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H. Rogers
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The Harmony Silk Factory
The Harmony Silk Factory
by Tash Aw
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

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.


Matterhorn
Matterhorn
by Karl Marlantes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth waiting for, 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Matterhorn (Paperback)
Matterhorm is a well written autobiographical war novel,in a genre that tends to produce turgid writing. Given the author's background (highly decorated Marine officer who fought in Vietnam)the book drips with authenticity and this, combined with the easy to read writing style, is the strength of the book. In many ways the books is similar to Norman Mailer's The living and the dead and,like Mailer's book on the second world war, should be viewed as one of the best anti war novels to come out of the Vietnam war.


The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China
The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China
by Julia Lovell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two into one, 15 Oct. 2013
The Opium War is really two books condensed into one. In the first, on the war itself, the well research narrative is even handed on the hypocrisy of the british and the dysfunctional Qing dynasty. Although the latter lasted another seventy odd years until it collapsed in 1912 the author paints a fascinating picture of a regime already in the first stages of terminal decline - one in which nepotism, corruption and staggering incompetence had been raised to the level of an art form. The second book,looking at chinese/british attitudes towards each other post Opium war, and which takes up about one third of the published book, comes accross as a filler. While some sections are interesting the relevance of other parts to the opium war is somewhat tenuous and this tends to devalue all the good material in the first book.


Lost in Shangri-La: Escape from a Hidden World - A True Story
Lost in Shangri-La: Escape from a Hidden World - A True Story
by Mitchell Zuckoff
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars American can-do, 13 Sept. 2013
An enjoyable read about what was really an American can-do rescue operation to recover the three survivors of a horrific airplane crash in an inaccessible part of New Guinea towards the end of the second world war. The storyline is a bit thin so the author pads it out with autobiographical material on the main participants. However, with an easy to read condensed writing style this material is easy to accommodate and the author never strays too far from the main story. One small criticism is the alleged romantic manoeuvres by the sole female survivor, Margaret Hastings, with members of the rescue team. At the time of this alleged activity Margaret Hastings was suffering from gangerine in her legs and, several days later, was still not considered fit enough to be able to hike out of the jungle-not conditions conducive to romance. This romantic activity may have taken place but it was undoubtedly at a later stage when she had fully recovered. With the atomic bombs dropped only days after the rescue and flood of war stories,films and books after the war this rescue was quickly forgotten and it is perhaps only through the spectrum of time that it has regained it appeal. An entertaining read about a minor incident in the dying days of the second world war.


The Distant Land of My Father
The Distant Land of My Father
by Bo Caldwell
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Shanghai through a child's eyes., 9 Sept. 2013
This is a well written and readable novel in which the author had done her research and painted a realistic portrait of 1930s Shanghai.One small criticism would be that is very much a lady's book and the emotional ups and downs in the last quarter of the book may seem a bit contrived to male readers. For anyone wanting to do further reading on personal accounts of 1930s Shanghai I would highly recommend JK Ballard's Empire of the sun and his autobiography.


Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
by Artemis Cooper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gifted but flawed, 6 Aug. 2013
This well written book should be read in three parts. The first part - covering paddy's early life and his walk across Europe and his wartime escapades - are fascinating and deserve everyone's admiration. The second part - effectively covering the twenty years after the second world war- is less edifying and SM's somewhat unkind description of Paddy as "a middle class gigolo for upper class women" does have a large slice of truth. Indeed it is hard to think of Paddy surviving during this period without the incredible support, understanding and generous nature of Joan, his eventual wife. In the third part paddy finally gets his act together and writes what is generally regarded as some of the best travel literature of the twentieth century. A fascinating flawed character which the author evenly portrays, warts and all. I suspect most women would have found Paddy in his prime irresistible. A lot of men, however, would, I suspect, have found him good company for a weekend but perhaps a bit much for a full week - but what a weekend.


The Essential Guide to Living and Retiring in Thailand: Edition 2013
The Essential Guide to Living and Retiring in Thailand: Edition 2013
by Michael Schemmann
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.30

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not essential, 18 July 2013
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This book represents all that is bad about so called "living in/advice" books. It is not really a book. Rather it is a cut and paste collection of quotes from other publications (many of them archaic with no relevance to modern Thailand), padded out with endless lists of hospitals,train timetables etc. There is little commentary and certainly no great insight into living in Thailand. Fifteen minutes on the internet would give you more information on Thailand that this so called book and fifteen minutes is probably all it took to write this so called essential guide. This book is so bad that many people would view it as a con job.


Once Upon a Distant War: Reporting from Vietnam
Once Upon a Distant War: Reporting from Vietnam
by William Prochnau
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Talking to the deaf, 28 Mar. 2013
An interesting book of the experiences of journalists covering Vietnam in the early 60s, during a period of rapidly increasing american involvement (though aid and increased number of military advisers) but before the introduction of US ground forces. This book should be read after Embers of War, which covers the 1945-59 period, and the book is to a certain degree a follow on, although it concentrates primarily on the journalists experiences rather than the overall political situation in vietnam and Washington. This is perhaps one of the failings of the book as Vietnam in the late 50s and early 60s was very much policy by default - you do get a sense from the descriptions of politicians visits to Vietnam in this era that they regarded Vietnam as a very minor, if troublesome, issue in an era of major foreign and domestic policy turbulence. Hence the propensity for lightening quick visits, accepting the military PR line and dismissing the journalists counter claims. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the dichotomy between the young journalists and the older world war two era journalists, with the latter looking at the vietnam situation through a world war two prism and unable to see the many flaws in the south vietnamese government and military forces and, like the politicians, only too ready to accept the US military PR line that they were winning the war.


Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
by Fredrik Logevall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.95

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crisis by default, 13 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A well researched and well written account of American and French involvement in Vietnam (primarily 1945-59). I had always thought that France's involvement in Vietnam post 1945 was due to a failure to recognise that the days of empire were over. While this may have been true initially the author conclusively proves that in the latter years the only factors keeping the French in Vietnam were American support and pressure, with the latter coming from the US administration's dogmatic belief in the now defunct domino theory (Vietnam was seen as the front line in preventing the communist hordes sweep through Asia)and, after the Korean stalemate, to deflect criticism at home that they were 'losing' Asia. Eisenhower came very close to committing US ground forces into Vietnam in 53/54 and the UK deserves some credit for effectively preventing this by refusing to join the coalition of countries that Eisenhower required to justify ground forces. Eden was wary of the vietnam situation and did not subscribe to the domino theory- if only he had been around to advise Blair on Iraq. In another parallel with Iraq a constant theme of the book is the US administration's token understanding of both Vietnam and Asia outside Japan and the accompanying policy mistakes-history repeating itself. An excellent and very readable book.


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