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M. Lilly (East Kent, England)
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A Hanging Matter
A Hanging Matter
by David Donachie
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 22 Nov 2012
This review is from: A Hanging Matter (Hardcover)
I admit that I initially bought this book purely as I have a huge interest in the history of my home town, Deal and not due to it being part of David Donachie's saga of the Ludlow family but whatever the reason I am so glad that I did.
Set in the smuggling heyday of Georgian Deal and the surrounding areas I was hugely impressed by the historical accuracy of the book.
Much of the infrastructure of Georgian Deal thankfully remains intact and reading histories of the town only go some way to bringing the old times into focus. This story however brings that past to life.
The attention to detail is brilliant. You can walk through the old lanes and streets and readily identify tiny details set into the story that still exist today. It recreates the atmosphere of the smuggling town in Napoleonic times quite wonderfully.
I was surprised that an author could get under the skin of a town's history as well as this until a found out that David Donachie now lives in Deal, hence his wonderful attachment to detail.
The actual story is a delight as well. Many smuggling books are simple stories about down-trodden smugglers making end meet, local bigwigs on the side of the law but secretly in league with them & hapless Customs men caught in the middle. This story however is refreshingly original with many twists and turns right to the end and well constructed characters from all sides of society. Excellent stuff.
A great story & a superbly researched novel. A massive thumbs up.


Smuggler's Moon (Sir John Fielding)
Smuggler's Moon (Sir John Fielding)
by Bruce Alexander
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.71

1.0 out of 5 stars Obviously the author has never been to Deal., 22 Nov 2012
I was excited to buy this book as I am deeply interested in the history of my home town, Deal, and its environs. Smuggling plays a huge part in the story of the town and, with only half-a-dozen-or-less novels about the area (as opposed to history books),to find a new one set in Georgian Deal seemed quite a boon.
But alas. The author seems never to have been to the town or have even the most fundamental knowledge of the place.
A large part of the story is set in the three streets that run parallel to the beach (& still exist intact in their Georgian aspect) - Beach Street (on the top of the shingle bank closest to the sea: Middle Street (the middle one) & High Street (the furthest back of the three built at the bottom of the bank on the the landward side). The author refers throughout to 'High Street' but this is a fairly new name for the road - for most of its existence it & certainly in Georgian times, it was known as 'Lower Street' (being the lowest). I found this irritating throughout as it is a detail that a bare minimum of research would have known. The author also refers to some of the characters reaching the end of Beach Street where it abutts Deal Castle. Again, this is irritating as between the end of the street and Deal Castle was the whacking great Naval Dockyard that the author seems completely unaware of.
Now I expect many will say I'm just being pedantic about errors such as this but they are not the fundamental failures of this book.
Naturally the beach plays a big part in this story & throughout the author refers to it as the 'sandy beach', & 'hiding behind grass tussocks in the sand' etc. etc. But... Deal's beach is stony, completely stony. It is a sharply sloping shingle bank that the town was built on. There is not a jot of sand. Any basic knowledge of Deal would allow for this and it is an unforgivable mistake.
The author also refers to characters looking from the beach to the sandbar just off the (sandy) beach with a river running through it. Presumably the reference is to the 4 mile long Goodwin Sands a couple of miles offshore what has a large sea channel separating the two main parts of the sands. Hardly a sandbank just offshore with a river running through it. I thought maybe I was being harsh on this point but towards the end of the book the author sends the characters to the (again, sandy - good grief) beach at the North end of the town which he states is known locally 'as the Goodwin Sands'. This is just a nonsense.
I hate to give a bad review of any book - to write a novel is no easy thing but the total lack of knowledge about the setting of a historical novel is inexcusable.
The story is a pretty obvious one but very readable as that as long as you don't have the slightest knowledge of the setting but, as I'd like the novel to give the reader a true sense of the town I'd be aghast if anyone drew a lasting idea of what Deal was like then from this book.

If you want a book about smuggling set in Deal during the Georgian heyday of the trade please, please read 'A Hanging Matter' by David Donachie.


Speak For England
Speak For England
by James Hawes
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.62

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ripping yarn with food for thought., 19 Dec 2010
This review is from: Speak For England (Paperback)
This is a great piece of writing. Placing the main character in a reality tv show (a symbol of the depths that 'moden' culture has plumbed), then throwing him into a lost isolated land of forgotten yet still functioning 1950s England & then taking that isolated community back to the current day and allowing much of what were considered lost values of that previous time to retake modern society is a rare chance to explore many questionable values on both a societal & personal level.

The story roars along at a great pace and the characters are superb. It is funny, shocking and all the time probing ideas of nostalgia and just what has been lost and gained over the last 50 years both in terms of the state's function and in personal attitudes.

A 'be careful what you wish for' musing delivered in a quite ripping yarn. Brilliant.


A Month in the Country (Penguin Essentials)
A Month in the Country (Penguin Essentials)
by J.L. Carr
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.47

6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is that it?, 19 Dec 2010
I re-read this book after reading it initially (which didn't take long) just in case I'd missed something.
It is a gentle book and none the worse for that but I found the pretext for the main character being where he was was far fetched and, as far as the rest of the story goes, nothing of any note happens and no thread of any note develops.
I saw nothing profound or particularly interesting in any of the events or any of the characters.
Had Birkin actually done something positive in regard to Mrs Keach's advances there might well have been the beginnings of a decent story but, as in keeping with the rest of the book, nothing happened in this respect and the story just ambled to its end.
At least it was short.


The Road to Wigan Pier (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Road to Wigan Pier (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

6 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Classic? Classic rubbish, 11 Dec 2010
Having read 'The Ragged Trousered Philantropists' I though that 'The Road to Wigan Pier' - written nearly a generation after the Edwardian timing of the former - would be an interesting comparison on the plight of the poor.

The first half of the book was, indeed, mildly interesting as an account of lodging with the very poorest of society.

The second half of the book however is nothing other than an ill-written, badly constructed, aimless polemical rant on the need for Socialism. How a man of Orwell's conviction and literary powers allowed this drivel to spew forth into print is a wonder. It's not the idea that he is trying to support that is the issue - it's the awful way that he has written it.

It really is a very poor book & how it can be considered a 'classic' is utterly beyond me. A massive disappointment.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 2, 2011 7:10 PM GMT


To Serve Them All My Days
To Serve Them All My Days
by Ronald Frederick Delderfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heart rending yet heart warming journey, 11 Dec 2010
This story left a huge impression on me. Without spoiling the plot, the main tragedy is just utterly heart rending & one can't but desperately root for Davy Powlett-Jones in his search for happiness (which he finds) and meaning throughout the book.
That saying, this is certainly not a miserable story - it does have its moments of sadness (as one would expect) but it is also constantly uplifiting with many, many moments of fun and happiness.
It is simply a wonderful journey at a pace that is thoroughly in keeping with the milieu of the story and decades it is set in.
The characters are beautiful and it is difficult to put the book down at any stage as the desire to find out what is just around the corner at any time is utterly compelling.

It's not remiss to say that I think I fell in love with Davy's wife, Beth!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is simply wonderful. I am reluctant to read any other Delderfield books as I cannot imagine that they would be anything but a disappointment in comparison to this! (Not that I won't of course). One of the finest books I've ever read.


Life and Death of Colonel Blimp [Special Edition] [DVD] [1943]
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp [Special Edition] [DVD] [1943]
Dvd ~ Roger Livesey
Offered by BLT-Deals
Price: 7.82

20 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the very finest films ever made., 10 May 2006
This is, quite simply, my favourite film I've ever seen.

The story is initially set in the 1940s a shows a veteran Army general as a stuffy, out-of-date relic being shown up by a thrusting modern thinking junior officer. On the evidence you cannot help but identify with the younger man and feel a degree of disdain for the old relic.

The film then transports you back (brilliantly) to the time of the Boer War when the seemingly pompous old fool was, himself, a newly decorated officer showing a similar irreverance for the commanding elite. It them follows his career and personal life through the years leading up the Great War, the Great War itself, the inter-war years & then WWII to show how he became what he was in the present and you can't help but develop an understanding, a warmth and an admiring sympathy for the old veteran once you have been taken on the journey of his life and you realise that your initial prejudgement of Blimp is simplistic and, well, pretty much wrong.

The story is quite brilliant which weaves the characters together beautifully and the direction is simply perfect. The film ebbs and flows at a perfect pace and at no time are you anything but simply engrossed and lost in this film.

The part of Colonel Blimp is played by Roger Livesey who produces just about the finest performance I've seen in any film; I can't imagine any actor past or present making a more perfect performance of the eponymous subject.

The support, notably Anton Wahlbrook as a German Officer who is a contemporary of Blimp yet whose life takes a completely different tack due to being born under a different flag, is equally wonderful with Deborah Kerr playing, beautifully, three different women who appear during Blimp's life and career.

This is story telling & film making at its very, very best and the Technicolor production just adds to a quite outstanding creation from Powell & Pressburger.

Yep, this is my favourite film ever & I simply cannot sing its praises louder or recommend it more highly.

Absolutely perfect.


Billy Liar [DVD]
Billy Liar [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Courtenay
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: 21.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who doesn't identify, a bit, with Billy?, 10 May 2006
This review is from: Billy Liar [DVD] (DVD)
A great deal is said that Billy Liar is set 'Up North' and 'in the swinging sixties' which is true and all the better for it but the story it tells is just as relevant to anywhere and anytime and is, as such, timeless and placeless.

This is a great film. The characters are brilliant and the cast play their parts to a tee. The storyline is poignant, witty and insightful and makes you feel a little uncomfortable as, I'm sure, there is a varying degree of Tom Courtenays's character in all of us.

It's difficult to comment much more on the film without giving the plot away but I very much recommend it to anyone both as a very enjoyable story but also as a thoughtful look at a person's mentality and how they deal with their situation, their hopes and their fears in giving up their current lot and breaking free.

And Julie Christie is simply georgeous!

Excellent entertainment.


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