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A. Hope "bookcrossing ali" (Birmingham, England)
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Clear Light Of Day
Clear Light Of Day
by Anita Desai
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, poignant family story., 23 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Clear Light Of Day (Paperback)
Anita Desai is a beautiful writer, the sense of time and place in this novel is strong. The narrative takes the reader from the present, back to 1947 and the upheaval of partition. Yet this is merely a backdrop, the rendering apart of a family juxtaposed with that of a nation. The relationships between these family members are exquisitely examined, through daily preoccupations and long remembered squabbles.
The daily routines and preoccupations of her older sister Bim, are brought into sharp focus for Tara upon her visit to the old family home. For Bim old resentments are brought to the surface, and old memories of a turbulent summer re-awakened.


The News Where You Are
The News Where You Are
by Catherine O'Flynn
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and thought provoking, 23 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: The News Where You Are (Paperback)
Having enjoyed Catherine O 'Flynn's first novel so much, I was really looking forward to this. I wasn't disappointed.

Catherine O' Flynn has written a novel that is both entertaining and thought provoking. Peopled with authentic, well drawn, sometimes very funny characters. Frank a middle aged local news presenter is an unambitious family man who concerns himself with the sad, lonely deaths of people he didn't know. Frank pays the rather pathetic Cyril to write terrible one liners for him that he doesn't really want to use, but the dreadful puns have been an unlikely success. Frank's daughter Mo, a charming eight year old character, is on a mission to cheer her grandmother up, and enjoys hearing about Frank's father's buildings - one of which is about to be demolished. Frank begins to think again about the death of his predecessor and old friend Phil Smethway in an apparent hit and run, when he discovers a connection between Phil and another lonely death in the city.

This is remarkable page turner, that tackles big themes, family, friendship, the past and our place in it. The city of Birmingham is affectionately portrayed, some homage being given to our less glamorous buildings. Well written and thoroughly engrossing 'The News Where You are' - is a great read - and a must for Brummies, who enjoy reading about their city.


The Return Of Captain John Emmett
The Return Of Captain John Emmett
by Elizabeth Speller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent mystery - beautifully told, 23 Jun. 2011
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"The Return of Captain John Emmett" is an excellent mystery, the twists and turns and surprising revelations come thick and fast. The sort of book which can keep you reading far into the night, and regret having to go to work. However, excellent mystery that this is, it is more than just another historical mystery. The novel also faithfully explores the realities of the aftermath of war, the effect upon a country and it's people.

As Laurence Bartram delves into the life and particularly the war of Captain John Emmett, he hears the shocking stories of many other men. He meets their relatives, and in some cases is reminded of the poetry that they left behind. Laurence's quest to discover the truth about John's death - leads him around the country - and into the homes of a range of people all of whom have been touched by the war to end all wars. The stories of the battlefield, of executions, and family secrets are beautifully told. WW1 is so long ago - and maybe we think we know the story of it - trenches, massive losses, poets and shell shock. Yet Elizabeth speller has taken those things we think we know about so well , and written about them in a way that makes them instantly familiar and yet still new, poignant and relevant to us now. Human beings are not so very different 100 years on, we know what it is to lose someone and what it is to be afraid. I am slightly haunted by the fictional Hart, and the real officers his story is based upon.
There is a great sense of time and place in this novel, great characterisation and a well plotted mystery. I am already looking forward to the next book.


Room
Room
by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars A book everyone should read - brilliant, 14 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: Room (Paperback)
This is really an astonishingly good book, and deserving of all the "hype" it truly is a hard to put down book. The story is told to us by Jack himself, Jack turns five as the novel opens. He and Ma are held by his mother's kidnapper - in an 11 foot square room, built in the back yard of "Old Nick's" house. His mother has been held there for seven years. The narrative voice of this most extraordinary of child narrators is brillaint, and credible. How Emma Donoghue has managed to climb inside the mind of a 5 year old child so completely I don't know, but that is what she has done, and in so doing, she makes Jack's world our world. Jack's whole world is Room, he sleeps n Wardrobe, and sometimes in Bed, he loves Plant, Meltedy Spoon and Rug and knows that everything inside Room is real, and everything on TV just pictures, things that are not real are TV. One day Ma reveals that there is a whole world outside Room, with other people in, just like on TV. Now Ma explains, she needs Jack to help her. The relationship between Jack and Ma is beautifully portrayed, we see Ma, and the terrible toll of her captivity through the eyes of her child, the child she has protected by making Room his world. It is Jack's total devotion to Ma that is so utterly heartbreaking. An unforgettable story with an unforgettable narrator. Emma Donoghue's use of language is so extremely clever that I can't imagine this ever working in a visual context - ie film. Loved it.


The Remains of Sherlock Holmes
The Remains of Sherlock Holmes
by Paul W. Nash
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True to the original, 14 Mar. 2011
In this book there are seven new stories, stories apparently "discovered" recently which Watson considered too shocking for publication at the time. The events recorded in these stories range in date from 1882 to 1929. In them we meet: giants and dwarves, a silent valet, servants, masters, addicts and murderers. We discover the truth behind the death of Dorian Gray, (in my personal favourite) and through the eyes of his great friend Dr John Watson how Sherlock Holmes met his own end in 1929. I thought these stories, and the characters stayed pretty well true to the original, and I hope Conan Doyle would approve. Paul Nash has re-created the world of Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street perfectly, making this a must for Holmes lovers.

There are some unnecessary footnotes included - which I assume are supposed to make SH and Watson seem like true historical figures - which I didn't mind - but I am not convinced they added to the already excellent stories.


People of the Book
People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars For lovers of books, 25 Feb. 2011
This review is from: People of the Book (Paperback)
People of the book is a superbly researched and well written novel. The story of "the book" - a beautifully illustrated Jewish haggadah takes us from Sajajevo in the aftermath of the Bosnian war, to Vienna of the 1890's,and the inquisition of Spain in the 1490's - with a final twist coming in Jerusalem in 2002.
Hanna - an expert book conservator is asked to work on the haggadah. While doing this she meets the muslim librarian who saved it during the Bosnian war, and soon starts to uncover more stories associated with the precious Jewish prayer book, including the remarkable story of the African slave woman who illustrated the precious book. During her time working on the haggadah Hanna faces up to some of the difficulties she has with her surgeon mother when she meets up with her in Boston, and uncovers things about her own family she didn't know.
Dedicated to "the librarians" Gereldine Brooks has written a novel that will fascinate both book lovers and history lovers.


The River
The River
by Rumer Godden
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly charming, 25 Feb. 2011
This review is from: The River (Paperback)
The River is a story of childhood in India, much although not all the story is a tribute to Rumer Godden's own childhood. In her preface to the novel Rumer Godden explains how the novel came to be written.
Four British siblings, who have been brought back from school in England are living at the side of a river, just along the road from the jute works. This is their world, the garden, the house, the servants, Indian festivals, the jute works and Captain John - who was once injured in the war. Harriet is a child often caught between her younger and older siblings. She writes, thinks a good deal, and sometimes plays with Bogey her young brother. Bogey loves insects and snakes, and hasn't much time for toys, many of which he has buried in the garden. Bogey is also rather good at "going-round-the-garden-without-being-seen." Harriet's world is about to be shattered, and some hard and bitter lessons about to be learned.
This is a beautiful and evocotive little novel, the child characters are a real delight, fully rounded little characters that leap shouting off the page.


Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man
Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man
by Claire Tomalin
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Portrait, 25 Feb. 2011
I loved this biography of one of my favourite writers. Claire Tomalin has done a marvelous job of showing us both Hardy the man and Hardy the writer. It appears she appreciates him slightly more as a poet than a novelist - but her insight into both his novels and his poetry is affectionate and fascinating and may help me have a better understanding of his work from now on.
I found the story of the young Hardy growing up in quite poor and difficult circumstances in Bockhampton really fascinating - I suppose I had assumed he had come from a more middle class background but within a rural community - I was wrong. Tomalin gives great insight into Hardy's relationship with his friend Horace Moule and his first wife Emma. Moule was his only real great friend, and died by suicide trgically young. His wife Emma came from a higher social standing, he courted her over more than 4 years and they were both well into their thirties when they married. Tomalin's recreation of the Hardy's marriage feels accurate - and is all the sadder for that. The book opens with Emma's death in 1912 and Hardy's great grief for the loss of his wife - whom he knew he hadn't treated well, and who had slept in the attic for sometime. Her death serving to remind Hardy of their beginning and how he had felt then, and which inspired some wonderful poetry about her.
I also found the picture of the "old man of letters" that Hardy had become by the time of the first world war - terribly poignant. His marriage to Florence, their life togther in the house he shared for so long with Emma, and the strange friendship with Cockerell who became joint literary executor with Florence Hardy.
This is definitely a book for anyone with a liking for Thomas Hardy - and it is likely to reawaken a love of his work.


South Riding (Virago Modern Classics)
South Riding (Virago Modern Classics)
by Winifred Holtby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars South Riding, 25 Feb. 2011
First published in 1936 this is a marvelously feminist novel. Set in the fictional South Riding, with much of the story concerning local poitics, and the different characters and factions associated with the county council, alongside other local people. There is a large cast of characters, at the centre of which is Robert Carne, landowner and councillor, Sarah Burton, a new headmistress for the high school, and Mrs Beddows 72 Alderman, and great friend of Carne. Mrs Beddows - a truly marvelous character - seems to be a portrait - at least in part of Winifred Holtby's mother, herself a local councillor who became (like Mrs Beddows) the first woman Alderman.
This novel is actually quite sad, although there are many uplifting moments too. Winifred Holtby was uncompromising in her portrayal of life as it was in the 1930's, both socially and politically. We see the few chances given to women and the sacrifices made by many bright young girls, the hardship and the poverty and the desperation of those finding themselves in difficulty. There is a conspiracy of corruption at the council, backbiting and gossip, all of which help to bring a good man down. The poignant story of Sarah and Robert Carne is the one at the centre of the novel, is wonderfully romantic on the one hand without ever descending into sentimentality. Alongside that story though we that of Lydia Holly - whose family live in "the shacks" a group of old railway carriages, Lydia dreamsof scholarship and learning. Carne's daughter Midge - the same age as Lydia but from a very different background is rather wild, her mother is in a mental hospital, for a time the girls come togther under the watchful eye of the new headmistress Sarah Burton. Meanwhile at the Nag's head, Tom Sawdon is unaware of his wife's illness. So much human drama in just under 500 pages! A fantastic read.


The Rules of Engagement
The Rules of Engagement
by Anita Brookner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Brookner, 25 Jun. 2010
I know not everyone likes Anita Brookner as there is a touch of the melancholic about her writing, but I don't find her depressing at all. The themes of this novel are very similar to that of some others I have read, that of lonliness, grief, and the choices women make in their lives. Elizabeth married a man many years older than herself, while her childhood friend Betsy entered into a much less suitable relationship with a man in Paris. These choices they made years earlier continue to have an impact as they approach middle age. Elizabeth's life is hardly exciting, she is well off and has no need to work, and yet she fills her time somehow, she takes to walking in the early mornings or late evenings, she sees the seasons change, and contemplates taking a trip. The observations of everyday life, of women like Elizabeth, and their small preoccupations is what makes Anita Brookner's novels so poignant and true, despite the fact they exist in a world outside our own.


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