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Poldy "Paul" (Darwen, Lancashire)

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Uncle Fred In The Springtime (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
Uncle Fred In The Springtime (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
by P. G. Wodehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.68

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing Uncle Fred, 12 April 2012
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"I don't know if you happen to know what the word `excesses' means, but these are what Pongo's Uncle Fred, when in London, invariably commits."
The fearsome Alaric, Duke of Dunstable, has invited himself to Lord Emsworth's country pile, Blandings Castle, in Shropshire, bringing with him his secretary, Lord Emsworth's old nemesis, the Efficient Baxter. When the Duke demands to be given his Lordship's prize pig, Empress of Blandings, Lord Emsworth's overbearing sister, Lady Constance, demands it be handed over, lest the Duke, always handy with a poker, set about the place. To try to ward him off, she sends Lord Emsworth to London to bring back that eminent loony doctor, Sir Roderick Glossop. When Glossop refuses the invitation, Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham, steps boldly into the fray, along with his much put-upon nephew, Pongo, and Polly, daughter of an old friend, now a private detective. They, and a variety of other imposters, assemble at Blandings for another of Wodehouse's perfect farces.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime is noticeably similar to the earlier entries in the Blandings canon, in which Lord Emsworth was more a background figure. As in those earlier books, other characters take centre stage, in this case, the star of the show is Uncle Fred, very much an older version of that great Wodehouse buzzer, Psmith. As well as Uncle Fred, whose stated aim is to spread sweetness and light, we meet Fred's nephew Pongo, the Duke of Dunstable, Polly Pott, her father "Mustard" Pott, now working as a private detective, and the Duke's nephew, Horace. Lord Emsworth's former secretary, the Efficient Baxter, sadly makes his final appearance in the canon here. This novel also marks the first and only appearance of Lord Emsworth's older son, his heir George, Lord Bosham. He is, in the words of Richard Usborne, "the most blithering idiot in the whole rich Wodehouse canon." Uncle Fred is one in a long list of inspired comic creations, witty and charming, never fazed, and full of joy in his own abilities. As he says, "There are no limits, literally none, to what I can accomplish in the spring time." He and his fearsome wife, who does not appear, but lurks like a thunder cloud on a summer's day, are another instance of a married couple, like the Wodehouses themselves, who share a joint bank account, of which the wife has sole control allowing him "just that bit of spending money which a man requires for tobacco, self-respect, golf balls, and what not." This is a very witty novel, full of those verbal felicities for which Wodehouse was renowned.


Heavy Weather (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
Heavy Weather (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
by Caterina Guerrero Ubach
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.68

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Deeds at Blandings, 9 April 2012
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It's ten days after the events of Summer Lightning and Sue Brown is still at Blandings Castle, Lord Emsworth's palatial home in Shropshire. So is Lord Emsworth's sister, the formidable Lady Constance. She is still not keen on the idea of Sue, a chorus-girl, marrying her nephew, Ronnie Fish, but her brother, Galahad Threepwood, has agreed not to publish his scandalous memoirs on condition that no opposition is made to the marriage. Constance considers this to be blackmail, but sees no alternative. Ronnie's mother, Lady Julia Fish, however, is of a different opinion, and has no intention of letting her son throw his life away, as she sees it, on a mere chorus-girl. Also not happy, though for different reasons, is Lord Tilbury, head of the Mammoth Publishing Corporation, who stood to make a mint by publishing the memoirs. He can see the money disappearing into the distance. Meanwhile, Lord Emsworth has other worries. He is still concerned that his neighbour, Sir Gregory Parsloe, is planning to steal his pig, and becomes even more concerned when he finds that Connie has engaged Parsloe's nephew, Monty Bodkin, as his new secretary. To complicate matters further, in true Wodehouse fashion, Bodkin was once engaged to Sue Brown, a fact that needs to be kept secret from the jealous Ronnie. Thus, the scene is set for one of the best of Wodehouse's brilliant farces.

This book, first published in 1933, was the fourth full-length Blandings novel. Wodehouse was at the top of his game having written almost fifty books by this stage, and the plot glides beautifully along its groove, as it would continue to do perfectly for many more years. Heavy Weather marks the first appearance of Monty Bodkin, who would go on to become a favourite Wodehouse character in two later novels, The Luck of the Bodkins, and Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin. We also meet Ronnie's formidable mother, another overbearing female of the Emsworth clan, Lady Julia Fish, for the first and only time. As with the best of Wodehouse's novels, the plot becomes ever more complex, the characters ever more perplexed, until it seems that nothing can unravel the tangle. Wodehouse, however, is more than up to the task, and as ever untangles everything to bring on the long-delayed happy ending.


Blandings Castle and Elsewhere: (Blandings Castle)
Blandings Castle and Elsewhere: (Blandings Castle)
by P. G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Snippets of Blandings, 4 April 2012
After returning to Blandings with Leave it to Psmith, and before returning with Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather, Wodehouse decided to fill in some blanks. The earlier novels use Lord Emsworth more as a background figure; from Summer Lightning onwards, he becomes a major focus, however unwilling, for events in his idyllic home of Blandings Castle. These seven stories chronicle some of Lord Emsworth's troubles. Troubles with his tiresome younger son, Freddie, and with head-gardener McAllister, in "The Custody of the Pumpkin", in which Lord Emsworth briefly becomes a grower of prize pumpkins on his way to becoming the owner of a prize pig; troubles between Freddie and his wife in "Lord Emsworth Acts For The Best", in which Beach the Butler almost resigns over his Lordship's decision to grow a beard. Shades of Jeeves and Wooster's inability to see eye-to-eye over the latter's questionable sartorial or musical decisions. Trouble with his sister, the formidable chatelaine of Blandings, after their niece, Angela, ends her engagement to an eminent young man and reopens discourse with an earlier suitor. A not-uncommon happening in Wodehouse's stories. Trouble, too, with another niece, Gertrude, and her infatuations, first with the clergyman Rupert Bingham, then with the crooner, George Watkins. "Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey!" is the story in which Lord Emsworth has finally gained the object of his affections, that target of thieves and villains which was to provide so much first-rate material for plots in later stories, the prize-winning black Berkshire sow, Empress of Blandings. But the sow, who, we are told "resembled a captive balloon with ears and a tail, and was as nearly circular as a pig can be without bursting", is off her food, and Lord Emsworth, the country fair coming up shortly, is beside himself with worry. Perhaps his niece's fiancé will be able to provide some assistance. In "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend", Lord Emsworth finally gains enough courage to stand-up to his fearsome head-gardener, McAllister.

The first seven stories are set in the rural idyll of Blandings Castle; the last five, in the mad-house that is Hollywood. They are separated by one story involving Bobbie Wickham. Each of the Hollywood tales showcases a different example of the bizarre world of moving pictures, from an out-of-control ape, to delivery men being coerced into becoming scenario-writers for desperate film-studios.

Short these stories may be, but they lack none of the master's sureness of touch and delight in the felicities of language.


Leave It To Psmith (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
Leave It To Psmith (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
by P. G. Wodehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Pale Parabola of Joy, 4 April 2012
Psmith's fourth and, sadly, final appearance in the fiction of P. G. Wodehouse begins when he rescues Eve Halliday from a rainstorm. Soon, for a variety of reasons, both they and a gaggle of others are ensconced in that paradise which is Blandings Castle. Wodehouse weaves one of his characteristic farces with his usual sure hand, bringing into the mix stolen jewellery, a purloined umbrella, flowerpots and even some uncharacteristic gunplay.

This is the second Blandings novel, following Something Fresh. Lord Emsworth is given a more prominent role than in the previous book, but has not yet taken centre stage. This book belongs to Wodehouse's buzzer-supreme, Ronald Eustace Psmith, making his fourth and sadly final appearance. The formidable Lady Constance, Lord Emsworth's sister, makes her début here, along with the favourite Wodehouse plot-device of the married couple with a joint bank account over which the wife has full control, just the arrangement that Wodehouse himself had with his wife, Ethel. This is also the first time that con artists feature in a Wodehouse novel, inveigling their way into the country house to work out their nefarious schemes. Other such characters will feature prominently in later novels. As is usual in Wodehouse's novels, the plot is convoluted, with many twists and turns, until it looks like everything has become impossibly tangled. But Wodehouse was the greatest of plotters, and it is not long before everything is untangled nicely, leaving everyone to their just deserts in true Wodehouse fashion. This is one of Wodehouse's longest novels, but it is one of the best and funniest. A triumph from start to finish.


Something Fresh (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
Something Fresh (Everyman's Library P G WODEHOUSE)
by P. G. Wodehouse
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.68

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sunrise at Blandings, 29 Mar. 2012
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The plot of this glorious novel, the first in the Blandings saga, is as tangled as any in Wodehouse, and begins when Lord Emsworth absent-mindedly pockets a valuable Scarab from the collection of millionaire-businessman J. Preston Peters, whose daughter Aline is engaged to Lord Emsworth's slack-jawed younger son, the Hon. Freddy Threepwood, whilst also being courted by George Emerson, an up-and-coming young officer in the Hong Kong police. Not daring to risk upsetting the marriage plans by accusing Lord Emsworth of stealing the gem or asking for its return, Mr Peters engages an enterprising young man, Ashe Marson, impecunious author of the "Gridley Quayle Mysteries", to get it back for him while posing as his valet during a visit to Lord Emsworth's home, Blandings Castle in Shropshire. His daughter, Aline, takes on her old friend Joan Valentine, former chorus girl and former ladies' maid, as her maid with the same purpose. Complications ensue when the Hon. Freddy, whose cousin has recently been named in a breach of promise case, fears that Joan, to whom he sent letters and, worse, poetry, when he fell under her spell during her time in the chorus, might seek to embroil him in a similar ruinous case. To avoid this, he asks his odious and obese friend, R. Jones, to speak to Joan and endeavour to recover the incriminating letters. Once gathered at Lord Emsworth's idyllic country home, Blandings Castle in Shropshire, presided over by the imposing figure of Beech the Butler, they come under the penetrating gaze of his Lordship's officious and ever-suspicious secretary, the Efficient Baxter.

First published in 1915, Something Fresh was Wodehouse's first foray into Blandings territory. Where later stories in the series would centre on Lord Emsworth and his prize pig, Empress of Blandings, at this stage, Emsworth is little more than a background character, however well-drawn, for the story of how Ashe Marson and Joan Valentine come together in their attempts to recover Mr Peters's prize scarab. With both of these characters entering the scene in the capacity of servants, the primary focus is on the servants rather than the guests, and there is more focus on what goes on `below-stairs' than in any other Wodehouse novel. Most of Wodehouse's stories are love-stories at heart, and this is no different, with Ashe and Joan gradually realising how deeply they care for each other, and Aline Peters seriously questioning whether she really wants to spend the rest of her days with the chump Freddy, while she has an altogether more fitting suitor begging for her hand. Wodehouse was a master of plotting and, having got everyone together in what looks like a tangled mess, he takes great pleasure, and gives us great enjoyment, in untangling all the threads and making sure everyone ends with their just deserts. As usual, Wodehouse draws his characters so vividly they live on the page, from the handsome hero, Ashe, thoroughly sick of writing the bilge by which he earns his daily crust, to the maddeningly forgetful Lord Emsworth, a winner of a character on this, his first appearance, to the Efficient Baxter, always suspecting interlopers of being up to something. Although this is our first trip to Blandings, everything is in place for it to become one of the most idyllic settings in the whole of fiction. Wodehouse is at his sunny best in this, the best of all possible worlds.


Beethoven: Pathétique - Piano Sonatas Vol.1
Beethoven: Pathétique - Piano Sonatas Vol.1
Price: £11.64

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Beethoven From A Master, 14 Nov. 2011
With so many CDs clamouring for our attention, both new recordings from the star of the moment, frequently some overhyped hot-house winner of this or that piano competition, and the latest reissue or first release of an historic performance from a luminary of the past, the question must always be: do we really need another recording of core repertoire? A swift glance at shelves groaning under the weight of discs featuring the great and the good, and the not-so-great or good, shows complete Beethoven sonata cycles from such masters of the keyboard as Arrau, Backhaus, Gilels (not quite complete, but all the great sonatas are here, all gloriously played), Kovacevich, Schnabel, Barenboim and Kempff (twice each), Gulda and Brendel (three times each) as well as the much-lauded cycle from Brendel protégé Paul Lewis. And yet, one of the glories of core repertoire, indeed, one of the prerequisites for becoming such an important part of our musical language, is that some works are endlessly open to interpretation, will always reveal new glories to the listener intent on penetrating below the merely superficial. It is for this reason that just one, or even two or three, Beethoven symphony cycles will never be sufficient to uncover the seemingly-endless depths of the greatest works of music. Just one set of the Brandenburg Concertos could never reveal the full range of expressive power inherent in these works; one recording of the Well-Tempered Klavier can give us only one person's vision of the work, however valid and perceptive that vision may be. To tease out every strand of a work's meaning, it is necessary to experience different interpretations of a given work, to hear the great interpreters of the past in juxtaposition with the stars of today. So it is with the Beethoven Piano Sonatas, some of the greatest music ever composed.

The piano sonata was fundamental to Beethoven's art throughout his life. True, he did not begin his published career with the sonata - his Opus 1 was a set of three Piano Trios - but he set out his stall in his next opus with a triptych of contrasting piano sonatas. His fourth sonata, Op. 7 in E flat, was the longest he wrote bar the Hammerklavier, and Beethoven clearly considered it enough of a significant work to publish it alone. As if to declare that here was something different, each of the first four sonatas has four movements. No sonata by Haydn or Mozart is in four movements. The next four sonatas follow the same pattern - three published together with one opus number, Op. 10, then another solitary opus, the celebrated Grande Sonate Pathétique, Op. 13, to distinguish it with its full title, the only title Beethoven himself gave to any of his sonatas. Whereas the E flat, Op. 7, was expansive, broad and deep, Op. 13 is shorter, more concentrated, more immediately appealing though not, in any sense, any less complex, deep or brilliant. Three of this second group of sonatas - Op. 10 No. 3 in D being the exception - are in the more traditional three movements.

In the brief interview that forms the booklet notes, Roscoe makes the point that it is not a question of `needing' a new Beethoven sonata cycle - perhaps just as well given the vast number of them currently available, with Paul Lewis's magnificent set not yet cold in the memory and Canadian pianist Louis Lortie's set newly released on Chandos, to say nothing of the inaugural disc from Jonathan Biss, set to be spread over nine discs to be released over nine years. Rather, after more than three decades of playing and teaching the Beethoven sonatas, Roscoe feels ready to set down his thoughts on these incredibly rich and varied works. On the evidence of this first volume of what will eventually become a full traversal of all the sonatas - including the three short apprentice works WoO47 normally ignored - those thoughts are well-worth sharing with the music-loving public.

Using an edition recently prepared by musicologist Professor Barry Cooper of Manchester University, which removes what Roscoe sees as some infelicities of articulation and dynamics, Roscoe has chosen not to release the sonatas in chronological order, but rather to group them together in ways that seem significant to him and, hopefully, to the listener as well. This is an approach also favoured by Paul Lewis in his integral, and receives no complaint from me. He begins, then, with the three sonatas published in 1799 as their composer's Op. 10, and Op. 13, the celebrated Pathétique.

Op. 13 is the first of Beethoven's sonatas to begin with an introduction, marked Grave, but this is more than a mere prologue, setting up as it does much of the tragic tone of the first movement, and recurring at the start of the development and of the coda. The slow movement, in design a rondo, is set in the key of A flat and is one of Beethoven's most impressive early outpourings of melancholy, leading some to see it as a yearning for a lost love. Extra-musical considerations aside, it is a tender and delicate movement lying like a limpid brook between the stormily dramatic outer movements. Roscoe has the measure of the more introverted lyrical moments of the slow movement, teasing out every nuance of musical meaning without ever falling into the trap of mere emoting for the sake of it. The finale, a sonata-rondo fully in the style of Beethoven's dramatic C minor mode, shows Roscoe again more than a match for the intense demands Beethoven makes on his soloist. In Beethoven's hands C minor was a dark and dramatic key, and is unique in being used twice within the first eight sonatas. The Pathétique is a work I have lived with and loved for over thirty years, since receiving Daniel Barenboim's first complete set on twelve LPs. The first thing I noticed is that Roscoe is over a minute faster in the first movement than some other pianists. Indeed, throughout Roscoe generally favours faster tempos, perhaps wary of wallowing in some of the darker moments of these works. In several movements, he shaves over a minute off the times of Paul Lewis in his recent cycle. For comparison, I turned to Alfred Brendel's third complete cycle, recorded for Philips in the nineties, as well as the aforementioned Barenboim set from the late sixties, when he was in his mid-twenties, Claude Frank's superb cycle, and the recent set from Brendel protégé, Paul Lewis. Lewis, perhaps not surprisingly, is firmly in the tradition of his mentor, playing the sonata slowly and thoughtfully, assiduously teasing out every nuance, even if he is not quite so ready with the fortissimos that Brendel inserts into the first movement. Barenboim on EMI is playful but in tight control of the music, while Frank finds a calm port in the stormy waters that pervade this opening movement. Roscoe is fully in command of the energy and intensity of this work, but he finds also the freshness at the heart of Beethoven's utterance, removing the accretions of the ages that have made this work such a war-horse. In the good-old, bad-old days of long-playing vinyl, the Pathétique was most often partnered with the Moonlight and Appassionata - that, indeed, is how the Barenboim set began life - but Roscoe's intention is that we should return not to this or that interpretation of the music, but to the living music itself. In this, he succeeds admirably.

The three sonatas published as Opus 10 were published in 1798 and already display Beethoven's artistic originality and maturity. They are highly contrasted works: No. 1 being the first essay in piano writing for Beethoven's celebrated "C minor mood", the second, in the serene key of F major much more comic and playful, and the four-movement third, in bright and cheerful D major. The slow movement of this last, a Sonata in the grand style, is marked "Largo e mesto" and pianists are often tempted to take it much too slowly. Here, as elsewhere, Roscoe has thought-through his approach, and never lets the pace drag (he is a minute faster than Brendel on the latter's third cycle). Fast movements are dynamic and bracing, slow movements, sombre and graceful but never turgid.

The sound throughout is first rate, with plenty of room to let the music breathe.

While I would not want to be without the recordings mentioned above, particularly, in the Pathétique, Paul Lewis's deeply introspective account, this is a disc I shall return to with great pleasure, and I await the succeeding volumes with some impatience.


Arnell: String Quartets..
Arnell: String Quartets..
Price: £12.81

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neglected Gems Finally See the Light of Day, 12 Nov. 2011
This glorious album gives us yet another reason to be grateful to those good people at Dutton. Previous releases have treated us to the symphonies, piano concerto and some of the ballet scores for which Arnell (1917-2009) was most celebrated. Now, with the sterling input of the Tippett Quartet, they have turned their attention to the neglected British composer's works for String Quartet. Arnell was known as a fine orchestrator, and his talents in this field are much in evidence even on the more intimate scale of the chamber ensemble. The nine-minute first was written in 1939, and is a remarkably assured work for a twenty-two year-old. It is cast in a single terse movement and shows Arnell already in full control of musical form and ideas. The first performance was given in the year after composition by the Galimir Quartet, whose members had studied with Berg and Ravel. The next two quartets followed over the next few years, both in three movements and equally well-controlled. The fourth, from 1950, is once again in a single movement. Good though these works are, and there can be no doubt that these are very fine additions to the literature of the String Quartet, it is Arnell's Fifth Quartet, from 1962, which is the real treasure. Clearly foreshadowing Britten's third Quartet, it is the most expansive of the works here, being spread over seven fairly short movements. What is most noticeable about the structure of this first-rate work is the casting of the four final movements successively for one, two and then three instruments, before all four finally come together for the terse, dramatic finale. In addition to foreshadowings of Britten, Shostakovich is also brought to mind in the textures and sonorities favoured by Arnell. The sound is everywhere clear and bright, showcasing the clear, unfussy mastery of the Tippett Quartet. Robert Matthew-Walker's booklet notes provide excellent background to this unfairly-neglected composer and his music.


God Collar
God Collar
by Marcus Brigstocke
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Brigstocke Delusion, 12 Nov. 2011
This review is from: God Collar (Paperback)
Marcus Brigstocke is a comedian, writer, and atheist. Or at least, he used to be. Now, he's not so sure. He's still pretty certain there's no God out there, but isn't as certain as he used to be. This book is his attempt to work out why he's having a crisis of lack-of-faith. How can you be an atheist but feel that atheism isn't working for you, and yet be unable to adapt to a belief in a deity?

His stated intention is not to take other people's faith away. Rather he wants to share it: as he says ( p67): "It's perfectly reasonable to ask - given how resistant I am to religion, why on earth do I think I want to invite God into my life? The truth is I don't know exactly. It's just a feeling that if there's something up there or out there, or in here that could reasonably improve the quality of my life and of those around me, then I'd be willing to try it. I have a nasty feeling this willingness to explore a state of `other' could bring me to God or just as easily see me develop a massive heroin habit." His purpose is not to ridicule or condemn people who have a religious belief, but rather it is "About trying to understand why anyone believes in anything and why I can't seem to." (p.149)

He is wary about organised religion, and rightly angry about the evil perpetrated by the religious: the murders, the abuse. `About the inherent hate and violence so prevalent in the three Abrahamic faiths.' (p.152). About the Catholic Church's refusal to encourage contraception, and their encouraging of people to have large families which they struggle to feed, together with their blatant lie that the use of condoms helps the spread of Aids, thus condemning large numbers of people in Africa to a hideous death. About a Pope who was once a Nazi and who considers the `state of the universal church' more important than the well-being of young children raped by priests, which he conspires to conceal.

If he can't believe in God, what can he believe in? Not in humanity. A `humanity' which refuses to believe in global warming in face of all the evidence, and which will elect a `dull simian fool' to the White House and a `waffling clown' to the Mayoralty of London. One which reads the Daily Mail and buys books by Jeremy Clarkson. One whose youngsters put empty Tango cans in hedges. Who could have faith in such a species?

So, if he is to find God, where should he look for Him? Not in the places of worship, majestic and awe-inspiring as many of them are. To say nothing of having been built by underpaid (when paid at all) labourers and paid for out of the pockets of people who were, in many cases, too poor to buy food. Nor can anything else take the place of the search for God - not even the iPhone, no matter how great the app.

He makes the valid point that being an atheist does not automatically mean that someone is more intelligent than someone with a religious faith, however he seems to believe that IQ is a genuine measure of innate intelligence, and when he claims that: "Faith is the rejection of reason, but with rewards for the faithful that make the choice a reasonable one to make." (p.153) he is simply wrong. Rejecting reason is never a reasonable choice, although it may be an understandable one.

A comedian by trade, he does include some amusing comments, one particular stand-out is his account of how to get someone in church to begin singing too early.

In some respects, however, the book frequently reads just like a transcribed stand-up routine. Which it actually is, Brigstocke having tried out this material during his God Collar tour, before writing the book to use up the material. The enterprise put me in mind of Jeremy Hardy's My Family and Other Strangers in which the trenchant comedian used the loose framework of a search into his family history to hang his comic observations and politically motivated rants. At one time, comedians tended to end a stand-up tour by making a TV series and / or releasing a DVD using up most of the recent material. Now, it seems, the method of choice is to package the routines as a book.

For me, the biggest of several problems with this book is that it has nothing to add to the atheism debate. He claims to find Richard Dawkins's polemic The God Delusion smug, but can find no specific instances of smugness. He likens Dawkins's certainty that there is no God to the certainty of the religious zealot without seeming to understand that there is a difference between the zealot, whose position is based on blind faith, and who will ignore any and all evidence that conflicts with his views, and the scientist like Dawkins who relies on observed reality, reason, rationality and science.

"This desire to believe in something and to have a permanent, ever-present force at work in my life is hard to explain." Brigstocke claims. It is no such thing. It is simply the desire not to be in control of our own fate, the one ultimately to blame for anything that goes wrong. It is the desire to abnegate one's responsibility to oneself and the world around us.

A recovered addict - to drink, drugs and food, he is intelligent enough to know there's something lacking in his life, and articulate enough to express that knowledge. But is he intelligent enough to understand what it is that he lacks? The book is a question, rather than a quest, but among all the middle class liberal angst, the soul-searching, the speculating and the scoring of cheap points, the reader will search in vain for any vestige of an answer, or even a coherent examination of what his sense of a God-shaped hole in his life really means, or what may have caused it. Wary of liberal middle class guilt he may be, but he has produced a vapid, middle-brow examination of the emptiness of the middle class existence.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2012 12:30 AM BST


No Wind of Blame
No Wind of Blame
by Georgette Heyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Mystery, 4 Oct. 2011
This review is from: No Wind of Blame (Paperback)
How do you shoot someone without being anywhere near the murder-weapon? This is the mystery facing Inspector Hemingway when he begins the investigation into the death of Wally Carter. There is no shortage of suspects: his wife, who finances his hare-brained schemes and has admirers a-plenty; his stepdaughter, who had little respect for his profligate ways, and the exiled Russian - actually Georgian - Prince, who would be happy to be married to such a beautiful, and wealthy, woman as Mrs Carter. Then there are the neighbours and other locals, many of whom had reason to wish Wally out of the way.

As usual, Ms Heyer brings her superb gift for characterisation to bear on a varied cast of potential suspects: fortune-hunting princes who may, or may not, be all they seem; grieving family who may not have too much to grieve about; and, as always, the investigating detectives, of varying degrees of perspicacity. There are clues as to how the crime was committed, and by whom, but Heyer's usual mastery of the story-telling art keeps the reader engaged until the last page.


Penhallow
Penhallow
by Georgette Heyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Families, 3 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Penhallow (Paperback)
Adam Penhallow rules over the Penhallow family with a rod of iron, bending everyone to his tyrannous will. His sons, both legitimate and illegitimate, his second wife, even the servants and many of the locals, hate him with a passion, which means there are no shortage of suspects when his death, at first thought to be down to natural causes, is revealed to be murder.

Heyer was masterful at presenting well-drawn, believable characters. Here she gives us an extended family ruled over by a very human monster, one who revels in the misery he can bring to those nearest him. Although the story is set after the First World War, there is little sense of the burgeoning modern world, the characters seemingly trapped in a nineteenth-century world where the lord of the manor rules all and his word is law. The book positively drips with an almost gothic sense of gloom, recalling such novels as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Heyer draws the reader into the story by showing each character's thought and attitudes, allowing us to see the all-pervading influence of the old man and how his behaviour affects theirs and, in most cases, has blighted their lives. Although the murder doesn't happen until more than 270 pages have passed, the story is never allowed to drag. Rather, we are presented with a fully-realised world in which every character, every action, every word, rings true. Unusually for a Heyer mystery, we actually see the murder being committed as one person, driven beyond the limits of endurance, finally cracks under the weight of the constant mistreatment. This marks out the novel as more a psychological study of character than a traditional whodunit, and Heyer herself said that, although her publisher had marketed the book as a mystery, it really wasn't one. As such, Penhallow has more in common with her historical novels than with her mysteries. Penhallow is an absorbing read, one of Heyer's longest books, and one of her best.


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