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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cryptic Love Story
My expectations of this book were guarded as I had been urged to read it by my crossword-addicted father as he believed it would finally break down my resistance to what has always appeared to me to an unfathomably tedious pastime. I had no idea that I would be immediately and so wholly entranced by Balfour's candid yet enigmatic tale of falling in love with this country...
Published on 18 Feb 2003

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but rather aimless
An interesting history of how the author ended up in the UK and how he came to love crosswords, rightly described as a quintessential English pastime.
Where the book falls down is in the drift of the autobiographical element. We learn virtually nothing of Balfour's girlfried, despite the subtitle of the book being "A memoir of love..." and there is little to give a...
Published on 3 Jan 2004


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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cryptic Love Story, 18 Feb 2003
By A Customer
My expectations of this book were guarded as I had been urged to read it by my crossword-addicted father as he believed it would finally break down my resistance to what has always appeared to me to an unfathomably tedious pastime. I had no idea that I would be immediately and so wholly entranced by Balfour's candid yet enigmatic tale of falling in love with this country and its sensibilities through the seemingly innocuous cryptic crossword puzzle. And that's the magic of this superbly written and totally original memoir - the reader discovers that clues, solutions and grids serve a far more intriguing purpose than merely filling up endless commuter time. Crosswords, Balfour seems to suggest, both illuminate and throw fresh shadows upon the big and small issues that perplex us all and tell us far more about Britain and Britishness then any other comment or feature article that a broadsheet newspaper may include. But that is, as they say, only half the story. By far the real substance of this book - and it is what makes it so compelling - is the story of a man's travels across continents and towards identity and true home. Balfour tells with warmth, wit and disarming honesty how he left his native South Africa in the 1980s to avoid military conscription and headed towards an uncertain future with his girlfriend. This beautifully balanced relationship is the actual axis of the book and imperceptibly welds together the twin aspects of Balfour's obsessions: puzzles and love. Has the author inspired me into a new and beautiful phase of paternal bonding? Probably not because one still requires the right kind of brain matter to slove my father's beloved crosswords. But more importantly he has written a book to keep and cherish.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating memoir, 21 Aug 2007
By 
hiljean (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords (Paperback)
I had been intrigued by cryptic crosswords but had no idea how to solve them when I came across this book, which unlocked some of the unwritten rules and revealed the other side - the crossword setters. Balfour's growing passion for cryptic crosswords provoked a desire in me to learn how to master them myself. I duly attended a one-week course and the art of a the cryptic crossword has now become a passion of mine. What more can you ask of a book, but that it inspires you to take on new challenges?

The fact that the book is also a journey of self-discovery for the author is an added bonus and altogether I felt it made for a really unusual and interesting memoir.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playful structure for very readable memoir, 25 Feb 2003
By A Customer
This short - one might say handy - little book would make an excellent travelling companion. It's an agreeable memoir of various (mainly quite recent) foreign travels, built around a strong interest in crosswords. Indeed the overall effect is a bit like a crossword, with intersecting experiences and connections that slowly build into a recognizable thematic whole. The writing is pleasant, and the author's personality comes over as both intelligent and likable. Certainly one does not have to like crosswords to enjoy it (although it probably helps).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fanscinating book, 17 July 2009
By 
M. James Crawford "jamielecturer" (East Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords (Paperback)
I found out about this author through his very good book on cricket 'What I love about cricket' and discovered I had alot in common with him (ex-South African, draft-dodger, etc, etc).
His writing style is very effective with a lovely flow. The book, I found, really comes alive when he writes about his family but I found myself floundering with the crossword references (as I have never been a fan).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book - you won't regret it., 29 May 2008
By 
Dennis Childs (The Cantal, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords (Paperback)
You don't have to enjoy crosswords to think this is a book quite out of the ordinary: at times touching and at times it had me laughing out loud. But if you are interested in crosswords - or more particularly the people who compile them and the people who solve them - then this is a book you should already have read.
And no, I'm not a relation of Mr Balfour.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping read with great insights, 26 Jan 2010
This review is from: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords (Paperback)
I'm not a crossword person myself though I've had a few people try to explain them to me in the past and this book suceeds where they've all failed. Part memoir part exploration of the art of the cryptic crossword this book is beautifully written and recommended to all.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but rather aimless, 3 Jan 2004
By A Customer
An interesting history of how the author ended up in the UK and how he came to love crosswords, rightly described as a quintessential English pastime.
Where the book falls down is in the drift of the autobiographical element. We learn virtually nothing of Balfour's girlfried, despite the subtitle of the book being "A memoir of love..." and there is little to give a real feel for the sort of man that Balfour is. Indeed I was left with no feeling that I knew the author with anything more depth than some sort of stereotype of a Guardian-reading TV producer.
The other weakness of the book is in its devotion to the Guardian crossword. Those who are devotees of other papers' puzzles (i.e. Times, Telegraph, FT, Indy etc) may well feel slightly left out. There must have been interesting material in examining how the crosswords do or do not reflect the character of the papers that carry them (Telegraph generally facile, but highly Ximenean, Times a rather odd case of Olde England in the Murdoch empire?). The accounts of meeting setters are highly interesting, but might well have been complemented with a better feel for who our fellow solvers are.
The above criticisms notwithstanding the book probably is a must for any crossword-lover. And Balfour is correct, Bust down reason (9) is a very fine clue.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As good as I hoped., 16 May 2014
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This review is from: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords (Paperback)
I enjoyed it. Well written, interesting, humorous and moving. Just what a memoir should be. I think I would like Sandy Balfour.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Minor Classic, 24 April 2014
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This review is from: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords (Paperback)
This is a very fine read full of interest and a curious mix of various themes of love, travel and the whole story of the crossword puzzle. This may sound weird, but hang on and enjoy. If by any chance you have never really got cryptic crosswords, then this is a wonderful, witty and satisfying way into the jungle......
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty girl in Crimson Rose, 21 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords (Paperback)
An intriguing way of writing a novel around the concept of crosswords. I found it good reading and if you love cryptic crosswords you will enjoy this book. The title of the book is actually a crossword clue and can be solved if you are into crosswords
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