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Miss R. Hughes (Cheshire, England)

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Mark Antony and Popular Culture: Masculinity and the Construction of an Icon (International Library of Cultural Studies)
Mark Antony and Popular Culture: Masculinity and the Construction of an Icon (International Library of Cultural Studies)
by Rachael Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £56.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather grand and lofty position on Mark Antony, 5 Feb. 2015
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The subject of Mark Antony is one that seems to fascinate many of us, and for my part, I have been captivated since being introduced to the character in school Shakespeare lessons. A lack of attention to ancient history meant I have been forced for the most part to do my own research.

This book, as part of an interest now in its second decade (am I really so old?) is certainly worth a read. Kelly does not merely mention the better known aspects of Antony's life but considers at length why post-Cleopatra is the Antony most of us are familiar with, when the hundred-mile-an-hour youth; talented military figure and Caesar's second in command are skimmed over. Attention given to the absence of Curio and Fulvia in most media representations (the second chapter) is certainly interesting.

What pulls this book down to three stars is the lack of readability. As an English literature graduate and teacher, I don't consider myself to be particularly sparse in vocabulary knowledge but just the same, I felt as if I had to reach for a dictionary on every other word! The lofty ideals of the book actually detract from the fluidity of the prose: it becomes awkward and dense to read. This is a pity as it means the text can't eagerly be devoured but read a little at a time, which took away some of the anticipation and enjoyment.


The Talented Mr Ripley: A Virago Modern Classic (Ripley Series Book 1)
The Talented Mr Ripley: A Virago Modern Classic (Ripley Series Book 1)
Price: £6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious, haunting and tremendously entertaining, 4 May 2014
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Unlike most of my reading, I came to The Talented Mr Ripley through the film version starring Matt Damon: having enjoyed the film, I wanted to read the book. I am certainly glad I did.

Tom Ripley is by no means a likeable character, yet he is a character who intrigues the reader and evokes sympathy. Whilst I am wary of making too many comparisons between screen and page, one clear advantage the book has is that it permits a delve into characters minds, feelings and motives that cannot be evoked on screen. Perhaps this books charm lies in the fantasy of an assumed identity and alias.

Highsmith writes skilfully and clearly, telling the reader of Tom's actions and how these relate to a particular character or persona he tries to emulate. We have the sense however that these actions are subconscious rather than artfully thought out and implicit in his thoughts rather than explicit. This leads, largely to our sympathy for him: it is evident that he is a young man hugely uncomfortable in who and what he is.

Unlike many novels, this is certainly led by both character and plot and it is fair to say that as the plot reaches its climax, the character development stalls somewhat: this is ultimately what prevented the novel having five stars. The fast pace means that a series of events happen - exciting and thrilling events, but we lose something of "the talented Mr Ripley" as a result. Nonetheless, the novel is worth reading and I look forward to familiarising myself with its sequels.


Red Sky at Night: An Anthology of British Socialist Poetry
Red Sky at Night: An Anthology of British Socialist Poetry
by Andy Croft
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The seedy and the dirty and the depressed, 3 May 2014
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In keeping with a previous reviewer, this collection of poetry is by no means merely socialist in nature but rather exposes the underbelly of our world, both past and present. From a bitter complaint by D.H. Lawrence in 'Fight! O You Young Men' to Carol Duffy's sardonic look at comprehensive education to the ironic Glasgow Sonnet, where the poet describes the cold and mean streets of Scotland's largest city, this collection is thought-provoking as well as undeniably, if horribly, intriguing.


The Bookshop That Floated Away
The Bookshop That Floated Away
by Sarah Henshaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime and lovely, 3 May 2014
As fluid and clear as the water upon which it sales, the writing of this book is gently witty, touching and, quite literally, "sails" its readers into its world.

This is a book which reads like a modern fairy-tale, yet is never whimsical or clichéd. It is not just a recount of a bookshop but a book that challenges us all to consider our dreams and to wonder what would happen if we followed them. Set against a backdrop of waterways, the book allows us to see rural England from the viewpoint of its waterways: we see the reality of following dreams and also, first-hand, the problems and the issues these present.

This is truly a lovely book and is warmly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2016 7:30 PM GMT


The Safest Place
The Safest Place
by Suzanne Bugler
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sinister, albeit slow, read, 30 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Safest Place (Paperback)
I have been a fan of Suzanne Bugler's since reading and being impressed by This Perfect World, and found this novel to share similar themes of outward contentment yet inner resentment, of the dark tone female friendships can take.

Like 'This Perfect World', there is irony in the title of the novel: the safest place proves, ultimately to be anything but. The novel is certainly character rather than plot driven, as the plot in itself is so straightforward as to risk being slightly dull: Jane Berry makes the decision to move her family - husband David and children Sam and Ella - from London to a rural location. Unsurprisingly, things begin blissfully but slowly disintegrate: the novel's climax then causes Jane to reconsider.

This is certainly an enjoyable read: the lack of complexity of the plot and the relatively slow pace of any action mean the reader is at liberty to consider the characters, which seems to be the author's intent. Like a previous reviewer, I also smiled at the names of the children - "Sam and Ella" is, however, as far as I can see, a deliberate and conscious choice on the part of Bugler. By having Jane christen her children names which are perfectly innocuous individually but together sound ridiculous at best (like a deadly virus at worst!) we are given important clues about Jane's character. Jane Berry is not a woman who thinks at length or considers the impact of her actions, on herself or on others, with regard to the naming of children or the moving of a family. I did find Jane's attitude so unreasonable as to be unrealistic at several points in the novel which is part of the reason I awarded the book four stars. However, Jane's self-awareness is skilfully managed - her (admittedly slow) realisation in the part she played in some of the events is very well written.

The novel is able to simultaneously have the reader want to shake Jane for her foolishness, yet also understand and to a degree sympathise with how this foolishness came about and is as such very well written and certainly worth reading.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2014 10:54 AM GMT


The House We Grew Up In
The House We Grew Up In
by Lisa Jewell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing subject yet poignantly delivered, 30 Nov. 2013
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It seems strange to describe a novel dealing with suicide, compulsive hoarding (true "Gothic horror", according to one of the main character)and the breakdown of family relationships as a truly lovely book, but I did find it so. In the months since purchasing it I've already returned to read it several times - the measure for me as to how effective I find a novel is the extent to which I return to read it, and the extent to which the characters stay in, and become real, in my mind. 'The House We Grew Up In' fits both categories.

Even before reading it, I had a hunch I might enjoy it based on the title and indeed it is very much a book about the house and the lasting impact the house has on the family who lived there. Told in third-person narrative, the novel jumps from the 80s/90s/00s to 2011 and the death of Lorelei, when the true state of the house is revealed to her eldest daughter and granddaughter. The story - of Lorelei, her husband, four children and a next door neighbour who becomes in turn Lorelei's lover - is thus slowly revealed. The different directions these take and the way the strands are carefully kept separate yet intertwined, is skilfully managed by the writer: despite at least four on-going stories at no point does the novel become disjointed or complicated. Rather, the actual stories themselves are straightforward enough. What is truly complex about the novel is the characterisation: the author does not attempt to present simple solutions or reasons for Lorelei's behaviour, or for any other character. Rather, the reader is left to make up their own mind about these. Lorelei's hoarding, at the heart of the story, is of course a hugely complex story and the author does not attempt to address it with clear-cut, simple answers. We are shown a condition that arises from a myriad of potential triggers: some noted in the novel and others, we suspect, not. Perhaps the real beauty of this novel is that like ourselves we find some answers and some further questions, some sense of closure and some sense of points still unanswered. Either way, these points make the novel a fascinating one.

I felt I had to give the novel five stars due to my own enjoyment of it: from a more detached viewpoint, it is certainly possible to 'pick holes' as it were, in the plot: there are a few sub-plots which do not hugely add to the story in any real sense (Vicky and her daughters, perhaps: I felt the novel would have worked just as well without them!) and in turn this would have allowed more space to focus on Lorelei's three surviving children more equally, rather than a disproportionate amount of time spent on Megan, Lorelei's eldest, and meaning that Beth and Rory's stories and therefore characters were skimmed over a little: a pity, as much could have been made of their stories. I also felt Colin, Lorelei's husband, was underused in the novel. However, these are minor points in the scheme of things and do not deflect in any way from the sense of satisfaction one gets at the end of this book - a sense of happiness and happy endings without being in any way sentimental.

On a lighter note, the novel certainly encourages one to rid one's own home of clutter - the local British Heart Foundation did very well out of me following my completion of this book!


What Have I Done? (No Greater Love Book 2)
What Have I Done? (No Greater Love Book 2)
Price: £4.07

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lack of credibility lets it down, 8 Oct. 2013
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The issue with this novel, as mentioned by others, is its lack of credibility, both in the sense of events leaving the reader knowing that they simply "would not happen" and in the sense of characters and how they behave and act with and to one another.

The contrast between reality and appearance is a much-addressed theme in fiction, and Prowse attempts to address this here with a seemingly perfect marriage in fact being highly abusive, both physically and mentally. Told through a series of flashbacks, the graphic detail of some of the abusiveness is unpleasant and upsetting to read. The novel's third person narrative however does mean there is an emphasis on what is done rather than how the character feels. As a result, Kathryn, the main character, risks being flat and one-dimensional. This (I assume) was to highlight her bravery and courage but does mean she appears something of a martyr and, to the guilt of the reader, gets on one's nerves fairly easily.

The novel opens with a 999 emergency call where Kathryn explains to the operator that she has murdered her husband: an interview with the police follows. These initial chapters are perhaps the worst of the novel and possibly account for a number of people stating they did not get very far into it. Kathryn treats the matter lightly, changing the subject, adding several non-sequiters into both the phone call and the interview. It is unclear why Prowse uses this technique: perhaps to clearly show Kathryn's lack of remorse for murdering her husband or to diffuse the shocking event with humour, but this is largely ineffectual and moves reader sympathy away from, rather than towards, Kathryn.

The novel does improve in terms of its storyline, but character development is patchy and very drab. It is a pity, as such serious incidents as domestic violence and abuse need to be approached, but approached with sensitivity and realism. In Kathryn, we have a heroine so calm and unflinching as to be rather dull, as well as unrealistic. In trying to write a novel about domestic abuse, Prowse has tried too hard to offset 'good' against 'evil' and the meek and gentle against the tyrannical and abusive. Such clichés rarely work beyond pantomime villains and Disney princesses: novels dealing with a matter this serious need to take the complexity of human nature into account before a novel can be remotely realistic.


Weirdo
Weirdo
by Cathi Unsworth
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and fast-paced read, 13 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Weirdo (Paperback)
This was a novel with an interesting subject matter, which held my attention from the start. The synposis is both simple and complicated: Corrine Woodrow was convicted of a murder in the 1980s, but recent DNA evidence has thrown this into question. Interestingly, the novel begins on the assumption that rather than being innocent, Corrine was acting in conjunction with somebody else.

One of the really interesting aspects to this novel is that the victim of the murder is not revealed until the end of the novel - however, this almost seemed an irrelevance (when I was reading it anyway!) as I found myself very keen to put together all the pieces of the jigsaw, which generally happens to me when I read good crime novels!

A couple of the 1980s references seemed a tiny bit forced, but I was a little girl in the 80s and so it's hard to say, but the descriptions of the ra-ra skirts, Michael Jackson/Madonna music and perms seemed just slightly contrived, as if in trying to remind us we were in the 80s a cliche was risked, but that's such a minor point it doesn't seem worth losing a star over. In any case, it helped 'remember' which decade we were in.

A really enjoyable read - I haven't read any novels by Cathi Unsworth before but I'll eagerly look out for some more on here.


The Perfect Mother
The Perfect Mother
by Margaret Leroy
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting subject matter, 23 Feb. 2011
This review is from: The Perfect Mother (Paperback)
I really did enjoy this book a lot. Written in first person and narrated very simply, it is the story of Catriona and her treatment by the authorities as she persists in trying to get medical treatment for her eight year old daughter.

It was a very enjoyable read but I found the main character frustrating and found myself sympathising with the authorities on a number of occasions when she just wouldn't co-operate! Probably not the point of the novel! It is suggested to Catriona early on that her daughter's illness "may" be psychological in its basis and her reaction is hostile and aggressive which then leads to questions being asked as to whether she actually has her daughter's best interests at heart. I don't think I ever really sympathised with the main character as there was a large element of "you brought it on yourself" towards the hearing. Although never stated explicitly, I think Catronia's intellect (certainly her education) was not very advanced which contributed towards the differing attitudes she and Richard had towards medical authorities. It would have been interesting had this been explored in more detail. A great read, on the whole.


Incendiary
Incendiary
by Chris Cleave
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.04

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cold, alien main character, 16 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Incendiary (Paperback)
I bought and read this book after seeing someone else engrossed in it during a long train journey between Warrington and Glasgow and was intrigued by the promises it made on the back of the book. While others seem to find the story interesting and realistic this wasn't the case for me and I simply couldn't identify in any way with the lead female character. She doesn't insprire any sympathy or real emotion which is a pity as the book seemed to promise that the story would be about motherhood and its love and guilt when in fact "her boy" seemed to be a mere accessory to her life. To be honest, the main character's primary priority from the first page of the book to the last was sex, which isn't true of most women - or men for that matter (I hope!) As such, it was hard or even impossible for me to care about or feel pity for her.

Both Jasper (the man the narrator is having sex with as her husband and son are blown up) and Petra (his girlfriend) are horrible parodies of the 'Hooray Henry' types and the author seems to rely on steretypes rather a lot: the working class are stereotyped themselves, and I would personally question whether a policeman and his wife are working class. Perhaps upper working - particularly in London - but at any rate, the characters weren't believeable and since the plot relied on them to be effective this book wasn't a particularly enjoyable read for me.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 15, 2012 3:26 PM GMT


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