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Andrew Vermes (Hassocks, West Sussex United Kingdom)
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The Door
The Door
by Magda Szabo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A door to your heart, 21 Dec. 2010
This review is from: The Door (Paperback)
Magda Szabo was one of the best writers of the 20th century in any language, much loved in her native Hungary, and The Door is perhaps her most highly regarded novel among work that included fairy tales, plays and teenage fiction. Szabo has a way of creating sympathy for unlovable characters, and here the relationship between the woman writer and her cleaner is not just a brilliant story of a deep and transforming relationship, but a description of the strange way things happen during wars, and the importance of a community for all of us. Szabo's writer peels away the layers of character of her cleaner Emerance almost compulsively and without realising what she's doing. This book reminds me of everything that's beautiful and valuable in life. It's a pity more of Szabo's work isn't translated for a wider audience.


Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life (MasterMinds)
Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life (MasterMinds)
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An aternative guide for living, 12 May 2010
Live a good life. Help others to do likewise. Csikszentmihaly provides a quick overview of the ways we behave that will make us and those around us more satisfied with life, but more important is his exhortation to use our efforts to reduce "entropy" around us. Entropy in this view is that chaos that all things tend towards, and is allowed to expand whenever we are passive participants rather than absorbed in some useful activity. Flow is that "in the zone" unconscious mode of operation we find in hobbies or work when we are fully engaged, and unsurprisingly, people feel better the more "flow" they experience. If you dislike organised religion and its dogma, Flow provides a good, albeit pseudo-religious guide to living a good life. On the downside this book barely touches the promised subtitle "The psychology of engagement with everyday life", and the snippets of research presented serve to show the totally obvious, such as people find more "flow" when engaged in hobbies, sports and study than watching TV, or that we're more likely to find flow when the degree of challenge we're presented with is great enough, but not so great as to overwhelm us. Buy it, read it, but don't expect too much really practical advice or depth.


The Image Men
The Image Men
by J. B. Priestley
Edition: Paperback

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A guide to Spin for every age, 7 July 2009
This review is from: The Image Men (Paperback)
Long before Peter Mandelson appeared, Priestley penned this masterful satire on the way images are created and lost. Two down-at-heel academics, Cosmo Saltana and Owen Tuby, invent a "science" called Social Imagistics, which they then proceed to sell as a service to anyone with enough cash. Unlike current spin doctors, they make a point of telling the truth quite openly, which has the farcical effect of improving their image. In one scene, they install a big box full of flashing lights in their swanky offices, and when asked if it's a wonderful new computer, reply truthfully that it's a box with flashing lights. It's a nice mixture of Priestley cynicism, Noel Coward farce and some serious messages about the value - or otherwise - of cultivating an image. Politics, supermodels, advertising, academia are all successfully lampooned. A bit of a predictable happy end, but you can't have everything. Originally published as 2 books: Out of Town and London End.


No Title Available

8 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Feliway a waste of money, 30 Dec. 2008
I know many people swear by these products, and even vets recommend them, but I could detect no effect whatever on our cats. The evidence for their effectiveness seems to be entirely anecdotal. Buy a good book instead.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2010 9:44 PM BST


The Courts of the Morning
The Courts of the Morning
by John Buchan
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An allegory for Britain, 7 Nov. 2007
Like all Buchan's novels, the Courts of the Morning contains some improbable segues, but the overall effect has more facets and so more interest than most of his work. In the fictional country of Olifa, Buchan creates a believable place- even though he never travelled to South America, he captures the mixtures of brutality, honour, greed and compassion that make Latin countries so compelling for visitors. Olifa is a country that has lost its soul in pursuit of wealth, and the tactics of the de facto ruler, Castor, are recognisable in today's politicians and spin doctors. The cast of Buchan characters - including the Roylances and Sandy Arbuthnot risk their lives again to bring the place to a redemption that may be a lesson for us today. And it's a great adventure.


Sick Heart River (Edward Leithen)
Sick Heart River (Edward Leithen)
by John Buchan
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fond farewell, 20 Feb. 2007
Sir Edward Leithen - perhaps the most complex of the group of Buchan characters that include Sandy Arbuthnot, Richard Hannay etc - embarks on a search for a missing friend in the far north. He is a very sick man - a fateful reminder that Buchan himself was to die not long after writing this. Buchan delivers his familiar high quality adventure but probes further into man's frailty and emotions than before, and delivers a beautiful swansong.


Huntingtower (Oxford World's Classics)
Huntingtower (Oxford World's Classics)
by John Buchan
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming, 20 Dec. 2006
If you like Mma Ramotswe here's another unlikely character - a retired grocer - plunged into adventure and finding hidden resources in his commonsense Scottish upbringing. For those that enjoy a good yarn there's a princess in peril, dangerous revolutionaries, and the denizens of a Glasgow slum all mixed together with a happy ending.


Embers
Embers
by Sandor Marai
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loss and hope, 20 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Embers (Paperback)
An old man lives alone, except for the servants, seeing no-one. And then a letter arrives, and the pain he has held for four decades begins to be explained. Through the eyes of the Captain we can see our own loves reflected: youthful hope, beauty, love found and betrayed, and final peace. The Captain is a wealthy man, and the characterisation of old servant who has been with him since childhood is brilliant. Embers, or "Candles burned to the stub" as it is in Hungarian is a moving story of friendship, loyalty and the way the people we love shape our lives.


The Great Fire
The Great Fire
by Shirley Hazzard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Moving, 18 Dec. 2006
This review is from: The Great Fire (Paperback)
Shirley Hazzard is a writer's writer; often her prose is designed to appeal only to those literati that understand her references. Not so with the Great Fire. Against the backdrop of the unspeakable pain of Hiroshima, she weaves a love story full of subtle messages about morality and behaviour. The characters aren't easy to relate to your own experience, but the music of the words is stronger in this book than any of her other works. If you want an easy to read adventure story, forget it. If you're prepared to take it slowly, savouring the words, this book will repay the effort.


Budapest: A Critical Guide
Budapest: A Critical Guide
by A. Torok
Edition: Paperback

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real Budapest, 4 Nov. 2004
Most city guides are written by travellers, and reflect their ignorance as much as their knowledge. Andras Torok is a local, former politician, and an enthusiast.
The book leads you through several easy city walks, spanning architecture, music, varied markets, unusual sights and most important, restaurants and cafes where you feel and taste the real spirit of Hungary, as opposed to expensive, poor quality places designed to part tourists from their money. For a budget traveller looking for a genuine experience, this book is essential. For well-heeled tourists looking for quality, it's equally useful.
Torok's insights into Hungarian character are funny and true, and his sense of humour makes the book worth reading even if you never visit Budapest.


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