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A Legacy of Spies
A Legacy of Spies
by John le Carré
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.50

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed - probably predictably, 15 Sept. 2017
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This review is from: A Legacy of Spies (Hardcover)
It's hard to see how this book could live up to the hype and expectation so it's perhaps not surprising that I was so disappointed. I rate "The spy who came in from the cold" so highly. It's an astonishing read and I envy anyone reading it for the first time. In my view it was a mistake to go back to that terrain and try to match the tension, though there are moments, particularly in the final third of the book, where it came close to putting me back in that time. I found the endless memos and explaining of the memos to investigators very slow, and as others have said, the ending just peters out. Plus the women, as ever, are caricatures. That might not matter in a world where there may not have been many women - the 1960s say. But in the twenty first century where there are many women in the civil service, and indeed two closely engaged with the narrative, to not be able to write a decent female character is a problem. So all in all a disappointing read. But I'm clearly in a minority on here. If you buy it because like me you have bought everything else he has ever written and enjoyed much of it, I hope this works for you more than it did for me.


The West Rand Jive Cats Boxing Club
The West Rand Jive Cats Boxing Club
by Lauren Liebenberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.95

2.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't get engaged with this, 9 Sept. 2017
I bought this after seeing a rave review in the FT a while ago. I hadn't heard of the author before, but see from other reviewers that this is her second book. If so I fear it may be the "difficult" second novel as I couldn't get into it at all. I couldn't be nostalgic for the time that she writes about in terms of the politics and the history. Perhaps if you had family who had lived through it you might find it more engaging. She's a lovely writer and I will definitely try her first book but sadly didn't warm to this.


This Must Be the Place: Costa Award Shortlisted 2016
This Must Be the Place: Costa Award Shortlisted 2016
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Impossible to put down, 8 Sept. 2017
I loved every moment of this book. You have to pay attention as it moves around through time and place, and there are different story lines from different perspectives, but it's a marvellous unravelling over time of life and relationships, about the compromises we make, when we trust others and when we don't, and how cruel we can be to each other. Fabulous and highly recommended.


Respectable: Crossing the Class Divide
Respectable: Crossing the Class Divide
by Lynsey Hanley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't finish this very angry book, 6 Sept. 2017
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I liked "Estates" and agree with part of the central thesis here which is that the influence of class in the U.K. still exists and that too little was expected of working class kids in education in the past so thought I'd try it. It's way too angry for me. I gave up on page 100 when the author says that free nursery care for children whose parents are on state benefits is designed to remove working class children from the influence of their working class parents. I've never read such nonsense.

All the evidence that exists suggests that if we want to see children achieve everything that they are capable of, and have the chance to make choices in life from a more level playing field, we need to support the development of (for example) cognitive skills and vocabulary from an early age, particularly for children whose parents - for whatever reason - might struggle to provide that support. That's not about minimising influence. It's about supporting children and parents and giving a fair chance. And it is one of the things that will help to minimise the class divide which does indeed still exist.

If you're going to be this angry about the outcomes, you should at least be prepared to look constructively at the solutions. Disappointing.


Swing Time: Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017
Swing Time: Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017
by Zadie Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but requires persistence, 6 Sept. 2017
I gave up on this about 100 pages in. Then about a week later I picked it up again and persisted. I'm glad I did because the part I thought I wouldn't care about - the celebrity factotum lifestyle - turns into a pretty biting satire. It's a good read and thought provoking but I felt she had lost the brilliance of N-W, which I loved and thought was a virtuoso piece of writing that perfectly captured the pulse of a city. This is written on a much larger canvass and some of that works - the village life scenes and the "growing up in London", particularly the campaigning mother - but some of it didn't, so for example I found the New York scenes were less gripping. Worth reading and if you are a book group you would find much to discuss, but not quite as good as I'd expected from the rave reviews.


The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life
The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life
by John le Carré
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Le Carré fans, 3 Sept. 2017
I enjoyed this a great deal. It's a series of essays, some no more than fragments and therefore very short indeed, and many of which give you an insight into how characters in his books came to be, or help you understand the research that he does for his books. It's not an autobiography so don't expect that, but it is an interesting reflection on his life as a writer. It's as carefully constructed as you might expect and I'm still not sure how much of it is factually completely true as opposed to edited in the way a great writer might want to do in order to shape and present a tale they want to tell. But if you like Le Carré I predict you will enjoy this.


Haweswater
Haweswater
by Sarah Hall
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous sense of place, but not as good as subsequent novels, 25 Aug. 2017
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This review is from: Haweswater (Paperback)
I loved the other Sarah Hall novels that I have read - most recently The Wolf Border, and before that The Carhullan Army (also published as Ths Women of the North, which is the version I have), but had never read her first book, Haweswater, so I thought I would try it. She has a perfect sense of place and of the people who live in and love that place, and her descriptions of the natural world, landscape and place are magnificent. I have several times since I finished it thought about the characters and their lives. But I didn't find Janet convincing and so what should have been a passionate involvement with one of the main characters just didn't work for me, which meant the whole thing fell slightly flat. If you are trying her for the first time, you may respond differently, but if you do read this and don't get on with it, don't let it put you off trying one of her others - which are great.


Barkskins: Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2017
Barkskins: Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2017
by Annie Proulx
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 25 Aug. 2017
I was excited to see this because I really enjoyed The Shipping News and love a big historical novel, particularly if it involves a focus on nature. But like some others reviewing here I felt that the novel was just too broad in its historical sweep to allow for any proper character development and so it was difficult to care about anything else other than the despoliation of the planet through the destruction of the forests and the appalling treatment of indigenous people and destruction of their heritage and knowledge, all of which I could have got from a non-fiction book. The writing about the natural world was often quite breathtakingly beautiful, but it wasn't enough. So sadly, after so much effort to write it, not a great review from me.


Breaking Cover (A Liz Carlyle Novel)
Breaking Cover (A Liz Carlyle Novel)
by Stella Rimington
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Not engaging, 22 Aug. 2017
I loved the Liz Carlyle series so was really looking forward to this but it's a little thin and the plot is guessable from the very start. There is lots of good detail, but it doesn't quite make up for a disappointing book. Shame. Start with another one if you are looking for your first try...


No Way But Gentlenesse: A Memoir of How Kes, My Kestrel, Changed My Life
No Way But Gentlenesse: A Memoir of How Kes, My Kestrel, Changed My Life
by Richard Hines
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than it at first seems, 19 Aug. 2017
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I enjoyed this a great deal. As others here have said, the author is the younger brother of the author Barry Hines who wrote "A kestrel for a knave", which became the film "Kes", and this is his own memoir about his childhood, about how he came to train kestrels, his role in the film and his later life. But it's also about the absolutely crushing psychological impact that not passing the 11 plus had on him, and even more so, a brutal analysis of the quality of teaching at his secondary modern school. It also shows you first hand what life in a pit village was like in the post-war years. It's short, honest, and I learnt a lot about hawks. But I learnt a lot more about how people can benefit from life long learning and second chances if things didn't work out the first time they encountered education.


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