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Jolene Tan (London)

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Death Comes to Pemberley
Death Comes to Pemberley
by P. D. James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Listen to the other reviewers, 17 Jun. 2013
Listen to the other reviewers: this book is not worth your money.

In the first instance, PD James spends a baffling amount of time recapitulating the plot of Pride and Prejudice, as if anyone who might buy this doesn't already know it inside-out. This is incredibly tedious, especially when carried out on the thinnest of pretexts - such as having Elizabeth and Darcy go over the entire ground of their emotional journeys in a completely otiose conversation at the end of the book. Moreover, the author goes on to expand the characters in frankly implausible ways. I can accept that Charlotte Lucas might have been unimaginative, but malicious? This sort of liberty strains the goodwill of the Austen fan.

Some of this might nevertheless be forgiveable as the price of admission to a book that, while being its own creature, riffs off the original in an interesting manner. One could even contrive to overlook the trampling over the source material if Death Comes to Pemberley were a good read on its own terms, exploiting its tenuous relationship to Austen purely for cynical marketing purposes. Alas, it is neither. This is a "mystery" without tension, inventivenes, wit or depth. The only thing that can be said for it is that it is reasonably readably written. Otherwise, you're - genuinely - better off reading Austen fanfic online.

The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade
The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade
by Victor Malarek
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Inadequate approach to an important topic, 19 Nov. 2008
This text throws a spotlight onto sex trafficking, a very important topic which certainly requires our attention. However, throughout the text, Malarek adopts the rather breathless tone of an American crime thriller novel, which gives the air of being a little too enamoured with the potential sensationalism of the field. He also has a disturbing tendency to cast the people involved in anti-trafficking work as "knights in white armour", for instance in his gratuitous focus on the intimidating physique of some male law enforcement officials. These stereotypes over-simplify the messy reality of the issues relating to human trafficking. For a better approach, try "Selling Olga" by Louisa Waugh.

Standard Operating Procedure: A War Story
Standard Operating Procedure: A War Story
by Errol Morris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important book about the banality of evil, 4 Nov. 2008
It's easy to think we know all there is to know about Abu Ghraib. We've seen the pictures, which reek of brutal frat party cruelty, and seem to straightforwardly expose a group of racist, ignorant, hypermilitarised soldiers. Surely the rest is just needless detail?

By reconstructing the sequence of events depicted in the photographs, Morris and Gourevitch reveal that the reality is simultaneously more, and less, horrifying than this. The episodes presented to us in the jumble of pictures are differentiated, for one; some are as we would expect, but others emerge as distinctly practical responses to the everyday horror of the job these soldiers were given.

Rather than individual acts of darkness, we are led to see the bigger picture: the conditions that make posing with a corpse almost defensible, and hauling a man around on a leash essentially sensible. The animating values that give rise to those conditions. And the way the snapshots misdirected attention: yes, those criminally charged, none of whom had a rank above that of sergeant, had committed misconduct of some kind by any ordinary standard; but what of the underlying reality that Abu Ghraib was not run by any ordinary standard? Indeed perhaps by any standard? With the blessing, it seems, of the entire chain of command?

This is a very important book.

I Fought The Law
I Fought The Law
by Dan Kieran
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wise book, 3 Nov. 2008
This review is from: I Fought The Law (Paperback)
I'll be honest: I didn't expect much from this book. I thought it would be entertaining enough; offbeat, amusing, with doses of snarky political observation. It certainly delivered on those counts, and for much of the journey I was lulled by the unpretentious clarity of Kieran's style into thinking there would, indeed, be nothing more.

But (of course) I was wrong. I Fought the Law is more than entertaining; it's also wise. It is clear-eyed in its assessment of how badly Britain's communities need fixing, and espouses an uncomfortable and far-reaching solution which is self-consciously at odds with so many of our other current cultural influences, but it is also radically hopeful about the possibility of social change. It centres personal action, individual empowerment and individual connections, at the heart of political progress. And so despite all my preconceptions, I actually found this book remarkably inspiring. I'd strongly recommend it.

Terror Dream, The: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America
Terror Dream, The: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America
by Susan Faludi
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adept and shocking, 19 Mar. 2008
A fascinating examination of the construction of myths by the American media, through the prism of reporting on 9/11 and the ensuing national response. This isn't about 9/11, and certainly doesn't make any pretense to be definitive or comprehensive or even a treatment of the most significant aspects of that tragedy. It's simply a very educational analysis of the way it's been represented in some of the country's most prominent cultural conduits. In a sense, it's a continuation of her work in Backlash, only painting with finer strokes on a more specific canvas.

A previous reviewer has suggested that Faludi's thesis can be thusly stated: that women's freedoms have come under assault America recently, and that this is the result of 9/11. In fact, Faludi takes great pains to state in The Terror Dream that she does not see 9/11 as some great catalyst for an anti-feminist backlash; rather, the way that 9/11 and its aftermath have been represented in the public imagination in America is revelatory of a dynamic that has been there, in ebb and flow, all along.

The book is strongest in its analysis of the variously delusional or cynically selective farces perpetrated by major political and journalistic figures following 9/11. What's less convincing is its attribution of this to the racist conflicts of America's settler past. Faludi draws some suggestive links but her explication of how they play out, and the development over time of the notion of men of a community as failed protectors against hostile native American forces, isn't quite as clear or as persuasive as the sections of her work with a more current focus. It's not that the argument is inherently bad or implausible, it's just that it isn't quite made with the same cogency and conviction as the first half of the book.

In all, though, well worth the read - if only as yet another illustration of how deeply hostage we are, sometimes on scarily fundamental and unobserved levels, to the spin and skulduggery of media networks.

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