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S. Hare (Rome, Italy)

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The Villa Triste
The Villa Triste
by Lucretia Grindle
Edition: Paperback

13 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good intentions, scant results, 2 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Villa Triste (Paperback)
As the son of anti-Nazi Resistance militants in Florence, I was elated to discover an English language novel inspired to their deeds. But Lucretia Grindle's novel is very disappointing. Her knowledge of Italy does not rise above tourist level; as her botched spelling of almost every Italian word she uses immediately reveals. Immutable clichés about Italians make her 1943 characters sound too modern for their times, and present-day characters sound out fo date. The pervasive oppression of Fascist dictatorship, even before German occupation, is nowhere to be felt. Hunger and deprivations were not a side effect, but the central experience of war for most of the people: so, in summer 1943 nobody could be feeding breadcrumbs to fish from a river bank (and maybe all fish in the river had been eaten). The irony of some Italian Jews being convinced Fascists is repeatedly exploited, though it had been put to an end by the enforcing of race laws in 1938. Fancy pseudonyms were custom between Partisan armed groups camping in the mountains, while clandestine fighters in towns used, as it's very easy to imagine, false surnames and fake identities. Most of all, it is very unlikely that a young woman in the Resistance kept a written journal of her life and actions - a useful gift to the Gestapo, were they to discover it. With all this, is the book a good read? As thrillers go, its plot tries to offer some surprising turns: but they are weak.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2014 7:13 AM BST


The Wasted Vigil
The Wasted Vigil
by Nadeem Aslam
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.88

6 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Going backwards instead of forwards, 28 April 2009
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This review is from: The Wasted Vigil (Hardcover)
Nadeem Aslam wrote an excellent second novel, "Maps for lost lovers", about bigotry and superstition in a Pakistani family in Northern Britain. Now he has completely botched his third, maybe because his ambitions were too great. Here he tries to picture Afghanistan, as the place in today's world where ignorance-driven violence is at its worst. His tale is duly full of sound and fury, complete with horror-movie gory details at almost every page, but lacks significance. Both perpetrators and victims remain hard to understand. Most of all, you don't make tragedies out of victims that just stay there, waiting for being slain.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 10, 2013 9:05 PM BST


How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published
How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published
by Howard Mittelmark
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars How not to write a how-not handbook, 28 April 2009
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Mittelmark and Newman are professional book editors, bored with correcting bad books: they wrote this out of desperation. At first reading, their list is amusing, because it shows how big and silly are the mistakes that very bad authors can make. But, if you are neither terribly clumsy nor utterly inexperienced, do not seek here for advice how to improve your tentative fiction writing. Whoever has read a number of good European novels already knows better.


The Immortals
The Immortals
by Amit Chaudhuri
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A plotless novel, 27 April 2009
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This review is from: The Immortals (Hardcover)
Amit Chauduri writes well, though somewhat self-consciously, in an English that sounds distinctly Indian. But one just doesn't get what his story is; why it begins at the point Chapter 1 begins to tell it, and why it ends when it ends. If the central character is young Nirmalya, the son of an upper middle-class Bombay family who goes to study philosophy in the UK, "The Immortals" is a Bildungsroman (education novel) where no meaningful development is shown. If the real protagonist is Nirmalya's Indian music and song teacher, Shyam, we still don't know enough about him when he dies. Maybe it's because autobiographical stuff makes bad novels, even with accomplished authors.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2013 12:25 PM BST


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