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Hfffoman (Kent)
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White Tribe Dreaming: Apartheid's Bitter Roots as Witnessed by Eight Generations of an Afrikaner Family
White Tribe Dreaming: Apartheid's Bitter Roots as Witnessed by Eight Generations of an Afrikaner Family
by Marq De Villiers
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent perspective on the history of South Africa, 12 July 2014
This is a history, of the Afrikaner people told from a personal angle but with an honest perspective. There is no attempt to justify or excuse what they did. He sets out their struggles and aspirations and is honest about what they did. I found it fascinating as we always hear about the history of South Africa from an English perspective which is biased to the view that the English they were the force of morality and restraint upon their more racist Afrikaans compatriots. The book shows the hypocrisy of this as the English, often capitalists with roots and connections back home, took much of the benefit, and often took it home, while the Afrikaners were poorer, mostly farmers, and had no ties to their motherland.

I have seen this book criticised as an apology for apartheid. That must be from people who read it with an agenda. The book deserves praise for its honesty and for helping us to appreciate the achievement of a South Africa that is united despite its terrible history while the Israelis and Palestinians are still killing each other and the Irish are still warring with words and marches.

Another good book about the Afrikaner perspective on apartheid is My Traitor's Heart by Rian Malan but if you only want to read one I would recommend this.


The Behaviour Of Moths
The Behaviour Of Moths
by Poppy Adams
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.85

5.0 out of 5 stars A first rate novel, 12 July 2014
This review is from: The Behaviour Of Moths (Paperback)
An old lady, daughter of a man who knew a lot more about moths than the mental health of his children (or even of himself), lives on her own in a crumbling mansion, surrounded by moths and things to do with the science of moths. She tells the story of her family history through a veil of her obsessive interest in moths, warped by her autistic tendencies and coloured by her disappointment in failing to match her father's brilliant career. It is a skilfully written book which reveals the truth in little bites scattered backwards and forwards in time.

It is also an interesting character study for the narrator is clearly deserving of both sympathy and condemnation at the same time. The result is a delightful and intelligent read.


Oscar and Lucinda
Oscar and Lucinda
by Peter Carey
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.42

5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 12 July 2014
This review is from: Oscar and Lucinda (Paperback)
I am surprised this has an average of 4 stars only. In my view it is a masterpiece. It is structured in a strange way so that we don't understand the history of the family. The author managed to keep me guessing for a few hundred pages, with clues that only added to the puzzlement and when it was revealed I just laughed with delight. That is genius writing. The description of the trip into the hinterland is also masterful.

The writing is very dense, which some might call hard work to read. He also has a cynical observation of humanity, which I particularly noticed in the sections on city society in Australia and the austere religious upbringing in England, but the insight is first class. This is truly one of my favourite novels.


English Passengers
English Passengers
by Matthew Kneale
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful novel, 12 July 2014
This review is from: English Passengers (Paperback)
This is an first rate novel offering insight, wit, a wealth of history on the settlement of Australia and nearby islands, some unexpected turns of fate, and a brilliant ending. It takes some getting into as the writing is quite dense but it is well worth the slight effort required. I will look for further novels by the author


Pied Piper (Vintage Classics)
Pied Piper (Vintage Classics)
by Nevil Shute
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 12 July 2014
This is the story of a man travelling with two children through occupied France during the war. it is one of the most memorable books I have read for a precise reason. The man encounters such difficulties I was often on the verge of despair and when I had finished the book I had the feeling that the human spirit was strong enough to cope with anything, a tremendous feeling for the twelve year old I was at the time.

I recently read another wartime novel of his, A Town Like Alice, and found it a bit trashy so I am now cautious about Nevil Shute's writing. However, I have to review this as I found it at the time: a wonderful novel.


A Town Like Alice (Vintage Classics)
A Town Like Alice (Vintage Classics)
by Nevil Shute Norway
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming but corny, 12 July 2014
I read this because I had read The Pied Piper, another wartime novel of his many years ago, and enjoyed it. I had also heard that A Town Like Alice was more highly regarded. This one is set partly in Malaysia (Malaya as it was then) during the war, partly in London and partly in western Australia where life was extremely primitive in those days.

It is an entertaining and moving yarn. The first half is an interesting war story and I like the positive spirit the second half gives to Australia. The land is bursting with opportunity and the people are tough, hard working, honest and full of heart, without exception. It could be an icon to Australian culture in the way that Huckleberry Finn is to American. Except that Huckleberry Finn is a masterpiece while A Town Like Alice is corny, almost trashy, writing. The final third, the part in Australia, is honestly like reading Enid Blyton. (Err, I don't mean to belittle Enid Blyton, she was a great writer for the under tens). It feels like it was dashed off at the typewriter in an afternoon. The author seems to have learned that Australians say "bonzer" and "oh my word" which he inserts into their speech with such frequency it was like a terrible joke.

The first half is better. I recommend reading it and as soon as you work out why it is called A Town Like Alice, which will be about two thirds of the way through, stop reading. You won't miss anything.


Dell 5130CDN Colour Laser Printer
Dell 5130CDN Colour Laser Printer
Offered by Printerland
Price: 654.00

1.0 out of 5 stars Why I won't be buying any more Dell printers, 9 July 2014
The printer itself is ok but there is one small problem that means it is useless. It puts streaks on the paper. To stop this happening Dell conveniently supplies a cleaning wand that is cleverly designed to reach right inside the printer and remove the cause of the streaking. Unfortunately the wand quickly gets dirty and stops working. On mine the wand had enough cleanability to get rid of the about half the streaks. The wand is so precisely designed, to do the job in any other way would be impossible.

According to the manual, replacement pads for the wand are available. I have wasted so much time trying to get someone at Dell to take my money and sell me one - I will spare you the details of my efforts online, on chat and on the telephone but I am now ready to throw the printer away and never buy anything from Dell again. This company obviously has no interest in customer retention or customer service.


The Glass Palace
The Glass Palace
by Amitav Ghosh
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.69

2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting concept covers up some bad writing, 6 July 2014
This review is from: The Glass Palace (Paperback)
I have delayed writing this review for 4 years because it is difficult to explain the strong feeling I had that it is a badly written book.

The book starts well. The life of the hero as a boy, intertwined with historical events, and the way he breaks through towards success, are interesting and well described. Much if the middle section was quite good. The description of the princesses in their cloistered semi-prison was as good as the beginning.

The novel then fell foul of one of the absolute rules of novel writing that a novel does not make a point. Ghosh apparently feels, probably with justification, that the British Army exploited its Indian soldiers in a cynical and ruthless strategy that has never been fully exposed. As he is a journalist, I would guess that he has written about the topic elsewhere and that is appropriate. It is true that Steinbeck made a point in The Grapes of Wrath, but his remained a work of art, while The Glass Palace borders on a work of polemic. The "point" became progressively more explicit and more obtrusive.

The other problem emerged in the second half of the novel and is difficult to explain. The writing became more like a summary than a narrative. It didn't feel real. The description of the battle was ludicrously amateurish and completely unconvincing. If you read a good fictional account of a battle, the difference will be obvious. The best I can think of is in William Boyd's Ice Cream War. I recommend reading it and making the comparison.

Towards the end, I found The Glass palace less and less convincing to the point where I actually stopped reading with only about 10% remaining. I usually persist to the end of a novel unless I am deriving nothing from it, and when I do stop it is usually fairly early on. But even having committed so much time to The Glass Palace, the author lost my belief so thoroughly, it was not even worth reading the last few pages.


Stoner: A Novel (Vintage Classics)
Stoner: A Novel (Vintage Classics)
by John Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2.0 out of 5 stars Sad and depressing - ok; exasperating and unconvincing - not ok, 6 July 2014
This is a portrait of the life and character of an emotionally deprived man in a Missouri backwater 100 years ago. Without giving spoilers, it is painful reading, dealing largely with the failures in his life. Based on that description I would say that is my kind of novel. I like reflective novels even if they are sad, and I don't mind sadness that borders on despair. But I didn't enjoy this. In fact I stopped reading 70% of the way through.

Stoner's spinelessness is not only exasperating, his complete inability to defend himself is just unconvincing. Most of us are guilty of being unassertive and weak at times, some of us with a depressing regularity. But I simply didn't believe in Stoner's behaviour. His attempts at conciliation are inappropriate and ridiculous. His attempts to defend himself are pathetic. A man of his intellect, when he finds the strength to argue, would not pick weak points and overlook the obvious logic that is on his side. As Tamara L points out, when his failure extends to allowing his own daughter to be ruined, that is going too far.

Clearly I am a lonely island in a sea of enthusiastic reviews which indeed were what persuaded me to buy the book. I won't say they are wrong, but it is always disappointing to find a book so unsatisfactory that it is not worth reading to the end, so I have to give it a low rating.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2014 1:58 AM BST


An Officer and a Spy
An Officer and a Spy
by Robert Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars I felt wiser after reading it, 1 July 2014
This review is from: An Officer and a Spy (Paperback)
What most struck me about this book is that while the scale of the conspiracy was breathtaking, most of the characters were unremarkable. There was nothing particular about the French military personnel 120 years ago to make them more prone to dishonesty than the personnel in any other military, or church or bank, or newspaper. Given the right cocktail of circumstances people with power will behave in extraordinary ways. Extraordinarily good as well as extraordinarily bad. I felt slightly wiser after reading it.

I also recommend it as an extremely entertaining read. I already knew the story in some detail and still found the book fascinating all the way.


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