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From Here To Maternity: One Mother of a Journey
From Here To Maternity: One Mother of a Journey
by Mel Giedroyc
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.17

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Makes 'The Broons' look like social realism, 8 Mar 2010
I'm a big fan of Mel (and Sue!) and think it's a shame she's not on the telly so much these days. She's roughly my age, and I always think of her as the kind of person you can imagine having a drink and a laugh with.

This book is just so bad though - sorry Mel. It has very little to say about actual pregnancy, it is mainly a 'look at my crazy life' type chick lit number, with the pregnancy pretty much an aside. Fair enough, but it doesn't cut it as chick lit either.

The thing is, there are things here that we know to be true - Mel's name and age, and the fact she lives in London, has a media career etc. But she has fictionalised to the point that she would have been better off just scrapping the autobiography and calling this 'Lucy Perkyname's Diary' or whatever.

The thing is, Mel is an intelligent woman. We know this to be fact. But she desperately wants us to think she is hilariously stupid, and incapable of the simplest logic. For the first three chapters or so she strings out an elaborate series of misunderstandings in which everybody but her knows that she's pregnant. This is so far beyond tiresome I just skipped it.

There is also a scene in which Mel and her presumably perfectly intelligent partner arrive at hospital only to be told that in fact they have come to Wormwood Scrubs Prison. Oh please. This isn't funny, it's just stupid. And insulting.

I'd expect these contrivances in a crummy rom-com, but I was disappointed to find them here.

I can't recommend this book to anybody apart from the ill and the hungover. If your brain is functioning on all cylinders then this book will just frustrate you - even if you are pregnant!

Deaf Sentence
Deaf Sentence
by David Lodge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.17

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lodge's greatest hits, 30 Dec 2008
This review is from: Deaf Sentence (Hardcover)
I usually wait for paperback editions of new books by my favourite writers, but in this case I was willing to endure the discomfort of lugging a hardback to bed in order to read Lodge's latest. I had imagined him to be retired from novel writing but was thrilled to discover that he is still at it.
I won't summarise the plot as it is evident from other reviews. I loved this book and found it to be 'vintage Lodge' in that so many of the situations, characters and changes in narrator were instantly recognisable from his previous books.
The fading health - Tubby from Therapy.
The trip to Poland - Messenger from Thinks (ditto the attractive PhD student with blackmailing tendencies)
The ageing, stroppy dad - Vic from Nice Work
The nice windfall at the end - Robyn from Nice Work - etc etc.
This is all fine by me as I love those books and was happy to be firmly in Lodge-land.
I agree with other reviewers who have suggested that the Alex plot seems a bit undercooked - I did feel that this was a bit too underplayed, but in all honesty it wasn't the plot that kept me reading anyway. Rather, it was the pleasure of reading Desmond's endless inner (and spoken) monologue on a wide array of subjects from the meaning of the Wonderbra advert to the politics of the 'quiet coach' - I must admit I'm with Desmond on that last one, and in fact I could have written that bit myself, if I was a talented novelist!
The stuff about deafness was endlessly illuminating, and with Desmond's tendency to think on the spot and look things up as he goes (just like Tubby), we feel as if we're learning along with him. Assuming this all to be based upon Lodge's own experiences, we can take as read that it's a true, insider's understanding of this affliction.
I loved reading this book at Christmas, as that ties in with the plot of the book. Desmond's Christmas was just like millions of others we've all experienced, and I loved the depth of his detailed descriptions. Needless to say, Desmond stands on the grumpy side of the proceedings, but his wife (like me, and like most women I know) loves Christmas and so Desmond makes the best of it to keep his wife happy. All painfully familiar stuff.
If I could make one criticism of Deaf Sentence, it would be that I found the character of Desmond to be just a bit stuffy and pompous at times, and unlike every other Lodge narrator, I did not feel he had the 'pub factor', in other words, I did not think to myself 'I could enjoy this guy's company in the pub'. On the contrary, I thought that Desmond would be the type of person I'd possibly admire, but feel intimidated by and feel like I had to be on my best behaviour for.
I also found the roll-call of family characters hard to keep up with, but coming from a 'blended family' myself I also found this fascinating and true to life.
Minor gripes aside, I still recommend this book wholeheartedly to just about anybody. Few writers in my opinion can nail modern life like Lodge can, and can make the reader feel as if they are in such intelligent and interesting company.
Thank god he doesn't write with his ears. Keep it coming, Mr Lodge.

The Woman In The Fifth
The Woman In The Fifth
by Douglas Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.73

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bonkers. Ludicrous. Preposterous!!!, 23 Nov 2008
This review is from: The Woman In The Fifth (Paperback)
Have to agree with the consensus here, though I disagree that Kennedy's previous works have carried credibility. I've enjoyed them as escapist page turners, but he's got previous form in asking us to believe that a person's life can be ruined (sacked from job, sued for millions, criminally charged) for minor, human, personal transgressions that in fact would be of no interest to the media, the police or the wider community.

I personally don't buy it but am willing to suspend belief to enjoy a satisfying, rollicking read in which it all turns out ok in the end and the riches to rags storyline is reasuringly rectified.

This just isn't a good read. OK, the beginning is. I really loved Harry's arrival in Paris and the vivid descriptions of his fever, and the characters he encountered in the grotty hotel. But he lost me at the point when he described his day as being budgeted down to the last euro, and then said that his daily itinerary including multiple cinema trips that were apparently and inexplicably free.

He also has previous form in telling but not showing. Many of his male leads have talents that we are asked to take on trust: edgy, award winning comedy writing, novel writing, film knowlege, photography etc. We are simply told that these talents exist but are given little evidence of them. Harry is a talented writer but so little of that comes across in his verbal style that it feels a bit insulting to simply accept that he is an edgy, cool, whisky-slamming, tough talking, film obsessing hard guy when he just talks straight to us in a 'I did this and then I did that' fashion with no character or verbal quirks to speak of.

The dialogue with Margit is excruciating - they basically shoot verbal arrows at each other like schoolkids pretending to be hip 'left bank' intellectuals, with much arching of eyebrows and 'bravo'ing.

Another reviewer mentioned that Harry makes stupid choices and this was indeed the absolute hardest part for me. In exactly the same way that the lone teenage girl will walk out into the woods in the dark in a horror film, Harry cheerfully and with absolutely no explanation walks into situation after situation that a normal person would run screaming from. Even when his precarious situation melts down around him and he is under immediate threat, he continues to turn up to his illegal job and put himself directly at risk. Because he 'doesn't care any more' apparently.

I won't even dwell on the truly bonkers exlanation for the madness Harry experiences. It's a 'deus ex machina' of the most obvious sort, and makes the reader feel insulted and cheated. Lke other readers here, I kept on with the book, hoping that an earth-based explanation would be forthcoming but it wasn't and the book just tailed off in a random place.

I buy most of my books in charity shpos, and pass them on when I'm finished, so I'm happy to re-donate this one. If I'd paid for it brand new I'd be tempted to 'turn this review into a letter' to borrow a device of Kennedy's, and ask for my money back, and indeed my time, if all reality and earthly considerations are now out the window.

Two stars for the great beginning only.

Red Carpets And Other Banana Skins
Red Carpets And Other Banana Skins
by Rupert Everett
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.70

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And he can write too, sigh...., 21 July 2008
It hardly seems fair that a person born into such privilege should have a pile of natural gifts flung his way too - in Everett's case those dazzling looks and an acting 'talent' that has at least got him jobs over the years. I assumed he couldn't also be a proper writer but he is, the swine!

This bio is a brilliantly absorbing and amusing description of this lucky sod's life so far, and given the subject matter (showbiz) it comes with healthy doses of name dropping, gossip and backstage dirt. Brilliant.

I was disappointed though that after that wonderful description of his childhood he basically abandoned any reference to his family, leaving us to assume they'd fallen out but never saying so.

And for a man so famously gay, the only sexual partners he seemed happy to dish about were women. For a period 'back in the day', Everett had every edgy woman of the moment on his arm, and bizarrely, in his bed. Beatrice Dalle and Paula Yates, no less.

Most celeb bios are hailed as being 'refreshingly honest' and I have to take that with a pinch of salt. I think Everett is a refreshingly talented exaggerator (or has memory skills to rival Marvo's) but in one sense I did love his honesty in describing his career choices for what they really were. Many celebs whose career paths slide downwards blame their co-stars, changing fashion, the audience etc. But Everett cheerfully admits when his films have been garbage, and intelligently explains why.

Ok so describing My Best Friends Wedding as the benchmark of rom com is maybe a bit optimistic but in every other way, he seemed only too aware of the actor's lack of control over the quality of the product.

I was surpised and amazed by this book - it's readable, fun, moving and hugely enlightening about the tedious reality underneath the gloss of showbiz. A brilliant achievement, whatever you think of his film offerings.

This Charming Man
This Charming Man
by Marian Keyes
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great, but could be so much better, 17 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: This Charming Man (Hardcover)
Why intelligent woman write in silly voice? Real people no speak like this! Grate on nerves very quickly. Not easy rise above, even though quite funny jokes.

Ok enough of lampooning the style. What a shame that the most entertaining of the three narrators of this book was landed with this appalling format - speaking in pidgin English and presented in italics. Excuse my language but - WTF??

Lola had plenty of charm and loads of witty observations to make but really, what an effort was required to get past that style. Worst of all was she had her friends spoken dialogue - inside speech marks - delivered the same way. Very, very bad. Naughty editor need be firmer with writer. (Sorry, lapsed back into it!)

You all know the set-up of this book by now and I agree with many others who have said that what the charming man himself lacks is charm. Surely this story would have packed a much firmer punch had the charmer actually managed to persuade any of the readers that he really is the blue eyed boy at the outset. Instead, we meet him as an arrogant idiot and very quickly realise he's darker than that. So where's the charm - bad boy acts bad. No surprise there.

The story isn't about him anyway - he's a side issue. What is the story about? Who knows. It just goes on and on and on and every time you get into it and really get involved with a character, it's all snatched from under you and you are forced to start again with another character. Such is the downside of the multi narrator story.

In so many ways Keyes wants to have her cake and eat it with this book. She shuns the conventions of chick lit novels then shamelessly wallows in them near the end. She despises conspicuous wealth but knows her readers want glamour and aspiration so ladles it on endlessly. I think one quote from one of her narrators summed it up - it was something like 'I hate the rich and famous but find myself fascinated by their lifestyles'.

Fair enough, she's a mass market writer and the market demands this stuff.

Although the book was very long, in some ways it wasn't long enough. Each of the voices really needed a book of their own. For instance, Grace gets a chapter in which her snooty, sneery in-laws (with endlessly described material goods and lifestyle) let her down by overlooking her partner as a godfather to their child. This is set up and turned into quite a big deal. But it never gets referred to again and in fact we don't hear any more of her in-laws.

Maybe Keyes should write lots of shorter books and give each story breathing space - who knows, maybe that's exactly what she wants to do but her publishers are demanding books like this.

Either way, as the cover suggests, you can still 'Trust Marian' - she makes other chick lit writers look like the joke that they are, and manages to engage the reader from the very first sentence. If the book is a big old mess then it's still in another league from the rest of the genre.

Take it on holiday, it will be your faithful companion. I just wish this book was more... perfect. God knows Keyes has the talent.

Nice Work
Nice Work
by David Lodge
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best first chapter of all time, ever, 4 April 2007
This review is from: Nice Work (Paperback)
I first read this book as a teenager, and have re-read it probably every year since. Vic Wilcox is a truly great creation - who could have guessed that the innermost thoughts of a Brummie industrial manager could be so compelling? I could recite that brilliant first chapter almost word for word - it gives us Vic's entire life and outlook, by way of talking us through his morning routine. It's the work of a genius. I love the description of Vic steering a ship through a storm as his 'crew' sleep, and old Marjory with her valium and menopause obsessions... The rest of the book is just as good - brutally sharp but ultimately affectionate and forgiving. Vic is a rough diamond, but all of his impulses are honourable. Lovely stuff. Write us some more, Mr Lodge?

State Of The Union
State Of The Union
by Douglas Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy read, but totally implausible, 29 Aug 2006
This review is from: State Of The Union (Paperback)
*** plot spoilers contained ***

Kennedy has a gift for producing big, fat, satisfying books that keep us rapt right up til the last page. This one is no exception - the time will fly by as you whizz through the chapters, eager to find out what happens next.

But there are oh so many flaws in the writing and story telling. Firstly, this guy needs a far sharper eyed editor. He has a habit of picking up phrases he likes (in this book, bizarrely, it's 'per usual') and then have every single character use them. Another example is the use of the word 'ferociously' to mean 'really' ie 'ferociously well read'. He has two different characters use this word on the same page.

Towards the end there are actual spelling mistakes and some horribly clunky grammar.

But this is nothing to the huge (ferocious?) suspension of disbelief you will need to follow Hannah's story. We are meant to believe that her world comes crashing down around her ears on the strength of one chapter of revelations in the autobiography of a 'shock jock', published by a minor, right wing press.

On the strength of these totally unproved and uncorroborated allegations - which would appear to basically involve giving a guy a lift to Canada thirty years ago - we are to believe she is sacked from her teaching job, disowned by her husband and son, and vilified by her neighbours in a liberal East Coast town.

We are *then* meant to beleive that her job is re-instated, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of compensation paid out, and the family harmony restored - on the basis of the spoken testimony of a small town handyman on a downmarket daytime chat show!!!!!

At *no* time is any court of law involved. It's all hearsay and low class media hyperbole.

I was utterly bamboozled at these plot developments. They seemed so far removed from reality. But if you can see past this, and the clumsy (at times) writing style, you may well enjoy the ride. I read it to the end, and it did hold my attention.

Ideal for a long plane journey or beach holiday.

Atlantic Shift
Atlantic Shift
by Emily Barr
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.76

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Plot gone mad!, 15 Mar 2006
This review is from: Atlantic Shift (Paperback)
What a deeply silly book. I laughed out loud for all the wrong reasons. Barr's previous works have been kind of 'chick lit thrillers' in that they are very plot driven, with delicious twists and reveals that keep the reader's unblinking interest.
But Atlantic Shift is just plotting gone mad. Far too much happens, and none of it is described in any depth at all. Our main character is a total cow one minute, and the next she's so sweet, she's forming deep relationships with people as random as her best friends fertility doctor.
There are far too many characters (her flatmates' parents? Why would we care??) and none of them ever really make it up off the page.
The dialogue is jarringly bad, with all of the characters delivering information in the style of a cheap soap opera. A character will use silly intensifiers such as 'enormously pretty' and then on the next page another character will use the same word.
The books premise isn't anything like what you are led to expect from the blurb, and the whole classical musician stuff seems silly and made-up.
There are so many plot lines all careering along so quickly that the ending is basically a car crash of an 'epilogue' that offers zero insight into why anybody's character acted in the way they did.
And how did Evie manage to be such a cow, when both her sets of parents are so sympathetic? And how did she manage to go 15 years without seeing her father and her step mum, when they are so loving and nice?
And why did Jack fly across the Atlantic, only to cheerfully walk away after a five minute conversation that could have been conducted by telephone? Silly, silly, silly.
This book encompasses issues including celebrity, music, stalkers, infertility, underage pregnancy, alcoholism, suicide, stalking, domestic violence, adoption, drink driving, tabloid journalism and god knows what else. It's a big messy hotch potch in which minor characters become major with no explanation, and major characters drop off the page in similar fashion.
I read it to the end to see if it would get any better but it didn't.
Did Emily Barr, the author of Baggage, actually write this nonsense? I struggle to comprehend it.
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