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Lovborg (London)

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The Possessions of Doctor Forrest
The Possessions of Doctor Forrest
by Richard T. Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly, darkly terrifying., 22 Jun. 2011
This is a book that makes you check that you've locked the front door. And then, when you've turned off the lights, and you're ready to turn in, you go downstairs (somewhat nervously) just to be extra certain that you're safe. This is not because Richard T. Kelly's second novel is gory, explicit and soaked in blood: in fact its power lies in its restraint, in what's missing - but then consider the cliched truth that Hitchcock's "Psycho" grips and terrifies precisely because of its restraint. I've never been this scared by a book: it got into my head and hasn't shifted - and I can only recommend that you give it some space too.
It's a homage to, and an update of, the Victorian Gothic novel - and much more. The title suggests "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde", but it also suggests "Doctor Faustus" and Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed" (or "The Devils", as it's often translated), and the novel is as rich in allusion and reference as the title, taking in Dante, Baudelaire, David Cronenberg and (it sometimes seems) every point in between. But this is no dry, academic pastiche - it is a proper page-turning thriller and horror story about friendship, love and the forces that control and "possess" us.
I can't do justice to Kelly's prose style: it's steeped in muscular, nineteenth century construction, but it's unfussy, clear and direct. His ear for dialogue is bang on and (unusually for this genre) his female characters are every bit as compelling and vivid as the men.
It's a thriller, so I won't go into the plot,other than to say that it twists and turns as satisfyingly and as unpredictably as one could wish. And it is properly frightening: this isn't campy horror cliches - this is Evil with a capital "E" and it's as irresistible, compelling and unforgettable as that sounds.
So: I can only urge you to read it. However the above might read, "The Possessions of Doctor Forrest" wears its learning lightly, and creates something dark, modern and terrifying from it. Brilliant.

Comfort and Joy
Comfort and Joy
by India Knight
Edition: Hardcover

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing - and nasty, 27 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Comfort and Joy (Hardcover)
Like so many other reviewers, I have enjoyed many of India Knight's other novels and collections of writing, and so I was excited about this one, with the return of Clara (from "My Life on A Plate" - which is great fun) as the heroine. I am afraid that I was very disappointed: not only with the structure (which betrays Knight's journalist's origins too clearly, with a distinct sense of "copy" rather than "narrative"), but with the fact that the tone of the whole book is nasty and snobbish.
I've never had much sympathy for the idea that one must have likeable heroes in order to engage - where does that leave you with King Lear, Othello, Heathcliff or Emma? - but the Clara of this novel is so self-centred, so self-righteous, so dismissive of other people's feelings as she goes steam-rollering over them in the interest of instant gratification that she becomes a huge alienating force within the book, and the other elements just aren't strong enough to compensate.
I can't recommend it in any way: but do try "My Life on a Plate" for a bit of charming (and eventually, very moving) fun.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2011 7:08 PM GMT

by Jane Austen
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £13.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading of one of Austen's best, 21 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Emma (Audio CD)
Other than "Persuasion", I'd say this is Austen's best novel: and it's read brilliantly by Fiona Shaw, who carries the comedy extremely well, but is also able to modulate her reading with the pathos and irony that are such an intrinsic part of the novel. Great stuff.

Brideshead Revisited [DVD] [2008]
Brideshead Revisited [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Emma Thompson
Price: £4.50

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Travesty, 10 April 2009
Wow: this is bad.
This isn't to say that there aren't good things in it: the performances of Ben Whishawe, Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon are all excellent, but almost everything else is lousy.
The script is dreadful, absolutely dreadful: there is no tension in it, no understanding of the structure or the themes of the book - and as a result, what we get is a very shallow, snobbish piece of work. There is a very simplistic reading introduced (that the middle class Charles wants possession of the great house at any price) in the absence of an ability to engage with what Waugh described as the theme of the book: the operation of grace on a diverse group of people.
Finally: and very surprisingly the attention to detail in the styling of costume and sets is really poor - notably the fact that all the Catholic women (who would have worn crucifixes) are all seen wearing crosses. It's not a truly unsettling detail, perhaps, but it is representative of the fact that the film-makers didn't really understand what they were grappling with.
The Granada adaptation really is magnificent - and a far better way to spend your money than on this rubbish.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2011 8:00 PM GMT

The Lucifer Effect
The Lucifer Effect
by Philip Zimbardo
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light out of darkness, 28 April 2008
This review is from: The Lucifer Effect (Hardcover)
It isn't an easy book to read, but it is a rewarding one.
Professor Zimbardo tackles one of the most endlessly fascinating of our obsessions - and it's done with grace, seriousness and (forgive how this may read, but don't under-estimate its importance) perfect pitch.
The scholarship is profound, but worn lightly. The humanity is apparent and all-pervasive. It's a balanced, smart and powerful book. Highly recommended.

The Actor and the Target
The Actor and the Target
by Declan Donnellan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Applications wider than acting, 28 April 2008
As befits a great director, Donnellan has written a great book about directing actors. But it's also much more than that: it's a fantastic examination of the process of collaboration and leadership in all areas. By examining the easy protestations that actors fall back on, and drawing them down to their root cause, Donnellan reveals a hugely focused and inspirational way of thinking about problems. The book's frame of reference may well be the stage, but its applications are far wider. Fascinating and clear.

Surprising Power of Family Meals, The : How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier and Happier
Surprising Power of Family Meals, The : How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier and Happier
by Miriam Weinstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting food for thought, 28 April 2008
The dreadful, punning title of this review aside, it does rather sum up what I felt about this book: tempting, but unsatisfying. The basic thesis (that families that eat together are better adjusted, more socialised and exhibit less deviant behaviour in later life) is interesting, but the supporting data is a bit woolly. It may be that the case isn't, in fact, that strong, and that the conclusions are fudged - but if the proof really is there, it would have been useful to have seen more of it in unblinking black and white. There are a number of counter arguments to the book (not least the fact that it's a solidly middle-class and privileged slice of life that we're peering at) but it certainly merits a place as a starting point, even if one couldn't call it definitive.

Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity
Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity
by Virginia Smith
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive History, 28 April 2008
It's a great study of the topic, touching on sociology, theology and psychology - but chiefly (as you'd expect) - on history. It takes us pretty much up to date, but I have to confess to feeling that the ending was both a little rushed and a little cursory. That said, the writing is intelligent, the examples plentiful and the scope of the work is unprecedented: so there's not much to argue with.

Next Now: Trends for the Future
Next Now: Trends for the Future
by Marian Salzman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK - but nothing new., 17 Feb. 2008
Marian Salzman is very good at self publicity - but not great at trend-spotting (unlike, say Faith Popcorn or John Grant). She didn't (in fact) spot "metrosexuality" (which was coined by a British journalist), but she did claim to have done - and this book is true to that form: nothing new, but wrapped up in lots of groovy catch-phrases. And if you have a low threshold for words made out of two words crammed together (eg: Chindia, which almost made me laugh out loud), then that's another reason to give this book a very wide berth.

by Richard T. Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive Reading. Brilliant., 16 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
This book deserves every accolade that it has enjoyed, including the much vaunted "The Great British Novel of This Decade".

It bears comparison with Dostoyevsky, Dickens and (most specifically) Trollope's "The Way We Live Now": its thematic seriousness and political engagement are very reminescent.

Analogies don't do it justice, but the final comparison I would make is with David Hare's "State of The Nation" trilogy of plays. What makes this comparison particularly seductive is that Kelly shares with Hare a terrific ear for dialogue (it's unsurprising to discover that he is an esteemed film critic and author), and compassion he has for his characters - however unappealing many of them can seem at different stages in the story.

Anyway, this is much the best contemporary novel I've read in the last ten years. It's a big book, but it is richly rewarding. Get it now, so that you can get the copy that proves you recognised its greatness before it won the awards it so certainly will.

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