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Christopher Sullivan (edinburgh)

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Shake N Make Ice Cream Maker. Home Made Ice Cream Maker - Hand Powered, Just Shake for 3 Minutes
Shake N Make Ice Cream Maker. Home Made Ice Cream Maker - Hand Powered, Just Shake for 3 Minutes
Offered by Venture Blue
Price: £13.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ice Cream We All Scream., 27 Feb. 2017
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My daughter loves this easy to use gadget. The fun is in trying out lots of different ingredients and seeing what is a good flavour and what is not. A cheap alternative to the high end ice cream makers but a fun thing to use.

Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland A.D. 1803
Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland A.D. 1803
Price: £0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Scotland through the eyes of a romantic., 27 Feb. 2017
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Very enjoyable and interesting read. This book is primrily a travel memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth about a six-week, 663-mile journey through the Scottish Highlands from August–September 1803 with her brother William Wordsworth and mutual friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The three travellers were important authors in the burgeoning Romanticism movement and thus the trip itinerary was in part a literary pilgrimage to the places associated with Scottish figures significant to Romanticists such as Robert Burns, Rob Roy, William Wallace, and contemporary Sir Walter Scott.

Photography Tutorials
Photography Tutorials
Price: £0.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars helpful and easy to follow app., 21 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Photography Tutorials (App)
Very good and helpful app especially for those just becoming interested in photography. The tutorials are broken into six subjects; Photography Concepts, Camera and Equipment, Photography Genre, Photography Subjects, Photography Techniques and Software. These tutorials are then broken down into sub tutorials. All very well laid out and very easy to follow.

DH Texas Poker
DH Texas Poker
Price: £0.00

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good app and nice to play, 21 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: DH Texas Poker (App)
This is good app that is well worth downloading. It is nice graphically and can be played by those who are not completely au fait with Hold 'Em poker. I personally only play for fun and not real money and have not made an account with the makers Droidhen. It's a fun app and with luck one can gain a lot of 'money' quite easily. As with most apps a good way of passing the time in short spells.

Inspector Morse: Second Time Around [DVD] [1987] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Inspector Morse: Second Time Around [DVD] [1987] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

5.0 out of 5 stars I prefer to keep things simple Chief Inspector. Especially when dealing with policemen, 21 Oct. 2015
After returning home from his leaving do, Charlie Hillian, a high ranking police officer, struggles with an intruder and subsequently falls to the floor hitting his head and dies. Morse and Lewis investigate the case and soon find themselves involved in an eighteen year old case, the death of an eight year old girl, Mary Lapsley. It transpires that no one was ever convicted of the murder. But one man, Frederick Redpath, was the main suspect and was subsequently persecuted for five years after the murder by an unknown person.Frederick Redpath's car was seen near Charlie Hillian's house the day after the murder and a paper clipping about a book Hillian is writing is found in Redpath's wallet. Morse and Lewis find themselves not only caught up in the death of Hillian and an eighteen year old case but possibly find themselves being manipulated by a senior police officer.
As is so often the case the production team have gathered together a superb cast to aid and abet the main characters. Kenneth Colley has to be the outstanding actor of this episode creating a wonderfully rounded character, (no small thanks to the writer Daniel Boyle), who gives John Thaw a good run for his money in the acting stakes. Watch his brilliant reaction on seeing Frederick Redpath in the interview room. It's electrifying. Of course he is ably helped by Thaw and Whately.
Though this is a dark tale it does allow light to break through every so often and that light is in the shape of Sam Kelly as the writer and permanently drunk Walter Majors. Kelly's turn as the down on his luck writer is finely played and is a lovely comic turn in what is a harrowing case. Well done once again to Daniel Boyle for not allowing the episode to be all dark and foreboding. Sam Kelly is all too familiar to a British audience having appeared in various sitcoms, in particular one of my favourites, 'Porridge' as 'Bunny' Warren.
The two high high ranking friends and colleagues, Charlie Hillian and Patrick Dawson, are said to have been at the Oxford Police station at the time of the murder and were also colleagues of Morse. I wonder if these two characters will find themselves into the Endeavour series. The episode was written and produced around 1990-1991 and the the murder was eighteen years in the past. So, if we take the time scale literally then the Mary Lapsley murder happened around 1973-74. One has to assume that Hillian and Dawson were in Oxford for at least a few years before moving to London. It is stated in the episode that Morse and Dawson debated at a conference in 1969. The Endeavour series is set in the mid to late 1960s so one has to assume that these characters will make an appearance at some point.
Good to see Oliver Ford Davies in this episode as he is one of my favourite characters from the excellent Kavanagh QC series. Oliver had been a colleague of John Thaw many times in the past not only on TV but in the theatre.
What this episode does very well is to keep the audience not only guessing but on their detecting toes. The episode starts off like so many other episodes with what appears to be a straight-forward murder but eventually takes an unexpected dark and sinister tone. Unlike so many poor detective TV series episodes the twists in the story grow organically from the characters and the situations and are not crow barred in to suit a last minute re-write.
There is an excellent scene which I have shown further down in the post where Lewis accuses Morse of being jealous that Dawson was right all along about the case. Morse tells Lewis he should take a few days leave which Lewis refuses to do. Morse tells Lewis the reason for his suggestion is that he doesn't like being second-guessed but I think Morse is trying to protect Lewis from not only realising he is wrong about Morse but what he will eventually find out if he stays until the case is solved. The scene is so well played that one begins to possibly agree with Lewis's accusation of Morse being jealous of Dawson.
Regarding Rose Lapsley, Mary Lapsley's grandmother, was she aware of who was Mary's father?. She knew the significance of the photograph but was that because she knew it gave a clue to who the father was or that she did know who he was? I think she did know.
The only failings the episode had for me were the following. Firstly, the scene were the police constable finds Frederick Redpath hanging in the cell. Surely, rather than running off to get help he would have entered the cell and got Redpath down. The few minutes it would have taken the constable to get help could have been vital in saving Redpath's life. Secondly, was what seemed the unnecessary need to ridicule those officers in uniform. First you have the two agitated constables telling Morse they should get all sorts of vehicles out to hunt for the car one of them saw racing off from Charlie Hillian's house entrance. Then you have the constable who wants to smash down the door of the Mitchell house when they won't answer. It all seemed rather unnecessary and pointless.
Anyway, these points don't detract from this being an excellent episode which I'm sure will be in most Morse fans top ten episodes.

The Flamethrowers
The Flamethrowers
by Rachel Kushner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The flamethrower was never, ever defensive, 2 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Flamethrowers (Paperback)
The novel opens with a flashback to World War I. T.P. Valera is ripping a headlight off the crashed motorcycle of his dead friend. Valera kills a German soldier with the afore-mentioned headlight as he came rushing through a forest of trees. The novel will return periodically to T.P. Valera to follow his story from rags to riches making his fortune in rubber in the jungles of the Amazon and subsequently making motorcycles in Italy.
T.P. Valera is the father of Sandro Valera, a famous and successful artist in the 1970s who has fled his wealthy and distinguished life in Italy. Sandro is the lover of the novel’s main protagonist and narrator, Reno (so called because that is where she hails from) a young woman in her early twenties who after finishing her art degree has moved to New York. She is obsessed with speed, engines (specifically motorbikes) and land-speed records. Reno is a conceptual artist and in New York she is sucked, willingly, into the bohemian world of artists, revolutionaries and menace.
The novel is set (apart from the flashbacks) post-Watergate, post Nixon, post-Vietnam. Watergate and Nixon’s involvement not only polarized America but also politicized it. The Baby Boomers had decided that the older generation could no longer be trusted to run their country and what America needed was a grassroots revolution, an iron fist in a velvet glove. Reno though not directly involved with the radical revolutionaries in New York falls within their orbit as she becomes part of the Manhattan Soho scene.
Reno is fascinated with capturing “the experience of speed” which she readily displays when she photographs the tracks left by her crashed motorcycle after a speed trial on the salt flats of Bonneville. This “experience of speed” is not limited to fast motorbikes but to the rapidity of her move to New York, her inclusion into the Soho art scene and her sexual relationship with the fast talking, storytelling Ronnie Fontaine the photographer, (whose photographs we get to know very little about).

‘“Speed is every man’s right’ was Honda’s new ad slogan, but speed was not a right. Speed was a causeway between life and death and you hoped you came out on the side of life.”

This need to “experience speed” is not only limited to Reno but also to many of the other characters, especially Sandro who needs to live his life at an abnormally fast speed and this includes his apparent need to live with Reno as soon as possible after having seen her face in a film.
Though we know that Reno, Sandro, Ronnie etc are artists we are never fully aware what the art they are producing is. What descriptions there are, are vague, nebulous and opaque. One has to assume that this was the intention of the author.

“There were tacit rules with these people, and all the people like them I later met: You weren’t supposed to ask basic questions. “What do you do?” “Where are you from?” “What kind of art do you make?” Because I understood he was an artist but you weren’t allowed to ask that.”

What art they produced was irrelevant in the time they lived. Any art they produced was created through their actions, their lives their own bodies. Maybe conventional art such as it was in the seventies was dead and the ‘performance’ of life was what ‘art’ had become.
Rachael Kushner has written a fascinating novel that sets fire to convention not only in terms of art but in terms of the written novel. The author’s turn of phrase is creatively honest and raw; Roy Orbison’s hair is described as, “black as melted-down record vinyl.” While talking to Ronnie and others in a bar for the first time she writes;

“I’d thought this was how artists moved to New York, alone, that the city was a mecca of individual points, longings, all merging into one great light-pulsing mesh, and you simply found your pulse, you’re place.”

The novel reeks of machismo and testosterone with its chapters full of motorbikes, violence and misogyny. The New York art scene seems primarily male-dominated with women being allowed to be part of it but still expected to fill the male engendered roles of housewife and sexual plaything.
The title refers to Sandro’s childhood love of the his father’s assault regiment flamethrowers,

“with their twin tanks and their gas mask…The flamethrower was never, ever defensive. He was pure offence…”

Rachael Kushner appears to be suggesting that the characters in her novel are “flamethrowers,” everything they do is not in defence of their way of life or who they are but is attacking those around them and those who came before them. The artists and revolutionaries are committed to a scorched earth policy; destroying the present and the past and leaving only the future for people to feed on.

First Line – “Valera had fallen back from his squadron and was cutting the wires of another rider’s lamp.”

Memorable Line – “Ronnie said that before his brother robbed banks he sold heroin in Bushwick and that is was a stupidly hard job., sixteen hour days, and his only pay was a morning and evening fix. “That’s the thing about junkies,” Ronnie said, “they work like dogs, it’s all day out on the streets and they think they’re cheating the system. I told my brother you make twelve cents an hour.”

Number of Pages – 405
Sex scenes – Yes
Profanity – Yes
Genre – (Historical) Fiction.

The Incarnations
The Incarnations
by Susan Barker
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To only know your latest incarnation, is to only know one part of who you are, 21 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Incarnations (Hardcover)
“My undertaking, as biographer of your past, is not one I take lightly. I work hard for your enlightenment. I am patient, diligent and devoted to the role.”

It is Beijing 2007, one year before China hosts the Olympic Games. Thirty one year old Wang Yu drives one of the 66,000 taxis that clog up the city of Beijing having dropped out of university some ten years previously.
Wang Yu is married to his wife of nine years Yida and has an eight year old daughter, Echo. Wang Yu’s daughter’s name is prescient as he finds himself being stalked by someone who call themselves ‘his biographer’, leaving letters behind the visor of his taxi relating stories of Wang Yu’s past lives, incarnations, echoes of the past.
The biographer’s presence and the stories told in the letters un-nerve Wang Yu and he believes they are being written by Zeng Yan a man he had a passionate affair with when incarcerated in a mental institution having suffered a breakdown after suffering domestic abuse and the death of his mother while at university.
Wang Yu’s life begins to unravel as the past of his present life and his six past incarnations written by the biographer both implode and explode what he thought he knew and what he believed to be the true nature of his existence.

“To scatter beams of light on the darkness of your unknown past is my duty. For to have lived six times, but to only know your latest incarnation, is to only know one-sixth of who you are. To be only one-sixth alive.”

In what is a bleak, dark and haunting novel Susan Barker remarkably manages to keep the novel light but not frothy, at times amusing but not facetious. The author has an assured, confident style that also oozes an air of a well-researched subject matter. The biographer’s stories take us from the Tang Dynasty, 632 AD where we learn that the biographer is the daughter of an incestuous rape of a sister through the capture of the city of Zhongdu by Genghis Khan’s Mongolian up to China’s years of the Cultural Revolution. Not only are the stories fascinating but also enlightening but never cross the line into didacticism.
Unfortunately, the fascinating and enlightening stories of Wang Yu’s past lives are also its Achilles heel. The chapters that recount the present life of Wang Yu are dry and less involving and this reader found himself doing all he could to not skip the present day chapters and search for the next letter about his past incarnations. That is not to say that the present day chapters are not well written but there is a bloated, repetitiveness about these chapters that occasionally slow the plot and storyline down and result in the novel feeling less tight and in need of an astute editorial cohesiveness.
Susan Barker takes us through 1500 years of China’s history. The recent past also haunts the novel with reference to Tiananmen Square by a patient at the mental institution who attempted to gain democratic freedom for his countrymen while Wang Yu speaks of his mother telling him of how Chairman Mao had thousands of workers build an underground tunnel underneath Tiananmen Square to allow an escape to freedom during the era of nuclear threat.
Politics and the hypocritical nature of western democracy is also referenced though it is painted in rather broad and obvious strokes. While watching ‘Free Tibet’ British protestors during the torch relay in London on their laptop, Yida says;

“Look at how they invaded and bombed Iraq and Afghanistan, and they think they can shout at us about Tibet. They know nothing about Tibet. Tibetans were illiterate, dirty and backwards before China developed the region.”

The author is not above pointing out the humour in the irrational nature of life in China. During the reign of Chairman Mao, the Red Guards, “change the traffic light system, so revolutionary red means ‘go’ and green means ‘stop’. The inevitable accidents occur and the victims are persecuted for, “clinging to the Old Culture and the Old Ways of Thinking.” One of the biographer’s stories tells of Wang Yu’s early incarnations being married to a chicken that is believed to possess the spirit of a prosperous family’s dead son. When she learns that she is to be ‘sacrificed’ the morning after the ‘wedding’ she flees the area taking the chicken with her. Getting fed up with the squirming she wrings the chicken’s neck and finds herself, “Widowed at the age of thirteen”. She later roasts and eats the chicken.
Susan Barker is the progeny of a Chinese Malaysian mother and an English father. She spent several years in Beijing researching ancient and modern China. The years of research shines brightly throughout the novel helping light up the novel as a very worthy contender for any reader’s bookshelf. If one can forgive the occasionally slow nature of the novel and its tendency to repeat itself and crowbar in superfluous political commentary then the reader will be rewarded with a fascinating and erudite story that basks in the history of an inscrutable country.

First Line – “Every night I wake from dreaming.”

Memorable Line – “I tally the former incarnations as a wood cutter counts rings within a tree. I date the soul as a Geiger counter dates carbon.”

No’ of Pages – 384
Sex Scenes – Yes
Profanity – Yes
Genre – Fiction.

Price: £4.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, intricate but deeply flawed., 9 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Paradise (Kindle Edition)
The book opens early one morning in 1976, with nine men from the town of Ruby (with a population of 360) assaulting a former Convent which lies some 19 miles outside the town. The men justify this assault on the convent and its female inhabitants as a way of protecting Ruby, “the one all black town worth the pain.” The 1960s and 1970s has been a confusing time, racially, politically and generationally for the town. With rumours of witchcraft and abortions happening at the convent the townspeople find a scapegoat for all that ails them in the shape of the nonconformists and fugitives who inhabit the convent.
The story then weaves its way back and forth through time relating the story of the people and origins of the town and how the women of the former convent found their way there. Through these elements and the third person prism of points of view from many different characters, the reader is lead toward the conclusion of the events on that morning of 1976 nineteen miles outside the town of Ruby.

“They shoot the white girl first”

This is a powerful and stunning opening line that has the reader asking a plethora of questions before they move onto the second line: Why is the woman shot? Was she killed or injured? Why is her ethnicity mentioned? The last question is substantially more pertinent as the novel never reveals the ethnicity of the women at the convent and because of that we the reader have no idea which of the women was shot: Connie, a former ward of the nuns, who ran the convent when it was a boarding school for Indian girls; Mavis, a woman who left her two babies to suffocate in her car on a hot day and fled believing her husband and remaining children wanted to kill her; Gigi, who participates in anti-War demonstrations and whose boyfriend is in jail; Seneca, a hitchhiker, turns up at the convent after temporarily providing sexual fun for a rich woman; Pallas, a runaway whose boyfriend leaves her for her mother and is brought to the convent after having escaped from rapists.
Ruby’s nomadic group of descendants migrated from Mississippi and Louisiana in the 1870s and attempted to integrate into other societies but found themselves turned away. They eventually established the town of haven. After the apparent disintegration of the town of Haven’s moral fibre during the years of World War II the elders moved on to establish a new town, Ruby. This search for the ‘promised land’ is one of the novel’s themes writ large, religion.
The town’s founding fathers, Deek and Steward Morgan have set down unwritten ‘commandments’ that they believe should be adhered to at all costs. A set of rules that are not only unrealistically Utopian but ignore the intricacies and convolutions of human nature.
The other large themes that permeate the novel is race and racism. Not just racism in its obvious ugly form between white and black but also the racism that exists in the novel between dark skinned African Americans and lighter skinned African Americans.
Over and above these large themes, Toni Morrison looks at the subjects that though always with us in one form or another were greatly magnified in the post war years and in particular the 1960s and 1970s; the rise of feminism; a cultural and societal widening of the generation gap; race riots that beset America and Christianity faced challenges from the likes of Eastern religions and Marxism.
Though the novel is interesting, intelligent and wonderfully illustrates the devastating legacy of slavery in all its forms, racial, sexual and gender, its message is lost in what is a convoluted, affected, vague and over populated novel.
Not only are there over sixty, (yes 60+) characters in the novel but so many of them are written in such a similar manner that it is at times difficult to distinguish one from the other. However, this maybe intentional on the author’s part to show us, the reader, that we are not all that different from each other.
The novel’s events that occur to allow the plot to harness its themes feels too random and unpersuasive. From the lost white people who appear in Ruby, to the women who happen upon what is supposedly a remote house. The character of Gigi/Grace particularly grates as she has arrived in the area looking for a rock formation in the desert which looks like a couple having sex and then searches for a lovers' tree in Ruby after her original search proves fruitless before stumbling upon the convent.
This is not a book for the casual reader and maybe not even for the seasoned reader either who is looking to read, cogitate, enjoy and move onto the next book. For most readers it would need several readings to help fathom this intricate and deeply flawed meretricious novel.

First Line - “They shoot the white girl first”

Memorable Line – “God don’t make mistakes, Lone had shouted at her. Perhaps not, but He was sometimes over generous. Like giving satanic gifts to a drunken, ignorant, penniless woman living in darkness unable to rise from a cot to do something useful or die on it and rid the world of her stench.”

Number of Pages – 318
Sex Scenes – Yes
Profanity – Mild
Genre – Fiction/Magic realism.

Prisoner of Night and Fog
Prisoner of Night and Fog
by Anne Blankman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An honest and unapologetic YA novel, 1 Sept. 2014
It’s 1931 and Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei abbreviated to NSDAP) had made huge gains in the 1930 Reichstag elections increasing the number of deputies from 12 to 107. Hitler’s plans to eradicate the Jews are beginning to unfold as his grasp of the hearts and minds of the German population becomes ever more pervasive.
But to seventeen year old Gretchen Müller the leader of the NSDAP is Uncle Dolf. A man who taught her about art and music. A man who, “had such a lovely voice, dark and warm and rich, like melted chocolate.” To Gretchen Hitler was like a second father. Her own father had died eight years previously having leapt in front of Hitler taking bullets intended for him. Gretchen is known as ‘the martyr’s daughter’ who along with her brother Reinhard and her mother are protected and cared for by Hitler as his way of acknowledging the sacrifice Gretchen’s father made.
However, Gretchen’s rose tinted view of Uncle Dolf begins to change when she receives a letter from Daniel Cohen a reporter at the Munich Post that states that her father was killed by a NSDAP comrade during the ill-conceived and attempted Putsch in 1923 and not by the parties’ enemies. After a meeting with Daniel Cohen and her slow burning realization that Hitler’s demonization of the Jewish people is far from the truth, Gretchen begins to investigate the death of her father. Slowly and inexorably Gretchen realises she has been a prisoner of the night and fog of naivety and profound abnegation.
The prisoner of Night and Fog is an unapologetic YA novel and wears that particular genre on its sleeve. It is a novel that is both adventure story and romance. The author has woven her fictitious characters through the loom of real events and people and does so successfully. It is Anne Blackman’s meticulous research of the era that lifts the novel over and above the usual hum drum and ubiquitous YA novels that flood the market. The author has intelligently set the novel at a time, 1931, when Hitler is on the cusp of greatness. In July 1932 the Nazi party would become the largest party in Parliament and within six months in January 1933 Hitler would be appointed Reich Chancellor.
Gretchen is a plausible, vibrant and flawed character who moves through Germany’s heart of darkness in search for a truth that palpably motivates her every move. Though Daniel Cohen, the Munich Post reporter, is also a vibrantly rich character his motivation to help Gretchen is less uncertain. He witnesses Gretchen attempting to help a Hasidic Jew who is being attacked by her brother and his friend, Kurt and through this one incident he declares to her, “You’re not at all like the others.” Gretchen herself believes her sorrow for the Jew was an aberration, “a typical reaction from a future medical student who hated seeing anyone in pain.”
Daniel barely needed her help in unmasking the truth behind Gretchen’s father’s death. An example of this is when he asks for her help to break into an apartment to find important papers. He has the ability to search a one room apartment himself and is also able to pick locks. Gretchen served no purpose other than we discover she too can pick locks (being taught by her father) when Daniel’s talent for doing do so deserts him this one time.
Gretchen’s psychopathic brother Reinhard’s ever increasing violent nature is chillingly conceived and acts as a wonderful cypher for not only the actions of other young men of the Nazi party but for Germany itself. His unwavering and unchallenging belief in Hitler and the Nazi Party is raw and unpretentious. The Nazi Party ideologies have given him a purpose and strength in life that Anne Blankman writes with honest conviction and insight.
Some of the minor characters are less well drawn and some are superfluous, such as the Englishman Dr. Whitestone who is simply there as a plot device to crowbar in a helpful plot development that will be necessary further into the novel’s story and also I believe necessary to the book’s sequel, (the book is part of a trilogy). Apart from that Dr. Whitestone serves no other purpose.
One has the impression that the author, like so many other YA novelists, had one eye on a film deal while writing the novel as there are scenes that would be more at home in a screenplay: one example would be Gretchen and Daniel’s first meeting. While talking Gretchen is distracted by her friend for a second and when she turns back to Daniel he is gone.
But, one can’t vilify the author for thinking of possible film deals as writing novels is not the most profitable vocation while successful film deals can set an author up for life and allow them to continue to do what they love doing; writing novels.
The Prisoner of Night and Fog is a charming, literate novel that will please not only YA readers but those who are looking to move onto more adult novels. I must congratulate Anne Blankman for including a three page bibliography for those readers who may want to learn more about the history of Hitler, the Nazi Party and Germany. Anything that attempts to get the younger generation not only interested in history but in the world at large has to be applauded.

First Line – “Gretchen Müller peered through the car’s rain-spotted windshield.”
Memorable Line – “National Socialist,” she corrected automatically. She hated the way some people said ‘Nazi’ so casually, as though they didn’t even realize it was Bavarian slang for ‘country bumpkin’.”

Number of pages - 384
Sex Scenes – None
Profanity – None
Genre – Fiction

Please visit my blog (find details in my Amazon profile) for edited transcribed notes on a talk Anne Blankman gave at the Edinburgh Book Festival 2014.

The Heroes' Welcome
The Heroes' Welcome
by Louisa Young
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solidly written but..., 23 July 2014
This review is from: The Heroes' Welcome (Hardcover)
It’s March 1919, a few short months after the end of First World War. The working class twenty-three year old Riley Purefoy marries Nadine the daughter of Lady and Sir Waveney. No family members are invited as guests only a few friends: Peter Locke as best man, who was Riley’s CO in the army; Rose as maid of honour, Peter’s cousin with ambitions to be a doctor and Peter’s son Tom as pageboy.
Rose works at the Queen’s Hospital attending to soldiers with facial injuries and had nursed Riley during his time there.

“ Riley’s mouth had for so long been the territory first of bloody destruction, then of its complex rebuilding by surgery...His mouth. The beautiful upper lip, the battlefield below. The skin above smoothed ivory by morphine, the scars below carefully shaven, not hidden, not displayed...”

While Riley’s scars of disfigurement received at Passchendale are obvious, Peter Locke’s mental anguish and feelings of profound guilt of having men die under his command is not. While Riley heroically attempts to live a normal life, Peter has become an alcoholic, ignoring his wife Julia and their son Tom and barely leaves his study. There he prefers the company of Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ which he religiously reads and rereads.
With David Lloyd George’s lie, “What is our task? To make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in” ¹
still ringing in their ears those soldiers who returned from the war attempt to find their place again in society. For the women of these men, be they mothers, sisters or wives, they have the unenviable task of finding a way of dealing with the emotionally, physically and mentally scarred survivors of the Great War. The author Louisa Young attempts to convey both sides of that particular battle which will result in casualties on both sides.
With 2014 being the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War one can assume it is no serendipitous circumstance that Louisa Young has published this novel now. But this is no attempt to cash in on the anniversary but an honest attempt to convey that though a war may be over and the ink is dry on the various treaties signed by the winners and losers, the suffering of the, ‘the lions led by donkeys’ ², still goes on regardless.
The author has written an interesting story and characters and which for the most part are engaging and believable. However, her technique of jumping from third to first person narrator is jarring. The story is specifically told in third person but then jumps to first to convey each character’s internal dialogue. Rather than engaging one in the story this style of writing actually disengages the reader from the story and too often than not the author is showing rather telling the story.
Many of Louisa Young’s characters are believable and roundly written especially those of the two combatants, Peter Locke and Riley Purefoy. These two imposingly different male characters coming from polarized ends of the class scale feel bolted and secured in the real world and as such they are easy to not only sympathize with but also to empathize with as much as one can after the horrors they have encountered.
However, the female characters are less well drawn especially Peter Locke’s cousin Rose who is not only poorly drawn but is a superfluous character who if excised from the novel would not affect the story or plot in any way. Her actions are at times contradictory. At the end of one chapter she has decided that she will give up her dreams of becoming a doctor to look after a man but in the following chapter she says,

“For one thing, I’d have to give up medicine, and that I will not do. Certainly not for a man.”

Another problem with the novel regarding womenis that all the mother characters are unsympathetic. Julia, Peter’s wife and Tom’s mother, ignores the boy and leaves them both for Europe. Julia’s mother is a harridan. Riley and Nadine’s mothers practically disown their children after being told of their wedding while the fathers don’t necessarily approve but are seen to understand.
While on the whole the dialogue is thoughtfully and skilfully written there are times when it feels unnatural and clunky. Couple that with the author crowbarring in quotes from literature and poetry in particular, which do not help to define or enrich the characterizations of the protagonists but only feels like the author is showing off her erudition, and it results in the reader being all too aware that they are reading a novel.
Though this is going to be sold as a story of the aftermath of the Great War and its subsequent consequences for the returning soldiers and their families it is at its solidly written heart, a romance novel. It is a story of love, unrequited and otherwise, and the way that love be it for another person or your country attempts to survive under extraordinary circumstances.

¹ David Lloyd George (Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor) 1863-1945. Speech at Wolverhampton, Nov. 23, 1918, quoted in The Times, Nov. 25, 1918.
² Exchange between two German generals, which is reported in the Bloombury Treasury of Quotations: Erich Ludendorf: The English soldiers fight like lions. Max Hoffman(1869-1927): True. But don't we know that they are lions led by donkeys.

First Line – “Riley Purefoy did not think very much about the war.”
Memorable Line – “Every human body was a corpse in waiting.”

Number of Pages – 260
Profanity – Yes
Sex Scenes – No
Genre - Fiction

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