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Paul Valentine "poet lorryart" (Hants, UK)

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The Passport (Masks)
The Passport (Masks)
by Herta Muller
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Light, the Land and the Symbolic Paradox, 4 Mar. 2010
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This review is from: The Passport (Masks) (Paperback)
There is a stark simplicity to Mullers prose. When this is used to convey the sultry natural scenes and ignoble baseness of trying to live in Ceausescu's Romania the results are poetically explosive.
Windisch and his wife and daughter Amalie live in a mill with a smallholding. Trapped in Romania after the war, Windisch wants to leave and migrate to West Germany. The Romanians do not like the Germans and welcome their departure, but first Windisch needs passports, and he also knows that church and state require a price for this.
The symbolic centre of this work is `The tear';
`On the white paper was a tear. It had a hole at its tip. Inside, in its stomach, the tear had a groove. Under the tear lay a note. Rudi had written: The tear is empty. Fill it with water. Preferably with rain water. Amalie couldn't fill the tear. It was summer and the village was Parched.'
The book is full of symbolism, each vignette like a Bruegel painting. Everything here is on the surface; the people; the trees; the wildlife; the shadows, but what you don't see is the drudgery, the suspicion and the hypocrisy. It is a life of stark despair and despondency, punctuated only by the scenery and props of nature, the hot summer sun and freezing cold winters.
Muller has not convinced all the reviewing fraternity, largely over her clipped style. But for me, the style is the key to this surrealist, existentialist prose poem: it balances the starkness in its most brutal reality, in the same way that Bruegal uses colours in his depictions of rural life, to bring out contrasts and to show incongruity.
But make no mistake, however the picture is arranged, these vignettes are from the most realistic of real life. And the trick for me is the distance Muller gets between herself as author and her work. If you want passion and involvement, don't look here, this is as near to the `alien's eye view' that it gets.

Mean Tide
Mean Tide
by Sam North
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly heart-warming and life-affirming read, both gripping and compelling, 4 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Mean Tide (Paperback)
We have a saying, "reading between the lines". It normally means reading what is implied but not expressed, and therefore has become the current reference for political innuendo or `spin'. This is a shame because it should also be used in creative writing to denote writing that goes into another dimension in creating a real sense of cutting atmosphere by the addition of tension.

Sam North has a tremendous gift of creating both atmosphere and warmth in characters; particularly young boys with the world before them, who balance on a knife-edge of falling either into great danger or greater fun and experience. And it is the continual stress the reader undergoes in almost trying to shape destiny with the writer that invokes such tangible atmosphere. There is of course, great danger in this; as with all examples of stress, `Hookes Law' comes into play, and the more stress - the greater atmosphere. But, take it too far and the spring breaks. Sam North is an experienced writer, and is able to take the writer virtually to the point of strain, that moment just before `too far', when the spring won't return.

Of course Dickens was a master of this art, as was Conan Doyle, and it is quite amazing how Mr North is able to muster the same kind of atmosphere that both Victorian writers used, but in a totally up to date work. The story is about Oliver, a precocious but warm-hearted twelve year old who loses touch with his father, and whose mother becomes acutely psychotic. Furthermore, the boy undergoes serious neuro-surgery to remove a tumour from his brain. But of course, as a twelve year old, his only concern is whether his hair will grow back.

He is adopted by his Dragon-like grandma Otis (who is really as soft as the best toffee) and there begins the interplay between a number of brilliantly drawn characters surrounding his new life in Greenwich. A key theme in the novel is the power of psychic mysticism, but this is dealt with, sometimes by comedy, sometimes with warmth, but always with the essential humanity that is Mr North's trademark.

The novel ends in a scene worthy of the best revivalist theatre, and puts the finishing touch on a thoroughly good read. `Mean Tide' is story telling at it's finest, and if you like a good story, you must read this compelling book.

PS I only found two errors in this book which is probably less than the average - but I agree they do annoy

Dark Hill Dreams
Dark Hill Dreams
by Stephen O'Brien
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steven O'Brien's 'Dark Hill Dreams', 12 Nov. 2009
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This review is from: Dark Hill Dreams (Paperback)
When I read something like this, I wish that I was Irish, for, liking it as much as I do, I still feel that I must have missed a great deal. The reviewers state and overstate on the back cover, falling short of saying that O'brien poetry is somewhere between James Joyce and Dylan Thomas. But there is something strangely unique about 'Dark Hill Dreams', something beyond the musicality and story. There is a continuous questioning by a young boy finding the poverty and desolation of the world around him, and who can only find cartharsis by losing himself in those fabulously chosen words and their strange justapositions almost symbolic of the poet's journey. The axe cuts the wood very deep, and the biographical detail demonstrate the extent of deep feeling within this collection. The imagery is second to none; and belongs to someone who is a part of an elite of very few, managing as he does with seeming ease to look deeper than religion or culture or politics. What is left is very scary, but O'brien moves around this landscape with a knowledge that can only come from deep experience of it. Having read it at one sitting, I am in a fantastic mood: Unlike most things in life I CAN have my cake and eat it! I'm really looking forward to reading it again, and again, and again.
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Czech Army Officers Shoulder,Messenger Bag
Czech Army Officers Shoulder,Messenger Bag
Price: £14.47

2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Quality leather bag, 18 Oct. 2008
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This bag is made from quality leather (not planished so quite sturdy)Its very well balanced and there is a place for just about everything! This would be great for someone studying cartography, geography or generally any type of field study.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2011 9:42 AM GMT

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