Shop now Shop now Shop now See more Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now
Profile for Garth Algar > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Garth Algar
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,334,430
Helpful Votes: 88

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Garth Algar (London)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2
pixel
God's Own Country
God's Own Country
by Ross Raisin
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling and amusing. Brilliant book., 26 Sept. 2011
This review is from: God's Own Country (Hardcover)
There is much more to Gods Own Country than black comedy. Raisin manages an incredible feat of balancing suspense and humour and it's great. To be simultaneously chilled and amused is a rare thing, but this book gives you both in equal measure.

Sam Marsdyke is a brilliant protagonist. A loner who lives on a remote farm in the Moors with his unloving parents, more at home with the sheep and the dogs than with other people. Kicked out of school for a violent act, you feel it is only a matter of time before something happens again. As the suspense ratchets, Sam's thoughts provide some hilarious commentaries on the society he lives outside of - whether it's the townsfolk, ramblers or newcomers buying up the neighbouring farms - creating an imaginary world inside his head as he roams the moors.

Is Sam just misunderstood - ostracised and feared because he's different, you ask yourself, or are people right to be afraid of him?


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Modern Classics)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Ken Kesey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 25 Jan. 2011
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a really great read.

To begin with it is disorientating. You are dropped straight into the totally unfamiliar environment of a mental asylum and have to work a bit to get your bearings - I know he's crazy, but how crazy...? I know she's mean, but how mean...? I know that much of what is described is in the mind of this strange narrator, but just how much...?

Very quickly you get immersed in it and it takes you for a hell of a ride. The tension builds and the story unfolds slowly but surely into an incredibly dramatic climax.

The cast of colourful characters all undergo major life-changing experiences, and it's really exhilarating going through it with them.


The Singer
The Singer
by Cathi Unsworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to enjoy this book, 6 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Singer (Paperback)
I wanted to like this book, and I really tried, but in the end I just had to give up.

The subject matter is good, the characters are ok and the story is really quite engaging, but the clunky prose is just exhausting to read. It lacks any charm or flow and feels pretty amateurish (and not in a capturing the raw diy punk ethos kind of way).

Maybe if I'd given it more time it would have redeemed itself, but at the half way point I was just finding it more and more boring.

I think, for me, the reason it fails as a book is that it takes itself far too seriously. If it was a light hearted romp then you could be more forgiving, but it has the tone of a heavyweight novel - without any of the class.

Shame really because I kind of wanted to know what happened, it just wasn't worth the effort.


Neither Here, Nor There: Travels in Europe
Neither Here, Nor There: Travels in Europe
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear, 17 Dec. 2010
I generally like Bill Bryson, he writes well, he's funny and his prose is effortless and characterful. He has really let himself down here though.

The bumbling-around-not-quite-knowing-what's-going-on shtick is of course the main part of his charm and an excellent persona to adopt as a travel writer. I was reading this book and quite enjoying it - not minding that he managed to miss the point of every country he visits and regurgitates tired clichés about how well certain nationalities drive, when I was stopped in my tracks by one of the singularly most offensive lines I have ever read.

This is Bryson's views on Germans and, more worryingly, the kind of thing he finds funny...

"I don't think I can altogether forgive the Germans their past, not as long as I can wonder if that friendly old waiter who brings me my coffee might once have spent his youth bayoneting babies or herding Jews into gas ovens."

LOL

I'm not prudish or easily offended, but the idiocy of this statement beggars belief. Obviously judging someone by their country's past is a little bit childish and embarrassing, but to make jokes about that kind of atrocity - lacing it with cute little alliteration and a smirk - shows something a little darker.

Grow up.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2014 12:40 PM GMT


Engleby
Engleby
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One hell of a book. Wow., 15 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
This is the first Sebastian Faulks book I have read and it competely blew me away. The quality of writing is superb, the book is an engaing satire on the recent past, a gripping psychological thriller, the blackest of black comedies and it stayed with me long after I finished it in a way that very, very few other novels have. I suppose the question is - if I can relate so readily to Mike "Toilet" Engleby, what does that say about me? A profound, brutal, ice-cool and devastating story that leaves you with a strange empty feeling long after reading. Terrifyingly brilliant. 6 stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 30, 2011 3:48 PM GMT


The Last Resort
The Last Resort
by Martin Parr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun in the sun. Not., 9 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Last Resort (Hardcover)
The Last Resort (great title) is an amazing collection of photographs.

Apart from being visually stunning, they provide a fascinating window on a very specific time and place - New Brighton, a working class seaside resort in northern England in the mid 80s - not so very far away but a different world from the budget airline, foreign holiday generation of today. A time when bucket and spade holidays were still the norm, but seem to have lost any sense of excitement or genuine enjoyment.

I'm not sure how the viewer (with their nice expensive glossy coffee-table photography book) is expected to react to photos of things like children playing in litter-strewn water or people sunbathing in the shelter of rusty machinery in an industrial landscape. There is humour in the photos, but also a whiff of snobbery. I get the feeling the Parr may sometimes be laughing at, rather than with, the subjects, but it is a brilliant book of incredibly atmospheric photos nonetheless.


What is the What
What is the What
by Dave Eggers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, rewarding & important, 9 Sept. 2010
This review is from: What is the What (Paperback)
WITW is an amazing story, well written. It is incredibly moving and really opens your eyes to the realities of the horrors of the on-going wars in Africa and to the hardships suffered by so many immigrants to the west, but is in no way self-righteous or preachy. It doesn't need to be. It just tells Valentino Achak Deng's personal story as he remembers it, and what a story it is - unbelievable horrors, tragedies and suffering covering a wide scope of time and place from his childhood village in southern Sudan, via various warzones and refugee camps to his adulthood in America and the challenges thrown up there.

As with much great literature, the weightiness of the over-arching themes is balanced against the every day human elements of personal relationships, immediate concerns and (albeit rarely in this case) humour and joy. Eggers treads this line perfectly and the result is a memorable book. It treats the story with the seriousness it deserves, while keeping it readable. It is not a fast paced read, but nor should it be.


The Tomb In Seville
The Tomb In Seville
by Norman Lewis
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but no Naples '44, 11 Jun. 2010
This review is from: The Tomb In Seville (Hardcover)
The book doesn't really capture the mood of Spain on the brink of civil war - the tone is always slightly flippant - but it does provide a fascinating account of life on the Iberian peninsular in the 1930s, particularly in the rural areas. It is truly amazing that within living memory there were people in Europe living in essentially medieval conditions - there are communities on the verge of starvation, people so backwards the townsfolk believe them to be Vandals or Visigoths, families living in caves and, in one village in Portugal, even an account of a recent witch burning.

It is these accounts that are really fascinating. The descriptions of uprisings, rebellions and street battles show what a turbulent time it was, but fail to capture anything of the terror or violence. This is probably due to the fact the book was written so long after the event, which also has a distorting effect in other ways. Time seems to stretch and contract, and major events go unmentioned, or without explanation. One example being that it takes them weeks of arduous, disrupted travel to get across Spain to Seville (the account of which is the point of the book) but when the get there they call the father in law in London who decides to join them - arriving in just a couple of days.

Apart from the slight feeling that the narrator is watching events from afar rather than actually experiencing them, and maybe a little too much natural history for my personal taste, this is definitely worth a read. Memorable, but by no means perfect.


Thank You for the Days: A Boy's Own Adventures in Radio and Beyond
Thank You for the Days: A Boy's Own Adventures in Radio and Beyond
by Mark Radcliffe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a thoroughly nice chap., 22 Mar. 2010
I mean, what an absolutely bloody lovely bloke. Mark Radcliffe is modest and self deprecating to a fault, and his primary interests include music, beer and music. What's not to like?

Thank You For The Days is far from an indie outsider's cynical take on the music industry. There are no revelations of rock and roll debauchery, or revenge swipes at old foes. It is the story of a genuine music fan who constantly feels privileged to have been lucky enough to make a career out of playing records he likes and interviewing people. The affable Radcliffe would never be so presumptuous as to impose anything too alternative or niche on the reader, so he keeps the name-dropping anecdotes to mainstream stars - Bowie, Jagger, McCartney, Minogue all get politely complimented, as do Chris Evans and Tony Blair. When he does have an (oh so slight) pop at people, the targets are such obvious villains - Jeffrey Archer, Noel Edmunds, American sports etc. - that it seems almost as if he's contractually obliged to include a quota of digs, even if he doesn't really want to.

Radcliffe is incredibly magnanimous about the low point of his career - he sees his sacking from the Radio 1 breakfast show from his superiors' point of view, and is modest about his successes throughout. He says that in however many years of working in radio he has only ever had 2 or 3 heated discussions with people (or something like that, I can't remember exactly) and it is easy to see why. A more laid back and easy-going bloke you could not wish to come across.

The comparison with the books of Stuart Maconie is so obvious that it has to be made. Mark Radcliffe's book doesn't quite have the wit and observation of his co-presenter, nor does he have the same skill at infecting the reader with his passion for music, but that doesn't mean this book isn't a good read. It makes you smile rather than laugh, and it can be a little obvious. It's not a book that's going to change your life or get studied in schools for generations, but it does leave you with a great fondness for Radcliffe and a real desire to sink a few pints of ale with him. Cheers.


Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics)
Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff - Definitely worth reading., 10 Feb. 2010
What always strikes me about Orwell's writing is the amount of meaning he imbues into such apparently simple language. More than anything this book is utterly readable, but while being easy to read you constantly have the feeling that you are learning a lot - and I mean that in a good way. After reading a single chapter about an episode in a character's past, you come out feeling like you have learnt more about that period in history than from all other reading, general knowledge and long-forgotten lessons put together.

Coming Up For Air isn't about telling a story, or even about creating a character (which it does spectacularly well), it's a state-of-the-nation piece that draws you right in - letting you know with exquisite detail and real atmosphere what life was like in home counties England from the turn of the century, through the Great War and it's aftermath, up to the looming inevitability of the horrors of WW2. Seeing life through the eyes George Bowling - a shopkeeper's son turned soldier turned unhappily married insurance salesman living in the outer suburbs - provides a generally original viewpoint on the times. History is very rarely told from the perspective of the lower-middle class, and it makes for an interesting angle.

Something else which struck me is the accuracy of foresight displayed by Orwell when it comes to predictions about the second world war. I had to constantly check the publication date to confirm that it was indeed written in 1939. The way he describes many of the events yet to come is incredibly prescient - more so, maybe, than in 1984, although you can see some of those ideas forming here. You can also see why, with the gentle pace of the story, and a central character that won't be sympathetic to all readers, CUFA is not top of most people's list of Orwell's most famous classics. It is, however, a gem - the winning way he has of dealing with the greatest of themes with the lightest of linguistic touches makes for a really absorbing read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2015 5:19 PM BST


Page: 1 | 2