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A. A. M. Weyenbarg "T Adams" (Netherlands)

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The Quiet American
The Quiet American
by Graham Greene
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gripping and illuminating, 6 July 2005
This review is from: The Quiet American (Paperback)
This was my first Graham Greene novel, and it won't be my last. It's one of those cleverly constructed 'circular' novels that, after the initial scene, takes you right back to the beginning of the story which slowly unfolds to end with the same initial scene, but seen in a totally different light.
I picked up this novel because I imagined it to be full of the atmosphere of war-torn Vietnam in the 1950s, a historical portrait of the end of colonial Indo-China. And that is indeed one feature of the book, but it is more involving still: realistic characters, consistent only in their complexity, a moving story of a triangular relationship between two men and a woman, a stand-off between the opposing ideologies of cynicism and idealism. I was left wondering: was this a happy ending or not?

Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics)
Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating historical insight and a captivating story, 1 July 2005
Like most of Orwell's novels, 'Burmese Days' is principally about social alienation, here against the backdrop of a remote jungle outpost of the British empire in the 1920s. The book is steeped in the atmosphere of the country in which it is set, the oppressive climate, the colour of the jungle and the native population, the repulsively racist and materialistic circle of English businessmen and colonial administrators among whom Flory, the main character, socializes at the 'European Club'.
You get the impression that Flory is actually the same misanthropic ineffectual character that appears in all Orwell's novels (a portrait of Orwell himself presumably), although in 'Burmese Days' he is in his formative stage, reluctant to take a confrontational stand against the colonialist attitudes which surround him.
The novel is half satire, half tragedy, and catches the contrast between the beauty of the tropical backdrop and the moral ugliness which pervades the existence of most of the characters, Burmese and Europeans alike. Totally captivating, this book left me unable to shake off the stifling atmosphere it evoked for days. Always the sign of good writing...

White Teeth
White Teeth
by Zadie Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine read, 18 Nov. 2004
This review is from: White Teeth (Paperback)
'White Teeth' spans generations and decades. It is about (in as far as it can be summed up in a couple of words) the multi-ethnic society, and as such could not be more relevant to today's Britain (and world?). Always light-hearted, often challenging, never dull, difficult to put down, and the best news is - it's over 500 pages! A book to really get your teeth into... The pages slip by unnoticed, so absorbing are the characters and their stories.
Certain recent reviews of this book are quite frankly shocking, and compelled me to write my own to say that I think Zadie Smith's writing is first class and inventive, the story line engrossing and the characters multi-dimensional and often hilarious. Looking further down the list of reviews, I am pleased to see that there are many others who agreed. As for those who say this is 'dull', 'difficult to read', 'hard work', or 'not worth the bother'... these comments say everything about the readers themselves, and nothing about the book.

Prime Minister Portillo and Other Things that Never Happened: A Collection of Political Counterfactuals
Prime Minister Portillo and Other Things that Never Happened: A Collection of Political Counterfactuals
by Iain Dale
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 'what if?'s of politics, 16 Oct. 2004
In twenty-one articles, each written by a different author, this book covers almost every 'what if?' in British 20th century political history. Different essays are of differing interest but almost all well-argued and written - from events which really did almost happen, like Callaghan calling an election in 1978, to somewhat unlikely events such as Iain Dale's friend Portillo becoming prime minister in 2001. All involve an element of going over the facts of what actually happened and then speculating on how things could easily have been different. Although some use more fantasy than others, there's a lot of factual content, as well as counter-factual.
The different authors make it difficult to generalise about the style of the book. Personally I found most of the essays readable and interesting with a few notable exceptions - Bernard Ingham's treatment of 'What if Thatcher had resigned over Westland?' disappoints, and Simon Burns' essay about 'What if Lee Harvey Oswald had missed?' is very dry.
However, by and large, if you're a political junkie, or if you're a fan of other counter-factual history books, you surely won't be disappointed. There's something for everyone, left and right alike.

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