Any Old Iron Paperback – 1 Feb 1990
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Top Customer Reviews
Any Old Iron is a novel about culture and how we define ourselves. The plot focuses upon the hunt for the sword of King Arthur, against a backdrop of the Second World War and Anglo-Russian relations. Focussing on the Jones family, the family inter-marry people from different countries (Russia) and religions (Jewish), yet there is still a strong sense of Welsh nation-hood amongst two of the off-spring.
The book has strong elements of Joseph Heller (another brilliant author who could only succeed in having one novel reach widespread attention) in its coverage of the atrocities of war. Main characters keep referring to the "madness of war", and it is interesting to see people both before and during the war, and in their attempts to rebuild their lives after its conclusion. Despite fitting so much into a relatively short space, the book does not feel rushed because it is only a side-plot, yet it is a worthy side-plot that sums up much feeling.
There is much humour to be found in the novel, yet it is the philosophical strands and themes running through the book that makes it a truly memorable novel.Read more ›
The story of this book is drawn from the real-life encounters and experience of the author and it shows. He has woven his own life into a political thriller featuring ordinary characters you could bump into on the street. The depth of descriptive writing is magnificent. Normally I can read a similar sized book in three or four sittings. With this one I found myself having to pause in order to digest the information divulged. This information is drawn from the actions of the six main characters as the plot unfolds from a Titanic survivor, through the hardships of immigrant labour in the US, to the Second World War and its aftermath of the political upheavals in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
I found the book both humorous and poignant in balanced amounts. The humour is well crafted and subtle. The sadness is ingrained in a record of man's inhumanity to others and sadly corroborated by the history books.
A tremendous read.
As with many Anthony Burgess novels, the start is staggering. The first hundred pages - as is usual for Anthony Burgess - race past at a hilarious pace. Reginald Morrow Jones - inevitably Vegetable Marrow Jones to his friends - is a Welshman. Enough said... So was King Arthur. What links them? Precious little until you have read the book and then, perhaps, quite a lot less.
But then, as ever with this author, after the initial headlong spurt the pace seems to fall away. It could come as a relief to many readers, since being dragged along at the rate of the opening could easily exhaust. There is, of course, the necessity to develop the characters and their predicaments. Anthony Burgess does this by viewing their lives from different perspectives. This works in part, but the overall similarity of style tends to blur this use of different points of view.
Merely listing the scenarios in which the characters find themselves raises the breathing rate. Anthony Burgess does not need to reinvent history so that his characters may live through it. So, in Any Old Iron, we have a Titanic survivor, Russians in New York with a restaurant business and a sex-starved daughter who seems to like the new cook. After a visit to the First World War, there's an escapade or two on the streets of St Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad eventually - take your pick - as the Russian revolution unfolds. We participate. This is a long way from Wales, about twenty pages or so. Somehow we find ourselves in Manchester.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of Anthony Burgess' last novels and certainly not his best remembered. Highly praised when it was first published, it remains an exuberant, perhaps rather overdone... Read morePublished 23 months ago by J.K. Currie