Shop now Shop now Shop now See more Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now
Profile for Jeremy Walton > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Jeremy Walton
Top Reviewer Ranking: 497
Helpful Votes: 2208

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Hang the DJ: An alternative book of music lists
Hang the DJ: An alternative book of music lists
by Angus Cargill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Listomania, 10 Aug. 2016
A friend kindly passed this entertaining rag-bag of musical selections on after reading, guessing (correctly) that I'd enjoy it. Although only some of the writers (e.g. Nick Kent, Jon Savage and Simon Reynolds) were familiar to me, I found just about all their contributions fascinating. To describe the lists as eclectic and eccentric is something of an understatement: for example, besides things like "Compliation Tape Classics" (which you'd probably be expecting in a book of this kind), we have "Ten songs about chickens", "Ten great bands without full-time drummers" and "Ten check-shirted records", plus some categories which are far from mainstream - songs with the so-called "Dunedin Sound" of 1981-91, Japanese bands, songs under two minutes, etc. I found it an easy but stimulating read, which has inspired the tracking down of a few hitherto unfamiliar items - including Tom Waits' Blue Valentine and Barry Adamson's Moss Side Story. Recommended.


Under Western Eyes
Under Western Eyes
by Joseph Conrad
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.13

5.0 out of 5 stars Children of the revolution, 8 Aug. 2016
This review is from: Under Western Eyes (Paperback)
I picked this up to take on a trip to Poland last month, unable to think of any other Polish writers. Although it turns out that it's not set in Poland, and doesn't have any Polish characters, I found it an enjoyable and interesting read. Set in Geneva and St Petersburg, it's a story about individuals caught up in the political turmoil of pre-revolutionary Russia (to be strict, it was first published in 1911, after the failed revolution of 1905, but before the 1917 revolutions). An oppressive atmosphere of plot, betrayal and counterplot pervades, which - coupled with the failings of the characters and the misunderstandings which too much secrecy brings - veers into the almost comic at times (a central tenet of the story is the misidentification of a traitor as a hero). In that respect, it appears to be one of the inspirations for the pessimistic spy stories of Graham Greene or John le Carre; conversely, the author was apparently influenced by Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (superficially at least, his protagonist here has a name - Razumov - which might contain echoes of Dostoevsky's hero Raskolnikov).


Schindler's Ark
Schindler's Ark
by Thomas Keneally
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The man who saved the world, 8 Aug. 2016
This review is from: Schindler's Ark (Paperback)
I had this on my shelf for several years before taking it along to read on a trip to Kraków last month, belatedly recalling that elegant city as the setting for this novel (which is based on a true story). The eponymous Oskar Schindler was a German businessman who spying for the Nazis in Poland prior to its invasion by Germany in 1939. Shortly after that, he acquired an enamel factory (along with its workforce, about a thousand of whom were Jews) in Kraków as part of the German seizure of Jewish property and businesses. Schindler's story so far is depressingly undistinguishable from countless others, but becomes exceptional when he begins to work to protect his workers from extermination by the Nazis.

Besides discussing the lengths Schindler went to - including using his personal funds to bribe Nazi officials - this book describes in vivid detail the oppression of the Jews in Kraków (including their expulsion from the Kazimierz district to a ghetto across the river, and the ghetto's later clearance) and the inhuman cruelty of the Nazis. The latter is personified in Amon Goeth, the sadistic commandant of the Plaszów forced-labour camp outside Kraków to which the able-bodied inhabitants of the ghetto were deported (the remainder were sent to the Auschwitz death camp, or simply murdered on the spot). The story of how Schindler saved his workers from such horrors is unbelievably moving, but told in a straightforward fashion. This controlled style seldom falters, even when attempting to describe the incomprehensible nature of Auschwitz as "something more than a camp [...] even more than a wonder of organization, [where] the moral universe had not so much decayed [but] had been inverted, like some black hole, under the pressure of all the world's malice - a place where tribes and histories were sucked in and vaporized, and language flew inside out." [p316]

This book provides a remarkable reading experience, which for me was enhanced by being in the midst of its action. My edition contained a sketch map of Kraków which facilitated following in Schindler's footsteps from his apartment to Kazimierz, the ghetto and his factory (which has been turned into an excellent museum describing the Nazi occupation of Kraków). Like books such as Primo Levi's If This Is a Man, its subject is horrific, but demands our attention.


Trampled Under Foot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin
Trampled Under Foot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin
by Barney Hoskyns
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

4.0 out of 5 stars I can't stop talking about..., 18 July 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Barney Hoskyns adds to the steadily-growing mountain of Led Zeppelin books (which includes Hammer of the Gods and When Giants Walked the Earth, both of which I enjoyed reading) with an oral history. Assembled from interviews new and old with just about everyone who was involved with or worked for this monumental group (including its four members), it paints a detailed picture of its explosive rise at the beginning of the 1970s, its shuddering fall at that decade's end, and its gradual rehabilitation since - roughly - the start of the 1990s.

Although the author presents contributions from a variety of personalities without attempting to reconcile any contradictions, the picture that emerges of the members of the band is not uncritical, or even-handed. Indeed, this is signalled up front on p xx, where he cattily pays guitarist Jimmy Page the back-handed compliment of describing his hair as "so much better than the shoe-polish look he was sporting when I interviewed him in Covent Garden six years ago". The strong link between Page and the band's protective, unstable, violent manager is emphasised, whilst singer Robert Plant and bass-player John-Paul Jones are portrayed as comparatively level-headed characters (unlike drummer John Bonham, whose 1980 death brought the curtain down on the band).

The story of this much-loved band is is a well-tilled field, so novel insights are few (although p103's revelation that they'd originally considered asking Keith Emerson to play keyboards before John-Paul Jones said he'd fill that role too was a new one on me). Although a weighty tome, it's an enjoyable one, and it sent me back to the records - including their less-popular last two albums, which I'd never listened to all the way through before now. The ultimate importance of the music is memorably emphasised by the final comment by Page on p523:

"The music was never in fashion, in a way, and it was never *meant* to be in fashion. It was meant to be there, and it's still there, so that part of it is right and has triumphed. All the other things are relative to, "Oh, so-and-so did this in a hotel". But the bottom line of it is what the music is all about."


The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics)
The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics)
by Robert Graves
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

4.0 out of 5 stars How fares the empire, 6 July 2016
I took this along to read on a recent visit to southern France, having been vaguely aware that the Romans - and in particular Julius Caesar (who's the first of the eponymous Twelve Caesars described here) had colonised that region, along with the rest of Gaul. The Romans called this region Transalpine Gaul when it was one of their provinces; the Emperor Claudius (who's number five here) was born in Lyon.

This is a lively - in places, gossipy - account of the varied lives of the first twelve rulers of the Roman Empire, containing details about their political careers, characters, physical appearances and personal habits which brings these historical figures to life. Specific incidents are recounted in a memorable fashion; thus, for example, Julius Caesar was captured by pirates on his way to Rhodes and kept prisoner "to his intense annoyance" until the ransom was paid and he was set ashore; whereupon he raised a fleet, went after them and - as he had promised them he would whilst in their power - crucified them all.

This book is the origin for several well-known details which range from the historical to the apocryphal - including Caesar's "Et tu, Brute" on his assassination, Augustus beating his head upon a door after three of his Legions were massacred in the Teutoburg Forest, Caligula musing on promoting his horse to the rank of Consul, a terrified Claudius being pulled out from behind a curtain and proclaimed Emperor, Nero "fiddling while Rome burned", the Year of the Four Emperors which resulted in the transition from the Julio-Claudian to the Flavian dynasty, and Vespasian imposing a tax on urinals, resulting in the phrase "pecunia non olet" ("money doesn't stink").

Suetonius recounts the vices and depravities of most of his subjects, particularly Tiberius and Caligula (doubtless reflecting his personal opinion and bias - for example, his father had fought in the army against Vitellius), with the exception of Vespasian, who is described - perhaps for reasons of expediency - in a favourable light.

I enjoyed reading this book, although occasionally got lost within the forest of names and places (my edition - published in 1957 - contains only gnomic footnotes; more commentary would perhaps have been helpful) . The ever-changing fortunes and proclivities of rulers is still of relevance to our world - in fact, more than ever, in our present unsettled times. As other reviewers have noted, Robert Graves's translation is lucid and readable, and was perhaps the inspiration for his excellent historical novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God, which were later made into the vastly popular BBC TV series in 1976.


Not Quite Nice
Not Quite Nice
by Celia Imrie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not really nice at all, 8 Jun. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Not Quite Nice (Paperback)
I bought this for my wife (who - like me - greatly enjoys the author's acting) to take along on a trip to France last week; although she said she hadn't liked it, I picked it up when I'd run out of books to read. My suspicions that I'd end up sharing her opinion were first aroused on p4 when I came across this sentence:

"As in most of the beauty spots on the earth, there were, dotted among the native inhabitants, a gaggle of Brits, people who, for one reason or another, kept a second home here or, in many cases, particularly of the older generation, had chosen to move, lock, stock and barrel to this magnificent village to retire in the sun."

Pointing out the sloppy construction (signalled by the superabundance of commas) here could be viewed as nit-picking, but I found it an uncomfortable early reminder that writing isn't the skill that the author is best-known for. Which isn't necessarily a criticism: most of us, of course, aren't good at anything at all, whilst a select few are good in just one field. It's a rarity to find someone who's skilled in two areas - so unusual, in fact, that the French have a name for it: violon d'Ingres, from the story that the painter preferred to play his violin for visitors instead of showing them his pictures.

So it's not surprising - but still disappointing - to find that this book is poorly written and badly plotted, with implausible characters (even though there aren't many of them, I found it hard to keep track of who was who, which doesn't make it easy to care about them). In addition - as if any more criticism was necessary - I didn't like the way the author referred to the main character's grandchildren as "little bastards" on pp6,7. To be sure, they're badly behaved and rude (although even this characterization is quickly shed later in the book), but it's a woeful mistake to think that the application of such an epithet would arouse the reader's sympathy.


Flaubert's Parrot
Flaubert's Parrot
by Julian Barnes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real macaw, 8 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
I first read this novel shortly after its publication in the mid-80s, and picked it up to take along on a trip to France last week. It's a clever, allusive tale, in which the narrator - a retired, widowed English doctor who's an amateur expert on Flaubert - describes his quest to discover a stuffed parrot which was the inspiration for one of Flaubert's short stories. Along the way, he discusses Flaubert's life and relationships, casually displaying a extraordinary level of knowledge and erudition. For example, he severely takes Enid Starkie (Oxford academic and author of Flaubert: The Making of the Master, which appears to be a substantial scholarly work on the author) to task for a remark she made about the colour of the heroine's eyes in Madame Bovary, but uses that as a starting point for a meditation on the relationship between the reader and the author, and - which might be of more significance for the narrator - between a husband and wife.

The way in which we learn more about this aspect of his life is an excellent demonstration of the difficulties encountered in any attempts to determine "what really happened" in stories (on p14, he compares trying to comprehend the past to catching hold of a greased piglet as it runs between our legs). A stimulating, engaging book, which I strongly recommend to other readers.


A Year in Provence
A Year in Provence
by Peter Mayle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good enough to eat, 7 Jun. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Year in Provence (Paperback)
This title kept coming up while I was searching for books to take on a trip to Provence last week: I remembered it being a best-seller in the late 80s, but hadn't read it until now. It's an enjoyable account of how the author and his wife built a new life as British expatriates in Ménerbes, a village in the eponymous region of France. The author has an easy, unforced style which is well-suited to his descriptions of the people, landscape and (especially) food. Take, for example, this mouth-watering description of lunch at a little restaurant in the hills [p89]:

"We counted fourteen separate hors d'oeuvres - artichoke hearts, tiny sardines fried in batter, perfumed tabouleh, creamed salt cod, marinated mushrooms, baby calamari, tapenade, small onions in a fresh tomato sauce, celery and chick peas, radishes and cherry tomatoes, cold mussels. Balanced on the top of the loaded tray were thick slices of pâté and gherkins, saucers of olives and cold peppers. The bread had a fine crisp crust. There was white wine in the ice bucket, and a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape left to breathe in the shade."

Elsewhere, a snow-covered February landscape is described as being "so still that [...] you could have heard a mouse fart" [p22], a memorable and exact image. I greatly enjoyed being transported to Provence by this book (even though I was already there); any readers who weren't originally thinking of visiting that interesting part of the world may find themselves changing their minds before the end.


Caesar's Vast Ghost: Aspects of Provence
Caesar's Vast Ghost: Aspects of Provence
by Lawrence Durrell
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some sparks of inspiration, but disappointing overall, 7 Jun. 2016
I found this whilst searching for books to take on a trip to Provence last week and, having enjoyed Durrell's Sicilian Carousel on a visit to that island last year, decided to give it a go. It contains some interesting details for the curious traveller such as the difference between bullfighting in Spain and in Provence, bravura historical narrative (including a gripping account of how the Roman general Marius defeated the Teutones and Ambrones at the battle of Aquae Sextiae [i.e. Aix-en-Provence]) and illuminating descriptive passages like this [p1]:

"Swerving down those long dusty roads among the olive groves, down the shivering galleries of green leaf I came, driving from penumbra to penumbra of shadow, feeling that icy contrast of sunblaze and darkness under the ruffling planes, plunging like a river trout in rapids from one pool of shadows to the next, the shadows almost icy in comparison with the outer sunshine and hard metalled blue sky."

However, I found that I was becoming impatient with the author's discursive style, as he wandered across topics such as the relationship between Christianity and the Roman religion it came to supplant, the sexual orientation of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, and a final lengthy passage about a latex doll called Cunegonde ("the last pupil of the philosopher Demonax"), which I found peculiarly offensive (of course, it could be that the author was scaling peaks of erudition and allusion which I could not follow). I also found his poems (e.g. "Old men cry easily and wet their beds, / Incontinent in their dying as crowned heads / Death's keyhole they confront like newly weds." [p134]) hard to appreciate.

This book was published in 1990, the year of Durrell's death. I'd like to read more of him, but will proceed more cautiously now.


Napoleon
Napoleon
by Vincent Cronin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A man's world, 27 May 2016
This review is from: Napoleon (Paperback)
I recently picked this up at a church fete prior to a trip to France next week, realizing I had only a hazy idea of who Napoleon was, and what he'd done. My memory had been jogged by his appearance in the recent TV adaption of War & Peace; just about the only thing I've retained from reading the book many years ago is the scene where he's presented with a painting of his son, The King Of Rome, prior to the Battle of Borodino.

This is a book which focusses on the man: his origins, family, personality and relationships. This explicitly personal touch extends into the accounts of the world-changing events which he was initially caught up in, and quickly came to control and fashion: the French Revolution, the subsequent war, the attempts to bring liberal reforms to Europe and the construction of the French Empire. Here, for example, is how the author describes the Ulm campaign and the Battle of Austerlitz [p316]:

"In less than a month Napoleon marched [his army] 400 miles across France, over the Rhine and into Bavaria. There, in a fourteen-day campaign, he completely defeated an Austrian army under General Mack, capturing 49,000 prisoners. With another burst of speed, he raced a further 350 miles east, occupied the Austrian capital, and at Austerlitz [...] cut the Austro-Russian army in two. With a force half the size of theirs, Napoleon killed, wounded or captured 27,000 men and seized 180 guns, himself losing only 8,000 men."

It sounds like a busy month for any 36-year old man. This emphasis on Napoleon's personal qualities strongly suggests that none of these momentous events would have taken place without him, and that he truly changed the world that millions of people were living in. There's also room in the story for touching glimpses into his private life: thus, while he was engaged in his final military campaign against (what turned out to be) overwhelming odds in 1814, his wife "too had her victories to report: The King of Rome 'has told me to tell you that he's eaten up all his spinach - there's a staggering piece of news for you!'" [p446].

I greatly enjoyed the author's The Golden Honeycomb last year, and this book is just as well-written. It's been criticized (by those who know more about history than I) as being too sympathetic to its subject, giving him the benefit of the doubt in every controversial matter. Leaving that aside, I greatly enjoyed reading it as a well-rounded, always fascinating portrait of an extraordinary man, and would strongly recommend it to other readers.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20