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H. Rogers
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Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love and War
Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love and War
by Owen Matthews
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Do not read the label, 27 Jun. 2014
This was a disappointing book. The title and the publishers fluff on the front page are complete misnomers. In a way this sums up the book, which is flawed by the author's hero worshipping account of his parents exile enforced courtship and by his ill disquised attempt to use this as a vehicle for his own biography - much of which is irrelevant to the main story. The author's writing style also grates at times, especially his describtions of ex girlfriends which reads straight out of Cosmopolitian magazine. The book is also strangely contradictory as what was portrayed as a great love and courtship deteriorated into a very unhappy marriage.


Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire
Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire
by Niall Ferguson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.13

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Colossus light, 22 May 2014
I read the author's book the Ascent of Money some years ago and as a former stockbroker I enjoyed it and would thoroughly recommend it. Unfortunately I can not say the same for Colossus. The authors arguments are negated by his obvious right wing bias (his supporting arguments for the invasion of Iraq,even after no weapons of mass destruction were found, are particularly weak). He is very selective with his statistics and his knowledge of Asia and China and Africa is questionable - Botswana was never a colony, it was a protectorate. A disappointing book that,unfortunately, would would make me regard any future publications from this author with some scepticism.


Brendan Behan
Brendan Behan
by Ulick O'Connor
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Born to die, 10 May 2014
This review is from: Brendan Behan (Paperback)
I first read this book, originally published in 1970, about twenty five years ago,but thought I would revisit it on the 50th anniversary of Brendan Behan's death. The author paints a perceptive,balanced, and ultimately tragic, picture of the enormously talented but self destructive writer. It will always be a matter of conjecture what Behan could have achieved if he had conquered the demon drink. In an age when we understand much more about alcoholism one can only feel enormous sympathy for Behan-as a diabetic he knew he was killing himself through alcohol but could not stop. He could easily have died several years before he did at the age of forty one. I read the 1985 reprint of this book and one small criticisim is that, twenty one years after Behan's death, it had not been undated to include the increased knowledge of diabetics and alcoholism. In addition a short comment on how Behan's reputation evolved in the 1970s and 1980s would have been interesting. Behan's reputation has unfortunately not stood the test of time (partly due to his limited output) and today's generation,while they might recognise the name, know him only as a drunken writer from the distant past.


The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and the Birth of Modern China
The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and the Birth of Modern China
by Hannah Pakula
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Still in the shadows, 6 May 2014
This is a slightly disappointing and frustrating book. Disappointing in that the author is not a China expert and, perhaps because of this, has packed the book with details on China history that are not relevant to the main story- the book could easily be edited down by at least two hundred pages. It is frustrating in that the author never really gets to grips with the real person behind the public image of Madame Chiang Kai-shek. In fairness to the author this is probably due to the subject herself rather than an absence of research. Madame Chiang lived for her public image and even her letters to old school friends read more like policy statements than her private thoughts. But the book does confirm what anyone with a reasonable knowledge of China twentieth century history will know - that behind the public image Madame Chiang was a "dragon lady" - corrupt,manipulative, a pathological liar and, combined with her military incompetent husband, more interested in the unification of China as a vehicle for self aggrandisement than any concern for the welfare of the people of china - her husband was in one sense the communists' best weapon. Even with the passage of time it still beggars belief that so many Americans (but not all) were initially taken in by Madame and her husband. It is interesting that British politicians (from churchill downwards) almost immediately saw the Chiangs for what they were and wisely kept their distance.


ELSPETH HUXLEY: A Biography
ELSPETH HUXLEY: A Biography
by C. S. Nicholls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Out of england, 15 April 2014
A well written and enjoyable account of Elspeth Huxley's life which will prove a nostalgia high for anyone who has lived in East Africa at some time. I first became aware of Elspeth Huxley when reading The Flame Trees of Tika at an early age when I was living in Uganda. however, I was unaware that she wrote a total of thirty books and, surprisingly. spent most of her adult life in England and not kenya. Her biography is at its best when it covers the kenya years (including the visits to Kenya in her adult iife) as her adult life in England was not that remarkable or interesting and the book tends to flag when it steps outside Kenya. The book also, inadvertently, highlights some of the idiosyncrasies of the English upper class in the first half of the twentieth century-a proclivity for unsuitable marriages and a complete lack of understanding of (and inability to learn about ) business and money. Huxley's parents (her fathe er especially) constantly launched into new business ventures (mainly farming) that never made a penny. Huxley and her husband, fora certain period, were also obsessed with farming ventures in England, none of which were profitable. Huxley's attitude to money was also quaintly reminiscent of the period - she always complained of not having enough money and introduced economising measures in her household, yet (in between writing assignments) seemed to spend a lot of time on holiday trips.


Robert Kennedy
Robert Kennedy
by Evan Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What if?, 1 April 2014
This review is from: Robert Kennedy (Paperback)
An excellent,well researched and even handed account of Robert Kennedy's life. In a way it is remarkable - and it is a strength of the book- that the author remains so even handed. Robert Kennedy, in his early days, was a classic case of arrested development. His puerile behaviour (petulance, arrogance and incredibly rudeness) continued well into his adult years and when he was Attorney General. Some of his actions were almost criminally irresponsible- continuing to press for covert action against Castro after the Cuban missile crisis had brought the US and the Soviet Union close to war is perhaps the best example. It is not surprising that Robert Kennedy inspired hatred in so many of his opponents,not least LBJ. However, as he got older, and with his increasing focus on civil rights, Kennedy did mellow. Would he have made a good president? The author wisely remains neutral. On the negative side Robert Kennedy was not his brother, a born politician for good or bad, and there are hints that the presidency might have been a step too far and he might have proved ineffectual, aka Jimmy Carter. However, had he won he certainly would have tried to end the Vietnam war early than Nixon and promoted civil rights. And,many people would argue, anyone would have been better than tricky Dicky.


Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos
Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos
by Roger Warner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An expendable country, 14 Mar. 2014
A well written and researched account of the secret war in Laos in the 60s and early 70s. As a sideshow to the much larger tragedy in Vietnam Laos, both the country and the people, was doomed from the start to be expendable. The author illustrates the cruelly paradoxically situation that as the US involvement in Laos increased decisions on the fighting campaign were increasingly taken higher up the chain of command by individuals ignorant of the realities on the ground and, in some cases, indifferent to the fate of the Laos people. The well intentioned Americans who went in at the beginning and knew the country and its people well were quickly marginalised and as Vietnam began to implode Laos and its people became a very small expendable pawn to be sacrificed on the alter of regional politics. Hopefully lessons have been learnt. An excellent well balanced book of a tragic conflict.

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Headhunters
Headhunters
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly disappointing, 13 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Headhunters (Paperback)
I have read The snowman and Nemisis and enjoyed both but was very disappointed with Headhunters. The book has a rushed, insubstantial and unfinished style about it and is so different from the Harry Hole series that I suspect it is one of two things. Firstly it was an unpublished manuscript written when the author was finding his way and perfecting his writing technique and which has now been published to cash in on his success or else it is a hastily written book to meet some publishing deadline. Whatever it is, it is not a good novel.


The Harmony Silk Factory
The Harmony Silk Factory
by Tash Aw
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.28

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars history light, 4 Mar. 2014
One of the strengths of a good historical novel, apart from the writing, is that the author has done his research and that the characters he or she portrays are authentic and believable within the historical period portrayed-in this case the author had done neither. The relationship he portrays between the Chinese malay and the colonial expat characters is a modern one of equality and social intercourse. In colonial malaya there was very limited social intercourse, especially between colonial officials and the locals and the idea that one of the former would go on an extended road/boat trip with two locals is completely ridiculous. And can anyone explain how a young englishman, Peter Wormwood, can be adrift in malaya in 1941, two years after Britain declared war on Germany and introduced conscription and wartime travel was severely restricted. A very badly researched book.


Hurricane: The Life of Rubin Carter, Fighter
Hurricane: The Life of Rubin Carter, Fighter
by James S. Hirsch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars justice at last, 14 Feb. 2014
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A well written and researched account of Rubin Carter's long struggle to get justice. The strength of the book is the author's even handedness. Rubin Carter does not come over as very likeable and the Canadian commune - despite all their good work - does come over as rather strange and perhaps not of this world. But the author rightly focuses on the real villians - the US legal system and the people within it. Incompetence, deceit and vindictiveness appear to be the hallmarks, in this case, of the state legal system. Combined with the inherent racism of the authorities in the 1960s one shudders to think how many other Rubin Carters there are out there.


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