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The Hidden
The Hidden
by Tobias Hill
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling but not likeable., 18 July 2010
This review is from: The Hidden (Paperback)
Although I knew the author is also a poet, I had it in my head this was going to be more of a thriller than it actually was, from reading about it. I struggled with the first half, but then suddenly realised it had ensnared me in a grim trap and I was compelled to read on. It is beautifully written, no question, with some breathtaking descriptive scenes, but this book has an atmosphere which deliberately dominates the plot and its dislikeable characters, and that atmosphere is steeped in violence, or rather an unnerving threat of violence. It could have been exploitative and crude but it has a strange mixture of beauty and nastiness. What I did find fascinating were the strands of twentieth century Greek politics and Spartan history which play an integral part in the thrust and meaning of the book, which I saw as being concerned with the link between extremism and terror. It is not a comfortable read, which is why I honestly do want to want recommend it, but can understand people not liking it.


Black Water Rising
Black Water Rising
by Attica Locke
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking political thriller, 16 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Black Water Rising (Paperback)
I read this after hearing Attica Locke talk about her why she began it. The atmospheric, gripping opening, showing her skills from being a film and television writer for over ten tears prior to writing this book, sets the scene for the "thriller" side of the book. However there is more to this novel. Some people may engage with it accordingly, as I did, but some may feel the book drags in places or may even lose interest in it. It seems to have been born from a mediation on how Attica Locke's parents changed from being involved in the civil rights movement, to becoming successful middle class professionals, somehow "forgetting" the struggles of their younger selves, and ceased to continue fighting for the rights of those still without a chance because of the colour of their skin. The book is set in Houston,Texas in the 1980's, and in the backstory the 1970's. For me, White British and born in the 1960's, this gave a fascinating and involving history lesson. The politics of the two decades form the identity of the main character; who he is, and therefore why he thinks and does what he does in the intertwined mystery of the main plot. On a broader canvas this is a book about how we all change in our lives; we lose or alter our ideals and, for good or for bad, how we deal with that fact. I have a few minor complaints, but find they are overshadowed by the strengths, and indeed potential strengths (although she is a writer this is her first novel) of the writing. Aside from the historical and political aspects, Attica Locke gave me a vivid sense of the characters of the people, including the bit players, and the places which they inhabit. She can also be disarmingly funny. I found this book succeeds in being involving, entertaining and thought-provoking.


The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street
The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street
by Charles Nicholl
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Many-sided gem, 16 Jan. 2010
Being familiar with the plays but not an academic, I have ummed and ahhed for ages about reading a book on Shakespeare, as there is an overwhelming amount. I took the plunge on this one and have no hesitation in recommending it on to others. The book is as much about the life of London and the people around Shakespeare, as of the man himself. Through intelligent guesswork rather than unfounded speculation Charles Nicholl manages to show how this city and society could have influenced Shakespeare's writing. Springing from a single record of Shakepeare's own words in a court case, it continually blossoms out logically, without being annoyingly contrived, into vivid impressions of London and its inhabitants. It examines aspects such as the law, homes, trades, fashion and immigrants, taking in the intrigues and detail of high and low life, as well as the world of the theatre. The view reveals itself to be a many sided gem, rather than a snap-shot. Just as Shakespeare's plays are woven with ambiguity, it doesn't matter that The Lodger doesn't give the black and white `truth'. We can never know that. What the book does give is a credible and intriguing idea of what might have been.


The Bullet Trick
The Bullet Trick
by Louise Welsh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.27

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Louise Welsh's Third Book, 11 Sept. 2006
This review is from: The Bullet Trick (Hardcover)
(With the risk of sounding pedantic, this is the third novel by Louise Welsh. Her second one after The Cutting Room is Tamburlaine Must Die.) The Bullet Trick is a real page-turner. Once more it is written from a man's persepective and set in a world of low-lives. I wonder if I hadn't known it was written by a woman if I'd presumed it had a male author. No matter. She writes grittily without being sordid or gratuitous. The ending is a slight letdown but it's a fantastic ride.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 14, 2010 9:29 PM GMT


Small Island
Small Island
by Andrea Levy
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book, 10 July 2004
This review is from: Small Island (Hardcover)
I've never cried at a book before, but at the last sentence of Small Island I broke down. This is an astonishing book. It opened up a part of history unknown to me and it turned my own prejudices and preconceptions inside-out. Levy has written characters who come off the page, they are so real. None is totally sympathetic. She allows us to understand them, and understanding produces wisdom and forgiveness. How she has created these four people leaves me speechless with admiration. There is no moral right or wrong here, no political correctness. It's a `history' book that is totally relevant to today. It shocks, moves, surprises and it's very funny. I have talked to people about it and they have to my surprise opened up to me about their own past lives. I have learnt a great deal from this book, about my own and others' humanity. I am in Andrea Levy's debt.


A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies
A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies
by John Murray
Edition: Paperback

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning..., 10 July 2004
...and I don't use that word lightly. Short stories are not popular with general readers and `A Few Short Notes...' is unfortunately hampered by a bad cover and a non-fiction sounding title. Murray writes about extra-ordinary situations, and the psychology of the people who deal with them as the somehow ordinary part of their lives. But these extremes are just an extension of how we all are, and I was left with a greater understanding of people in my own life, whom I had only partially understood. These stories of beauty and horror are precisely written and may leave some readers unmoved. They are similar without becoming repetitive. Some are surprising, some just quietly linger in the mind. They are as ambigious and paradoxical as the human mind. They contain hope without being hopeful, and despair and desolation without being nihilistic. They have a power that did `stun' me and I know I will go back to them again and again.


An Evening of Long Goodbyes
An Evening of Long Goodbyes
by Paul Murray
Edition: Paperback

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paul Murray, take a bow..., 24 July 2003
I am going to unabashedly rave about this book. I began reading it, lured in by the cover's blurb describing a character who wants to be left in peace but `life has other ideas'. As I was rather sad at the time, I too was feeling that I just wanted to be alone. To my surprise I found myself laughing so much that I was having to put down the book. It completely cheered me up.
As I continued, however, I found myself leaving its Wodehouse-ian outlook for a sharp satire on the downside of the new booming economy in Ireland which, without blotting the comic tone of the book, came as an eye-opener to this Londoner.
Finally I reached a destination so melancholy and elegiac that it stayed with me long after I had finished it.
It is a book with a mad plot and oddball characters which some people won't warm to, but don't be put off. The plot is deceptive. In truth it is as tight as a coiled spring. As for the eccentric characters, they all have a heart that beats and makes you want to stay with them.
Paul Murray has woven hilarity, wit, satire and heartbreaking beauty into a tale of extraordinary and abundant imagination.
I take my hat off to him.


High Maintenance
High Maintenance
by Jennifer Belle
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I just think about this book and I smile, 11 Jan. 2002
This review is from: High Maintenance (Paperback)
If you find High Maintenance's premise that `our heroine' loves her apartment more than her husband as funny as I did, then you'll love the book. It blows a large rasberry at all the fictional women whose lives revolve around finding a love life. This book shows how much there is to love in all of life. Liv Kellermann, whose life it follows, has to be one of my favourite ever characters, as perfect a creation as Sally Jay Gorce in `The Dud Avocado'. Belle has fashioned a young woman who is both hilariously funny, with her particularly quirky view of life, but also deeply human and believable. Liv could easily have been a screwball caricature, but she is also vulnerable, contradictory, and not always likeable. Comparisons may be made with Bridget Jones, but for me that would be misleading. Liv has a mind that crackles, and a heart that beats, in a way that Bridget just doesn't. It mixes joy at the oddness and `ordinary madness' of people, with a lurking menace that moves along the beautifully constructed plot, giving it an appeal to romantics and cynics alike. It made me laugh out loud, and it quietly and genuinely moved me. It's a totally unexpected love story and it opens your eyes. And it just makes me HAPPY.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2014 7:30 PM BST


The Dud Avocado (VMC)
The Dud Avocado (VMC)
by Elaine Dundy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all time favourite books, 29 Nov. 2001
This review is from: The Dud Avocado (VMC) (Paperback)
I fell head over heels in love with Sally Jay Gorce when I read this book. She is eccentic, intelligent, self aware, intelligent and witty
but succumbs to self doubt and lack of experience. Rarely do you encounter a character so real. This book is a joy from first sentence to last. I never wanted it to end. Perfect.


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