place; that the characters and settings are beautifully developed; and that it gives a real insight into the painter's art.
Vermeer himself, reckoned to be the leading Dutch painter of his time, is brought to life in a wholly believable way, giving context to some of his works. Although much of this is conjecture, the imagination of it seems inspired.
As historical fiction, I cannot think of a better read, or a better thesis.


The Best A Man Can Get
The Best A Man Can Get
by John O'Farrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but generic., 11 Jan 2002
This review is from: The Best A Man Can Get (Paperback)
This is an easy and entertaining read - good for the train or beach - being formulaic with basic but sympathetic characters. The plot is pretty predictable and the characters, while likeable, have no depth. To exist as both father and 'lad', is a nice concept and worth a daydream.
Rather than this, I would recommend Tony Parson's 'Man and Boy' or Nick Hornby's 'About a Boy', which are far superior novels, with a greater depth of character and emotional pull.


No Saints or Angels
No Saints or Angels
by Ivan Klima
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A moving portrait of a Czech family, 11 Jan 2002
This review is from: No Saints or Angels (Hardcover)
No Saints or Angels is a portrait of Kristyna, a Czech dentist, and her relationship with Jana, her daughter, her ex husband, her father and her new lover. This may sound mundane, but the book is emotionally compelling and the story wholly believable. But the story takes second place to the description and development of the relationships between the characters.
Klima is superb at generating sympathy for the characters and has created 'people' who will live on in my memory. I want to know what happens next and how their lives work out - and this is pretty unusual for me. As always with Klima, the evocation of Prague is exquisite.
Klima has written some books that have disappointed before, such as 'Love and Garbage' and 'My Golden Trades', but this - in contrast - is truly excellent and I recommend it highly.


Red Dog
Red Dog
by Louis de Bernières
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A readable novelty book, 3 Jan 2002
This review is from: Red Dog (Hardcover)
Red Dog is an unowned but much loved canine, who lived in Western Australia. He was his own dog, in that he chose which 'owners' he would spend time with before moving on, and travelled around the region hitching lifts. He became a local celebrity of sorts. De Bernieres recounts episodes in Red Dog's life that he has collected while travelling in the region and coming across his statue.
The book is the sort of short novelty read that is published on the premise that people will buy pretty much anything a popular author writes. De Bernieres has trodden this path before with 'Labels', and has obviously enjoyed researching and writing Red Dog. It is well written, a good, simple read, and is fine on its own terms. Just do not expect to find any similarities with the fiction that made his name.
My one gripe would be that de Bernieres sometimes describes what the dog is feeling and thinking, which is plain silly.


The End of the Affair (Vintage Classics)
The End of the Affair (Vintage Classics)
by Graham Greene
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.50

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Reasonable Affair, 27 Dec 2001
One of Greene's more overtly Catholic novels, which succeeds or fails depending on how far you believe people would sacrifice ther desires for God. Sarah Miles strikes a bargain with God which comes to rule her life and cast a shadow over that of Bendrix, her onetime lover.
This is a good story, but it seems contrived or manipulated. Some of the characters, such as the detective or the rationalist preacher are little more than caricatures put in place to develop the moral message. Bendrix, on the other hand is typical Greene. Doubting, but acting from good intentions; flawed, but somehow heroic. An excellent character.
On the whole, reasonable, but not great.


Killing the Shadows
Killing the Shadows
by Val McDermid
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, but ultimately disappointing, 27 Dec 2001
This review is from: Killing the Shadows (Paperback)
Killing the Shadows is an excellent read, until the finale, which is improbable to say the least. The book's strengths are its characters, particularly Fiona Cameron, the profiler, and Steve Preston, the detective, and the way they interact to link and solve the murders.
However, the ending seems rushed, and the action sequences just too unlikely, leaving a sense of disappointment. The way the story concludes seems too contrived and breaks down the sense of realism that has been excellently constructed through virtually the whole book.
On the other hand, the book is a true page turner, and certainly a lot better than the recent Cornwells. Patricia Cornwell's novels are a good comparison, and this stands up against her better offerings. Overall, Killing the Shadows is not a first class thriller, but maybe it could have been with a better ending.


The Power and the Glory (Vintage Classics)
The Power and the Glory (Vintage Classics)
by Graham Greene
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neither power nor glory for the whisky priest, 7 Dec 2001
Acknowledged to be Greene's masterpiece, this is the tale of a worldly priest persecuted by a secular regime in pre war Mexico. The strength of the story is that, like all Greene, it deals in shades of grey rather than black and white, as the 'whisky' (ie worldly) priest is far from perfect while his adversary has some good qualities.
Is it a masterpiece ? Probably not, but it is very good in all the right places - plot, character, and place. It has emotional depth, the protagomnists are sympathetic, and one can relate to the whisky priest's dilemma: should we do what is right or what is more practical ? Despite the flawed humanity of the priest, he always does the right thing according to his religion, even when it places him in some considerable danger, illustrating that it is possible to be a good priest while being a far from perfect person.
As well as being a gripping narrative, the book also questions the nature and value of Catholicism, its role in society and its existence in an anti-religious state. The characterisation is superb - a wide cast of believable actors light up the pages, while the sense of place is almost tangible. In essence, the Power and the Glory is a tale about squalid, shabby, but high minded people, in a squalid and shabby country.


Inventing the Victorians
Inventing the Victorians
by Matthew Sweet
Edition: Hardcover

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History as it should be: both entertaining and informative, 29 Nov 2001
The thesis of 'Inventing the Victorians' is that they were a much more lively bunch than we would imagine. They were attracted to spectacle, sex, and advertising and do not deserve their reputation as staid and repressed. The book argues this theme in an entertaining way and is full of well researched examples. One criticism is that it might rely too much on anecdotal evidence, but scientific evidence on cultural issues is elusive.
The book is a great read for anyone interested in nineteenth century culture, and would probably prove frustrating to anyone looking for a text book or treating this as the key source book for an essay. In an academic context it would provide an alternative view and a few good examples. I would also suggest that the points the book makes are best understood against a background of knowledge of what was going on in England at that time.
None of the above should be read as criticism, but is rather an explanation of the type of book it is. Compared to more traditional history books it is an easy and interesting read - closer to a novel or a newspaper report than something to be studied.
Overall I recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in what it was like to live in Victorian times.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3