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Nicholas Nickleby (Wordsworth Classics)
Nicholas Nickleby (Wordsworth Classics)
by Charles Dickens
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Black and White to the Point of Caricature, 16 Nov. 2014
Definitely one of his weakest works. It starts well and up until Nicholas departure from Dothebys Hall is an excellent read. From there it drifts aimlessly for four hundred pages or so before Dickens contrives to rush a none-to-surprising, suitably bright and remarkably tedious conclusion.

The novel isn't helped by Nicholas being a desperately dull and one dimensional lead character. Mild anger management issues aside, which, naturally, only ever surface against the most evil of protagonists and under extreme provocation, his supreme virtuosity is incredibly nauseating. His relationship with Smike is particularly irritating and borders on the condescending. David Copperfield, and Pip in particular, both benefit from significant character flaws, Nicholas just doesn't hold true in comparison.

There is a distinct lack of moral ambiguity in any of the major characters, it's black-and-white to the point of caricature. The Cheerybles decency as employers is ludicrous and at no point is Ralph Nickelby has no redeeming features.

Despite this there are some excellent support characters, Wackford Squeers and family in particular; the Crummles even Mrs Nickelby - albeit in small doses.

It's one of his early novels and reads like it. All the components of his later greater works are in place but this novel doesn't work for me.

The Collector
The Collector
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clegg Withstands the Test of Time, 22 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Collector (Paperback)
I first read, and loved, this novel 20 years ago. Had I rated it then, I'd have given it 5*. Upon rereading I was surprised to learn it's not without flaws.

The premise remains excellent. Clegg remains a magnificently realised character. His sections of the novel remain outstanding, detached and, certainly from his perspective, unwittingly chilling.

And then there's Miranda. I found myself struggling to get through her story. I don't know whether that was because of her youthful student pretensiousness or whether the character itself (she's undoubtedly representative of London in the 60's) has merely dated very badly. I genuinely didn't care about her relationship with the tedious sounding GP, a heavily signposted polar-opposite to the repressed Clegg. Clearly an individual in her situation would have considerable time for reflection, so I'm not criticising the need to explore her backstory, but I can't help but feel Fowles could have made it more interesting.

It remains well worth a read for Clegg alone. His lack of empathy and self awareness contribute to a magnificently deluded final line leaving the reader in little doubt as to his future intentions.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 11, 2012 1:18 PM BST

No Name (Penguin Classics)
No Name (Penguin Classics)
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tails Away Towards the End, 14 Sept. 2011
The first three quarters of this novel are simply outstanding. Unfortunately the final quarter is not. It's no coincidence that the standard drops noticeably at the conclusion of the battle to influence Noel Vanstone between the two standout characters, Mme Lecount and Captain Wragge.

Wragge in particular was an unexpected delight, as impressive and ambiguous as the magnificent Count Fosco from Collins "Woman in White". The interplay between Wragge and Lecount in Aldborough was genuinely outstanding and for all Magdalen's scheming, it is undoubtedly Wragge's spell as puppetmaster general which is the novel's highspot.

Magdalen is for the most part both an outstanding character and subversive heroine, working, as she does, outwith the law and societal norms. This does however serve to make her formulaic and conventional ending all the more disappointing.

Despite what I view as an unsatisfactory resolution it remains a highly worthwhile read.

The Lord of the Rings (3 Book Box set)
The Lord of the Rings (3 Book Box set)
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Paperback

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Jackson did it Justice, 15 July 2011
First things first. I didn't finish it. I couldn't finish it. The arrival of the tedious walking tree proving a bridge too far. Fantasy novels, and delusions of grandeur aside that IS it's genre, aren't my forte, though I do dabble.

On the plus side Tolkien's universe is an amazing creation. No point denying it. His imaginings have been meticulously brought to life, complete with history and underlying mythology. Unfortunatley, this strength also serves to hinder the flow of the novel. Being a fictional universe, Tolkien, feels the compulsion to establish, embellish and finally pummel the reader with history lessons. Ultimately, I just didn't care enough to wade through it.

The story itself is fairly ordinarily, amounting as it does to a challenging hobbit road trip. They're chased. They hide. They meet some good people. They meet some bad people. There's some fighting. Ultimately, I just didn't care enough about the characters or universe to carry on. Doesn't make me bad person, just my opinion.

I note the tedious "is it great literature" debate rages on. I suspect those decrying the fact do so on the snobbish grounds it's a fantasy novel. While it's not to my taste, I concede it is very well written and imagined. Does it stand up against the established classics, not for me, it lacks emotion, but it is THE classic of its genre cannot be disputed.

For the record, I found the films all 9 (NINE) hours of them fairly tedious as well, so Jackson truly did capture the spirit of the book.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2012 2:22 PM GMT

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape: The Remarkable Life of Jacques Anquetil, the First Five-Times Winner of the Tour de France
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape: The Remarkable Life of Jacques Anquetil, the First Five-Times Winner of the Tour de France
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far from Definitive more an Overview, 14 July 2011
I suppose your satisfaction with this biography depends on what you expect from it.

Anquetil retired before I was born, so my knowledge extended no further than his being the first five time winner of the Tour. This biography, provides a basic grounding in his accomplishments, motivation, attitude and palmares. As far as I was concerned it served its purpose. I'm not sure, however, that had I a better base knowledge of Anquteil that this would have contributed a great deal more.

Given Anquetil won over 180 races; 5 Tours, 2 Giro's and a Vuelta, had Howard gone into great depth about each race the book would have run to over 1000 pages, but I can't help feel he stopped short of providing enough detail to satisfy everyone.

Given the jaw-dropping life Anquetil lead on-and-off the bike, and despite providing me with all the information I needed, I can't help feel this could have been better.

The Woman In Black
The Woman In Black
by Susan Hill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hill delivers everything bar genuine Chills...., 11 July 2011
This review is from: The Woman In Black (Paperback)
I'm guessing this wont go down well with fans of the genre but the reason this novel fails to deliver genuine chills has little to do with the writing or plot and everything to do with its clichéd genre.

Hill actually proves highly adept at evoking the necessary atmosphere, but no matter how good the writing, she still follows the well worn path of isolation, tragic backstory, fog, dubious locals etc. It's all there and while I readily concede it's done better than most within the genre, it didn't deliver anything different. That said, I'll readily concede I wasn't actually promised anything different! Perhaps, having read a number of glowing reviews I assumed this would add something to a jaded area of literature. Disappointingly, a higher standard of writing excepted, it doesn't.

How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics)
How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France (Yellow Jersey Cycling Classics)
by Ned Boulting
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars More of the Same Please Mr Boulting, 11 July 2011
That the Tour is now an integral part of July for so many Brits, has as much to do with the brilliance of the event itself, as it does with the manner in which it has been covered these past twenty odd years by Liggett, Sherwen, Imlach and latterly Boardman and Boulting. In capturing the magnificence of the Tour itself and the madness associated in covering it, Boulting has sculpted a genuinley entertaining and insightful book for those of us entranced for three weeks in July.

Despite the subject matter clearly lending itself to a book, I concede I had my reservations beforehand, primarily stemming from misgivings regarding Boulting himself (related entirely I must confess to his football broadcasting) but he more than surpassed my expectations.

Now if only Ned would occasionally ask Alex Ferguson a challenging question from time to time......he might even find a book in there somewhere.

We Were Young and Carefree: The Autobiography of Laurent Fignon
We Were Young and Carefree: The Autobiography of Laurent Fignon
by Laurent Fignon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.38

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "No, monsieur, I am the Man Who Won the Tour Twice", 8 July 2011
Irrespective of the 1989 Tour, alongside Robert Millar, Fignon was my favourite cyclist from that era. Both magnificently enigmatic and spiky, Fignon probably edged it for me as he had the added advantage of being terribly French. This book, reflects that. It's certainly true it doesn't flow as you may want, and I initally felt the translation could have been anglicised more, but you know what, that would have done the great man a disservice, you get a better feel for what he was like.

His attitude to losing the '89 Tour, a bone of contention to the only 1* rating, is terrifically french and representative of the mindset of a winner. For the record, he does counter what went wrong and where he could have saved those seconds but that's not really the point. He has let it go. Fignon will forever be defined by the media as the man who lost the Tour by 8 seconds, it is good to see the two time Tour winner, Giro winner and multi-Classics winner did not.

We Need To Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail Classics)
We Need To Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail Classics)
by Lionel Shriver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling, 7 July 2011
This novel unsettled me.

It is beautifully written and for the most part characterised. There is little to like about the central characters. Through nature, nurture or combination thereof, Kevin IS a sociopath and Eva herself is pretty much unlikeable over the course of the novel. But, and I suspect this is what unsettled me, come the end of the novel, I cared about them both.

It's not flawless. As has been noted elsewhere Franklin is fairly one dimensional and it can be fairly wordy but it is undoubtedly a very powerful novel.

by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read the first chapter in a bookshop....., 7 July 2011
This review is from: Room (Paperback)
Your enjoyment of this novel is going to depend greatly on your ability to deal with the use of language by the child narrator. As such I'd strongly advise taking the time to read the first chapter in a bookshop. If, after the first chapter you feel you can handle another 300 pages written in the same vein, buy it, if not, save yourself the misery.

Room has a great permise, but I found it almost unreadable. I fully understand the reasoning behind the use of language, it's a product of his (limited) surroundings, but it also serves to severely limit the scope of what could have been an outstanding novel.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2011 9:38 PM BST

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