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The Bone Clocks
The Bone Clocks
Price: £5.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curate's Egg: Good in Parts, 10 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Bone Clocks (Kindle Edition)
Bone Clocks is a mish-mash of contending genres. Sporadic episodes of fantasy are grafted onto straightforward realism, to the detriment of both. Many of the realistic passages, like Ed Brubeck's Iraq experiences, and Hugo Lamb's jaunt to a ski resort, are interesting and vividly done; by contrast the fantasy sections are quite lazily written, even by the standards of that genre. The reader has to wade through page after page of dialogue where one or other of the 'Normals' has to be persuaded that the supernatural powers of the Horologists and the Anchorites are real. To make things worse, the fantasy elements are never more than marginal -- they seem to make no difference to the world at the novel's centre, and have no apparent connection to the slide towards collapse which the novel documents.

An enjoyable read, nonetheless, but it would have been better if Mitchell had made more of his realistic material, and chucked the fantasy rubbish into the bin.


NW
NW
Price: £4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished, 10 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: NW (Kindle Edition)
This reads like chapters from an unfinished novel which needs adding to, and the redundant modernist bits taken out. Then you would have something Zadie Smith is supremely well qualified to write: a multi-layered state of the nation account of London life packed with characters of differing ethnicity and social standing and backgrounds.

A diagram of the plot would show a cross with two lines running through it: Natalie and Leah who were friends at school and are both upwardly mobile, Nathan Bogle, who also attended the school and touches their lives but is an outcast from their society, and Felix Cooper who straddles the main action without ever becoming part of it. The real tragedy is Felix's: after some wasted years he is struggling to achieve normality, and is cruelly denied it. Set against his narrative section the neuroses of the two women are made to look self-indulgent.

The modernist elements -- a passage of prose in the shape of a tree, for example -- don't really work, either in themselves or within the context. The more traditional writing, such as the account of Felix's day -- are engaging, convincing, moving. Zadie Smith is a real novelist struggling to find a shape for the stories she has to tell. This book is too sketchy to give anything more than a taster of what she might do in the future


Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth
Price: £4.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Varieties of Fake, 9 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Sweet Tooth (Kindle Edition)
Sweet Tooth is a lightweight conventional novel set in the Intelligence world without ever becoming spy fiction. As with Atonement its sole post-modern component is a gimmick, revealing the material that frames it to be wholly fake: a plausible imitation of something with no real heart. Those who wish to defend it may counter that it is a fake autobiography dealing with appearance and reality, but for this to be true it would have to contain a convincing element of felt life. If this is the case I have failed to detect it.


The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feelbad Territory, 28 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
I reviewed this book when it first came out, but my review was based on the first twenty or so pages, which I downloaded from Kindle. I have now bought the book in Tesco (£8.00; pretty cheap when you consider how long it is) and can provide a more informed review.

Unfortunately further acquaintance with the book has not made me any fonder. In spite the success of the Harry Potter series, Rowling seems to lack some of the most basic attributes of a novelist. The characterisation lacks depth; the material is thin and poisoned by narrow prejudices -- against fat people, against sexually needy women, and so on. The endgame revelations which should illuminate the events which take place earlier fail to convince or carry the weight which is placed upon them. The lack of charity shown towards the characters she dislikes is startling and quite offensive. No doubt the book will have made pots of money. Nonetheless publishing it was a mistake; it tarnishes her reputation, and throws an unpleasant backwards light on the Potter books. Her editors at Bloomsbury did her a disservice by not urging her to set this aside, and go back to writing about magic.


War and Peace BBC [DVD]
War and Peace BBC [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anthony Hopkins
Price: £8.99

3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Creaky, 16 Feb. 2012
This review is from: War and Peace BBC [DVD] (DVD)
Some nice moments, but you have to wait for them. Hopkins as Pierre is a collection of irritating mannerisms. I wonder how they made him look so tubby? The actress playing Natasha is at first very annoying, with her mannered delivery and constantly open mouth, but all that is designed to make her seem about eleven; when she grows up, which she does very convincingly, she starts to behave more normally, and her later scenes work very well. Prince Andre's father is a triumph of overacting. And it's all incredibly creaky, in a way that wasn't apparent first time round. Times have changed, and with them styles of acting -- and production values too, fortunately. Nonetheless it gives you a good potted idea of the vast sweep of the book, and actually makes sense of the war episodes, which I failed to grasp in print.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2015 7:50 PM BST


Angels In America (HBO) [2003] [DVD] [2004]
Angels In America (HBO) [2003] [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Al Pacino
Price: £5.85

5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yawn, 15 Feb. 2012
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I am constantly being amazed by the difference in people's tastes -- how so many people can rank this maudlin, overwritten, would-be profound mini-series as worth watching, let alone brilliant. Of course it includes some virtuoso displays of acting from celebrities such as Al Pacino and Meryl Streep, and the direction is never less than competent, but the work as a whole is one long yawn from start to finish. The early days of AIDS deserves some better memorial than this preposterous celebfest.


In Treatment - Season 1 [DVD][2008]
In Treatment - Season 1 [DVD][2008]
Dvd ~ Gabriel Byrne
Price: £21.81

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Should come with health warning, 21 Jan. 2012
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This is challenging and incendiary stuff which will touch on the submerged areas of the lives of anyone who has thus far resisted therapy. In many ways it confirms my own distrust of the talking cure. Over and over the same subjects come up -- in particular your relationship with your mother and father, and how you tend to copy their example into your own life, attempting to compensate for the lack of support experienced in childhood with relationships that all too often replicate the original error. Bringing painful matters to the surface only helps if you can make use of these insights to improve your life; otherwise it only serves to bring the cage-bars into focus. After watching series 1 I slid into a depression, from which I am only now emerging, five days later. I won't be watching series 2 -- I don't think I dare.


The Marriage Plot
The Marriage Plot
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it Slowly, 31 Dec. 2011
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This review is from: The Marriage Plot (Hardcover)
Packed with vivid detail and telling insights, this is a book that deserves to be read slowly, savouring every word. Along with so much else it contains a gruelling and wholly convincing account of what it means to suffer from clinical depression. The figure of David Foster Wallace, if not specifically referenced, is inevitably brought to mind. Despite that it is often very funny. I have never been able to get on with Middlesex, despite starting it at least four times. The Marriage Plot is another matter altogether. The progress of the narrative is untidy and full of digressions and apparent irrelevancies; all of which give an effect of life as it is lived, in all its richness and complexity. A major achievement.


Synecdoche, New York [DVD] [2008]
Synecdoche, New York [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lost, 31 Dec. 2011
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Watching this seemingly interminable film (I have never seen it through to the end: too painful) is like being trapped in someone else's bad dream. Someday I may find the courage to watch it again. I wouldn't recommend recommending it to anyone, any more than I would recommend recommending someone to take a long cold bath topped up with a bucketful of sand. But is is a unique, intense, vivid and significant experience, packed with ideas and great performances.


Unknown [DVD] [2011]
Unknown [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Liam Neeson
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unknown, and likely to stay that way, 27 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Unknown [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
I bought this because I enjoyed Taken, but this was nowhere near as exciting. Absurd, with lots of gratuitous twists, and a hopeless ending. A waste of time.


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