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A Fine Balance
A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A reasonable book somewhat spoiled by being forced to take a view that any intelligent person would naturally take., 22 Jan 2013
This review is from: A Fine Balance (Paperback)
I enjoyed much of this book - the descriptions of day to day life of the lower-middle and middles classes are enchanting and the plot ticks along. Many of the characters are charming.

However, the author uses clunky devices to highlight the clear unfairness of much of the Indian culture described and one is asked to believe one incredible coincidence after another. The villains are pantomime baddies with little depth and when the author strays into the lives of the underclasses the smoothness and subtlety disappears and the story and those therein become one dimensional. Their awful bad luck and terrible human induced misfortunes takes on the character of a folk tale.

A reasonable book somewhat spoiled by being forced to take a view that any intelligent person would naturally take. I read to be entertained, and I was, but I felt that this book unnecessarily and then predictably repeated a message that I already understood.


Ghosts in the House!
Ghosts in the House!
by Kazuno Kohara
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Something Original, 11 Nov 2012
This review is from: Ghosts in the House! (Paperback)
Became a favourite for my toddler and still maintains a regular place in our household rotation of night time reading several years later. Lovely, original and quirky artwork and a simple and charming story with a subtler message attached.


Low Life: One Middle-Aged Man in Search of the Point
Low Life: One Middle-Aged Man in Search of the Point
by Jeremy Clarke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.39

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Between the Wind and the Water, 26 Nov 2011
George Orwell said "" An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats. "

Clarke can clearly be trusted. His candour is both funny and sometimes excruciating but rarely disagreeable. I have read his Spectator columns for years, in fact I buy the magazine for them - here many of them are reprinted. I cannot think of a writer whom I enjoy more. Clarke struggles between the wind and the water but fortunately for us never fully capsizes. When he chooses to, his lightness of touch and poignant observation can bring tears to my eyes.


Introducing Hinduism: A Graphic Guide
Introducing Hinduism: A Graphic Guide
by Vinay Lal
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A PC Guide to Hinduism, 10 April 2011
I enjoy this series and found this guide interesting until it began to become a PC bore. Perhaps the author wanted students who like the views of "leading ecofeminists", sniping at McDonalds and moral relativism to read the book. I find it tiresome beyond belief and at one stage considered putting it down, a shame for such a short book, however in parts it is enjoyable and informative. I would have liked better more information on the religion and less on PC fads and fashions.


The Oyster House Siege
The Oyster House Siege
by Jay Rayner
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needed Seasoning, 18 Oct 2008
This review is from: The Oyster House Siege (Paperback)
I lived for many years in Brixton, where much of the book is set, and was keenly interested in politics circa 1983 - the time frame of the book. On those counts I enjoyed it. However, once I was past the nostalga, the stodgy suet pudding of a plot and the thin soup of a narrative didn't sustain me. It was like eating lamb chops for breakfast, it might sound tasty but when it comes don't to it, it's not quite right.


Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
by Theodore Dalrymple
Edition: Paperback

16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Course Material, 17 Jun 2008
Should be on the reading list for every social work, or quasi-medical currilculum.

I have lived near, or worked with the underclass for 20 years.

Dalrymple is correct to say that the academic and social worker classes have created an uneducable and violent caste of egotistical English Dalits, although unlike their Indian counterparts they have no skills, work ethic or spiritual centre.

Life here in the depths is truly awful, and perhaps the most horrible comparison he makes is the gradual realisation of doctors from the Third World, who realise with increasing horror that slum dwellers in their native countries are better off than those who subsist in the squalor of the English underclass.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2011 4:03 AM BST


Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy
Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy
by Theodore Dalrymple
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.77

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars no-one ever dies coming off heroin, plenty die coming off alcohol, 19 Mar 2007
Dalrymple's essay on the myths and deliberate lies surrounding heroin addiction is enjoyable, in parts amusing and largely accurate.

Heroin, as he suggests is a piece of cake to withdraw from, especially when compared to alcohol withdrawal. The very worst one might expect are symptoms similar to those of a nasty cold, perhaps with a bit of diarrhea thrown in. Alcoholics however, might have to contend with hallucinations, convultions and death. As a rule of thumb, no-one ever dies coming off heroin, plenty die coming off alcohol. However, it is in no-ones interest, not least the addict or the ubiquitous D & A worker to blow the gaff. Dalrymple explains why.

He also, interestingly, devotes time to methadone use as a pharmacological substitute for opiates. Has methadone killed more addicts than heroin? Perhaps it has.

I also enjoyed the examination of De Quincy and Coleridge, and their self serving descriptions of opiate use and addiction and its subsequent transference to popular culture. He thesis seems probable and is certainly intering.

However, towards the end of the book, Dalrymple seems to run out of steam. His call to shut all treatment agencies may of course be based on countless interactions with staple-faced, DM wearing, holier-than-thou 'workers', who it seems to me, after 10 years working with alcoholics, are attracted to the counter culture aspects of the work rather than anything else. And, I can understand how jaded he mnight be working with those people who, at best are a conduit for the addict (to get drugs) and are at worst actively harmful, in their idealogical "client driven" way,to their clients, their families and society at large.

But - Dalrymple either does not know of, or has not bothered to do research into agencies that do tell the addict exactly how it is. They may be few and far between, but assuredly, they do exist.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2013 11:46 AM GMT


To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son and a Lifelong Obsession
To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son and a Lifelong Obsession
by Dan Koeppel
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big Listers, 22 Feb 2007
A quirky, entertaining and thoroughly informative book about the 'Big Listers' of the birding world, combined with study of the author's relationship with his birding father and hippy mother. It also, rather interestingly, follows the author's slow drift into obsession.

Big listing is a world I'd heard about but was unfamiliar with the details, Koeppel males the subject fascinating, sharing charming snippets of bird emphemera along the way.


What Good are the Arts?
What Good are the Arts?
by John Carey
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Nose Tweak, 11 Feb 2007
The funniest book I have read this year. Carey tweaks the nose of the urban elites, and their earnest country cousins at 'arts centre' mission stations, he tweaks it until it hurts, and then he still won't let go.

If your idea of the arts coresponds with the cultural taste of the metroploitan pivileged class, then read this, you deserve an intellectual nose pinch. If not, read it anyway.


Stalin's Loyal Executioner: People's Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 1895-1940 (Hoover Inst Press Publication)
Stalin's Loyal Executioner: People's Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 1895-1940 (Hoover Inst Press Publication)
by Marc Jansen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 19.28

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a diminutive cuckolded, alcoholic and a torturer, lackey and mass murderer, 8 Nov 2006
In the pantheon of characters produced by Soviet communism one might expect Ezhov to warrent a series of exciting and interesting biographies. After all, he was a diminutive cuckolded, alcoholic and a torturer, lackey and mass murderer who was then murdered himself.

However, Jansen's academic prose, lists of figures and dates do little to bring one of communism's worst criminals to life.

If you are seriously researching the subject of Stalin era Soviet Russia then I would highly recommend this biography, if your interest is less clinical, then look elsewhere.


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