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Peter D

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The Loney: 'The Book of the Year 2016'
The Loney: 'The Book of the Year 2016'
by Andrew Michael Hurley
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Sense of Place, But...., 21 Feb. 2016
Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2015, 'The Loney' takes its title from the place where most of its story is set- the bleak (apparently) stretch of coastline between the mouths of the Rivers Lune and Wyle in Lancashire. (I say 'apparently' because I have never actually been there.) And the sense of place conveyed by the novel is probably the best thing about it. There is a real sense of remoteness and menace in Hurley's descriptions of the shifting sands, unpredictable tides and dangerous marshes- and of the brooding houses precariously located in this odd spot. Unfortunately, this sense of menace is not conveyed by the plot, or by Hurley's characterisations. The basic idea is that a mute boy, Hanny, is brought by his fervently religious parents to this place in the hope that taking waters from the shrine here will somehow cure him. In fact, Hanny and his brother (the novel's narrator) encounter an unsavoury bunch of characters who eventually furnish the circumstances for Hanny's redemption. (I won't say how, as this would be a spoiler.) But the mechanics of this, and the underlying world view (sorry, a bit pompous) are riddled with flaws. I remember reading an interview with Hurley in which he remarks that when he'd finished 'The Loney', he wasn't quite sure what he'd actually written. Neither am I- there's not enough horror in this to be a horror story, nor enough thrills for it to be a thriller. And yet, there's also not enough style, character, psychological accuity or whatever to make it a good piece of literature, either. Disappointing.


Belles and Whistles: Journeys Through Time on Britain's Trains
Belles and Whistles: Journeys Through Time on Britain's Trains
by Andrew Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book has been subject to absolutely terrible proof reading, 10 Oct. 2015
This book has been subject to absolutely terrible proof reading. That is really why I am writing this review. The publishers should be ashamed that they are allowing work to be distributed in this shoddy way. I guess the author needs to take some responsibility as well. (And in the past I have been a bit of an Andrew Martin fan.) I remember a time when it was super- unusual to find any kind of proof reading error in books; now many of them appear to be presented in quite slipshod ways. It's a sign of the times, perhaps. But this is by far the worst, in terms of proof reading, that I have come across for ages. That said, the book itself is a wryly humorous gallop through British railway and social history, using the device of five contemporary journeys by icnonic services to drive the narrative along. But like other reviewers, I think that it is possibly too 'railway- light' for the serious enthusiast; and too full of rail facts for the general reader.


An Officer and a Spy
An Officer and a Spy
by Robert Harris
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Man in Dangerous Freefall...., 24 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: An Officer and a Spy (Hardcover)
I know about the Dreyfus Affair, in the sense (from 'O' Level History) that I know there was a Dreyfus Affair. But until I read this novelistic reimagining of the case, I had not realised its truly shocking nature or its incredibly divisive effect on France at the end of the 19th century. Narrated by Georges Picquart, the intelligence chief who first casts doubt on the conviction of the supposed spy Alfred Dreyfus, this is a gripping and thrilling story. It is also a very well- realised account of a man (Picquart) in dangerous freefall, at the mercy of a corrupt institution (the army) and a malevolent state.


The Greatcoat (Hammer)
The Greatcoat (Hammer)
by Helen Dunmore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Sparely written and atmospheric ghost story, 8 Dec. 2013
This review is from: The Greatcoat (Hammer) (Paperback)
I started to read this book partly because of its setting; a Yorkshire East Riding minster town surrounded by rich, flat farmland and within striking distance of disused World War Two RAF airfields. It reminded me of Beverley and the countryside around, which was near where ages ago I used to live. But setting and landscape in the end formed only one element of a complex, chilling ghost story in which a young married woman in post- war England is trapped in a an adulterous love affair involving the pilot of a doomed Lancaster bomber. Sparely written and atmospheric.


Rogue Male
Rogue Male
by Geoffrey Household
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Twenty- Something Years On, A Re- Read for this Classic Ripping Yarn, 30 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Rogue Male (Paperback)
I first read 'Rogue Male' twenty- four years ago, in 1989, and remember it as a ripping yarn in the mould of 'The Thirty- Nine Steps' and 'The Riddle of the Sands'. It is still that- upper class Englishman attempts to assassinate Central European dictator (presumably Hitler) and is pursued by vengeful secret Agent Quive- Smith back to England where a cat- and- mouse game is played out in deepest Dorset- and is deservedly a classic 'flight and pursuit' thriller. The language manages to be both precise and rollicking at the same time, which is quite a feat, even if rather dated in style. (The novel was first published in 1939.) This time round, I noticed rather more its prejudices and judgments related to class and politics and- it has to be said- nefarious foreigners. (The unnamed hero- narrator's remarks about Muller, Quive- Smith's stolid Swiss accomplice, are utterly damning, for example.) Is it a sign of my age, or of the changed times since 1989 (or both) that all these kinds of things occur to me more now?


A Man Without Breath: Bernie Gunther Thriller 9 (Bernie Gunther Mystery)
A Man Without Breath: Bernie Gunther Thriller 9 (Bernie Gunther Mystery)
Price: £4.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is this series flagging?, 24 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the ninth Bernie Gunther mystery (the Berlin cop- turned private eye- now very reluctantly turned SS captain) and I can't help wonder whether this series is flagging. This time round, Gunther is involved in nefarious goings- on against the background of the discovery of the Katyn Forest massacre by the Soviets of Polish army officers. The casual danger and depression of the unwinnable (for the Nazis) Eastern Front is quite well done, but the book seemed to me overlong, the plot at times rather dodgy and the ending (the sudden appearance as if by magic of Abwehr chief Admiral Canaris to save Gunther from near- certain execution) slightly ludicrous. There is not really evidence here of the freshness and tightness of earlier books in the series, like 'March Violets' and 'The Pale Criminal'.


Tintin: Hergé and His Creation
Tintin: Hergé and His Creation
by Harry Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Adventures of Tintin and the Turmoil of Herge, 2 Nov. 2013
I have read a few of the Tintin books and am generally interested by the idea of the European Bande Dessinee (of which, according to Harry Thompson, Herge is the father). Having said that, this is possibly a book more suited to people with a heavier interest in the young Belgian adventurer than I have. Nevertheless, this is an interesting read that fluently connects Tintin's escapades with the life of Herge (Georges Remi). At least parts of the latter's existence were passed in deep inner turmoil, which to some extent manifested itself in the books and in Herge's love- hate relationship with the character that made him extremely rich and very famous. (Apparently, 'Tintin in Tibet' was inspired by dreams of white snowy wastes at a particularly low point for the writer.)


Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story
Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story
by Mat Johnson
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Clever, hard- hitting morality tale, 27 Oct. 2013
Dabny Arceneaux and Emmit Jack, wounded by life, meet in a bail hostel in Houston, Texas and plan to rob the corrupt Banque de Congo Square in New Orleans, just as Hurricane Katrina is hitting the city. But as well as battling with Katrina, they have to pit their wits against Colonel Driggs and his Dark Rain mercenary- security force, who have also set their sights on the bank. A comic book morality tale with a strong story, some great drawings and believable, hard- hitting dialogue.


Chasing the King of Hearts
Chasing the King of Hearts
by Hanna Krall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.39

4.0 out of 5 stars The Holocaust on Speed, 12 Oct. 2013
A young Jewish woman seeks her missing husband in the chaos and brutality of Poland during the World War Two German occupation. This is a strange book; an account of persecution and the holocaust as if by someone on mind- altering drugs ('Clouds pass under the light, filling themselves with gold and violet, and float down towards the earth. She'd never seen the sun rise more beautifully than it did at Auschwitz....', P102). At first I found the style and effect hard to understand, until it occurred to me that maybe these horrors did seem to those experiencing them like some astonishing, dreadful hallucination.


Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
by Artemis Cooper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced portrait of a charmed life, 6 Oct. 2013
Leigh Fermor, often billed as 'the greatest travel writer of the 20th century', seems to have led a charmed life: war hero, feted writer, inexhaustible traveller. But Artemis Cooper's biography balances all this, to some extent, with a slightly darker side; his depression, his difficult family relationships and the final sadness of being 'blocked' and not properly completing the account of his youthful 1930s journey on foot from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, most of which was so brilliantly recalled in 'A Time of Gifts' and 'Between the Woods and the Water'. Despite this balancing, though, there were lots of things that still appeared as hidden, such as: exactly how did PLF develop as a writer (he seems always to have been busy with lots of other things)?; and how, from a relatively modest background, did he end up cavorting with the very upper class of post- war Britain?


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