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Customer Review

36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars So disappointed, 28 Dec 2010
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This review is from: What to Look for in Winter (Hardcover)
I am a big fan of Candia McWilliam and I have to say, I DID wonder where she had gone and what had happened to her so I was excited to see she had this book out, supposedly explaining everything. I have to admit, I just can't finish it. I know I'm a lone voice because everyone else loves it - it's "brave and fearless" etc and I'll give you that but it's also the most pretentious load of old claptrap I've ever struggled to read. The constant name-dropping!"Oh, Dame Naomi Mitchison was once almost slightly rude to me", "Oh here I am going blind in a rich friend's flat in Chelsea...woe is me". It's unbearable. I can't believe I'm the only person who feels this way. This is the only book in 2010 that I simply can't finish. It's in my desk drawer at work and that's where it's staying. I wouldn't inflict it on anyone else. Simply ghastly! Someone please tell me it was worth ploughing through and why! I will say though, that she has the most fantastic way with words and this well-disguised lump of self pity is beautifully written but that's not enough to keep my interest.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 May 2011 19:39:04 BDT
P. Oirot says:
I absolutely agree with you. It's difficult judging this book because something so awful (the blindness) has happened to the author. I think she puts across a sense of self well, in that the book is fairly rambling and goes off off on tangents, in the way that one's own thinking does. It's difficult oneself to get a sense of a united, discrete personality, so I admire her for that. But I got so tired of all the name dropping and the fact that the people who were lovely were usually famous or rich. ( or both)

Posted on 19 Feb 2012 15:53:33 GMT
G. Heppel says:
How is suffering trivial just because it happens to someone in comfortable surroundings? Losing your sight must be traumatic wherever you are. I doubt if being in a rich friend's flat in Chelsea is much compensation.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Feb 2012 07:43:38 GMT
Jane Napier says:
Oh no, of course the suffering isn't trivial! I wouldn't ever say that. I suppose what I'm saying is that despite her amazing skill with words, the book failed to move me in the way I presume it was intended. OR, maybe it was intended for a different audience, by which I mean, not a working class oik like me. Haha!

Posted on 30 May 2012 14:58:16 BDT
BioDiplomacy says:
You asked someone to tell you why the book is worth "ploughing through". Here's my reason - you need to throw away your white stick and see what is before your eyes. This is not a "well-disguised" lump of self-pity, but an undisguised conscious dissection of self-pity. Such self-knowledge and the ability to express it effectively is rare. Your remarks and her memoir bring to mind another tortured writer for whom words were also ploughshares, Gerard Manley Hopkins:

"No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion. "

In reply to an earlier post on 31 May 2012 17:32:06 BDT
Jane Napier says:
OK BioDiplomacy - thank you, you've shamed me and you are right to do so. I should have read the whole book instead of making a review based on a book only part read. I do admire the author and love her way with words. I hereby vow now, today, NEVER to write another review unless I have read the entire thing! If I'm not able to finish something, I will keep my big mouth firmly closed!!

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jun 2012 15:27:15 BDT
BioDiplomacy says:
Jane

What a generous response to my comments. However, as you will have seen, even negative comments attract helpful votes (including mine). My own reviews (sometimes on both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com - see for example on Ruth Padel's "The Mara Crossing" ) have generally been based on reading the entire book, partly because I started doing them as a discipline to help me remember what I'd read. But you have company - see the passage by Clive James in his Spectator "Diary" on 26 May 2012 p 11:

"Near the very end of his life, [Christopher] Hitchens wrote a brilliant piece about Philip Larkin. Some of his recent American admirers were surprised by how literature mattered to the Hitch but those of us who had known him longer knew that his love for the language was his bedrock. I was not convinced, though, by some of those editors amongst his American obituarists who wrote of how he would take home a huge new book and read it and review it in a single evening. I think he probably just reviewed it in a single evening."

It's always good to find someone who shares enthusiasm for a writer - maybe we'll both be contributing reviews for Candia McWilliam's next book.

Iain Orr (BioDiplomacy)

Posted on 30 Jan 2013 22:54:26 GMT
I'm about a third of the way through this and was just starting to formulate my Amazon review with words like "mind-numbing name-dropping", "boastful self-deprecation", etc, but it turns out you've already written my review for me . . . life's too short to feel you have to plough through books against your instincts - authors don't have a divine right to have your attention - I'm closing the book now!
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