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Reviews Written by
D. M. Purkiss "Diane" (Oxford, England)
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The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History
The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History
by Gary W. Gallagher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Too partisan to convince, 8 Sept. 2017
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I had high hopes for this book; I wanted to understand why many were so keen to pull down statues of Lee and others in what had once been Confederate states. Alas, for me this book was as partisan and onesided as those it set out to debunk. For instance, the chapter on The Anatomy of the Cause was very short on evidence and very, very long on assertion, Some of what it asserted was, frankly, unnunanced. Yes, the desertion rate in the CSA armies was high, but Nolan fails to note the likely reason, which was that the South's agrarian economy meant 'plough furloughs', for instance, and while we are told the war was caused by the South's commitment to keeping slavery, we are asked to take this on trust. The section on Robertson's biography of Jackson is especially embarrassing; Nolan seems not to understand that Robertson is not saying that Jackson was a saint, but that he was a religious fanatic. The sections on popular culture are the very worst; Nolan seems not to have read Gone With The Wind, but takes his citations from the film. The book is actually much more explicit about the Klan than the film; however, both Mitchell, a Catholic, and Selznick, who was Jewish, are equivocal about the Klan, and Mitchell portrays Ashley and Rhett dismantling it with great approval. Not all the freed slaves are portrayed as bad; indeed one of them actually rescues Scarlett from rape, and the book's only real rape is the marital rape it uncomfortably portrays. This is not to deny that GWTW a shockingly racist book - no sane person would deny that. It is however to say that it's actually more subtle than Nolan will allow, and the same can be said of Gods and Generals, which shows Jackson actively advocating the Black Code of killing those who surrender on more than one occasion. The chapter on Lee can't hold a candle to Pryor's powerful and sophisticated study. The chapter on Longstreet was an ominshambles; since few now think that Gettysburg was critical, can we not admit that Longstreet failed as well as Lee? The most interesting chapters were those on who had influenced the growth of the myth, especially the one on the Pickett family, but on the whole this book made me think that the American antiSouthern movement is now as hotheaded and almost as irrational as the purveyors of the myth of the Old South..


Shakespeare's Gardens
Shakespeare's Gardens
by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty but empty, 17 Aug. 2017
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This review is from: Shakespeare's Gardens (Hardcover)
Super pretty, But actually all the gardens are grotesquely anachronistic, and the text makes little reference to Shakespeare's work or to his botanical knowledge.


Spectred Isle (Green Men)
Spectred Isle (Green Men)
Price: £2.36

5.0 out of 5 stars A sense of the past, 16 Aug. 2017
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Some better-known writers of historical fiction could take lessons from KJ Charles; it's not only that her research is meticulous, it's that she is able to translate that sense of period into her characterisation and plot, so that the people are believable as members of a particular society. I am a fusspot about social history and spotted one very minute blemish - Oxford didn't give many doctorates in 1920, and dons despised research degrees in general - but mostly this is pretty dazzling stuff. And the premise is terrific. Most importantly, Charles can write a good clear elegant sentence, without undue adverbs or tricksy showings-off. I look forward to more.


The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom
The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom
by Gabriele Kuby
Edition: Paperback

1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the choir, 20 Feb. 2017
If you don't already agree, this won't change your mind. Rather than presenting an argument against the gender theories it pretends to discuss, it contents itself with misrepresenting them and then imagining the already catholic reader gasping in horror. The repetition of one particular mistake - that everyone can CHOOSE a gender - is particularly annoying. I was oping for proper analysis and discussion, and instead what I got was almost laughably poorly informed - there was PLENTY of pornography from the seventeenth century, for instance, and also a lot of cross dressing - and also barely reasoned. When was this great moment before 1968 when everyone was happy in marriages? Surely not the moment when MALE psychologists were stressing about Momism weakening the US military or pressuring men into careers? I've also heard the author lecture on YouTube - wanted to give her a chance - but if you are looking for a sound ARGUMENT try elsewhere.


Rent Boys: A History from Ancient Times to the Present
Rent Boys: A History from Ancient Times to the Present
by Michael Hone
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.91

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 28 Dec. 2016
Though well intentioned and rather gallant, I am afraid this was disappointing. It's clearly self-published, and the text boasts many mistakes - grammatical errors, spelling errors - but the main issue is that this isn't really about rentboys at all; it's a long and very poorly resourced ramble through who might have been gay in the whole of the past. Assertions are made with absolutely no evidence adduced to support them - for instance, Errol Flynn must have had lots of sex with men because he was gorgeous.. I'm very willing to see Flynn as bi, but this isn't evidence, and it doesn't make him a rent boy either. There's zero sense of historical or cultural difference; it may be that Hone is of those who see gayness as an historical constant, but it can hardly be the case that the law had no impact on how people experienced their sexuality. Plus, it was horrible about Byron; Hone seems not to have bothered to read any of his poetry, lamely saying nobody does now after some mean fatshaming. Very poor all round.


Tender Morsels
Tender Morsels
by Margo Lanagan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not entirely satisfying, 11 Aug. 2016
This review is from: Tender Morsels (Paperback)
On one hand I can see why people loved this, but on the other I didn't love it quite as much as I expected to. The violence at the beginning is really really disconcerting, but what I found most difficult was the middle, where the plot seemed to go away and hide while the characters got on with it. what I liked even less was what I read as the sententiousness. It was like a resilience training seminar. The message was so very clear and characters kept coming in and telling one another that it was; reality, eh? MUCH better than your silly safe space, because that means you just aren't grappling with life. Interestingly, the main character doesn't appear to gain anything except survival. I get that the author was trying to tell us that reality is like that, and also trying to make the happy ending less smug, but it added to my unease. Yet there was much to delight; some strong enchantresses, some wonderful writing, and the nicest and most interesting bear since Jorek.


Respectable: The Experience of Class
Respectable: The Experience of Class
by Lynsey Hanley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What then must we do?, 11 Aug. 2016
What does the writer want? I was left completely unsure. I understood and empathised with her description of the low expectations meted out to her school class by their teachers, and also by one another, and of course most people who become more educated than their parents feel some guilt and unease, and are often made to feel it by those same parents. Yes, ok. But what's the answer? Since becoming middle class makes her miserable - though if being middle class means being confident and articulate and well-fed, it's a weird definition of misery - then is she saying the teachers were right to be repressive, though they should have put their repressiveness less dismissively? Obviously, the Cambridge interview was a disaster, though I'd like to think a disaster from the past, but doesn't she feel at all happy to have done so well, to have gone to a really good uni, to be a writer? Should educators reach out to estates, or should we pretend they don't exist so we don't create awkward class dislocations? I'm confused.


Salter Contour Electronic Timer
Salter Contour Electronic Timer
Price: £9.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of money, 23 May 2016
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Don't buy this. The buttons became impossible to use after just a week, requiring a huge effort to depress them and then spinning out of control. A waste of money. I note that this also has bad reviews at Lakeland.


On Silbury Hill (Little Toller Monographs)
On Silbury Hill (Little Toller Monographs)
by Adam Thorpe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.79

4.0 out of 5 stars I did enjoy this, though I was much more interested in ..., 23 May 2016
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I did enjoy this, though I was much more interested in the area than I was in the writer, and they way he kept popping up to talk about his dislike of roads, his awkward chats with neopagans, and his own previous books didn't compel. I understand that he was trying to be Helen Macdonald, but it didn't quite work; in the end I thought he was mostly interested in Silbury HIll because of its role in his life rather than in and of itself. That said, there is plenty to enjoy here int he way of observations, research and ideas, and the writing is beautiful.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2016 2:13 PM BST


The Poems of Catullus (Collins Classics)
The Poems of Catullus (Collins Classics)
by Daisy Dunn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 11 April 2016
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Literal, solid translations, but with absolutely NO notes, which is a scandal.


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