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Reviews Written by
Huw Davies (Taunton, England)

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Cider With Rosie (Vintage Classics)
Cider With Rosie (Vintage Classics)
by Laurie Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.84

5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful witness to the decline of country life, 19 April 2016
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Laurie Lee's most famous work details his childhood in the Gloucestershire village of Slad, and all the trials and tribulations that came as a schoolboy in Britain after World War 1, just before the advent of the motor-car.

'Cider with Rosie' is not only chock-full of wonderful vignettes on many aspects of life, but is also written in the most glorious poetic prose, and is instantly redolent of that sort of countryside living, for those of us who grew up there or know it well.

Lee arranges the work broadly thematically, although there is a vague chronology which runs throughout, concluding with my favourite chapter; the last. In this, he describes what he sees as the end of a thousand year-old way of life, with the landed gentry of the village dying off and their property being sold, the motor-car making once-distant cities like Gloucester easily accessible and growing industrialisation meaning the youth of Slad leaving to find work, rather than staying to tend the fields. Whilst I think bemoaning the end of the age of our childhood is a common trait amongst many of us, Lee has a strong claim. Indeed, he doesn't condemn this new age of technology, but does point out that the sort of lives that were led in Britain 2,000 years ago were still being lived until not a century back.

The only downside to this book (the Vintage Classics edition, anyway) is the Cerys Matthews introduction, which has little original material and is very heavy on quotes from the book. Not much cop in my mind, but nothing to put you off, nor does it merit the loss of a star.


All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
by Erich Maria Remarque
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars The quintissential narrative of trench warfare, 11 April 2016
This is a masterful account of the horrors and brutality of the First World War, brought to life by Remarque's vivid description coupled with the extremely strong first person narrative - one of the most skilfully-crafted I have ever read.

The book follows a 19 year-old German, Paul Bäumer, and a group of his former schoolmates who join the German army and are shipped off to fight the French and the British on the Western Front. Gradually the optimism and light-heartedness of the start of the book gives way in the language to pessimism and despair, as the soldiers begin to experience the horrors of total war and members of their regiment start being picked off.

What makes this novel so much better than some other WW1 narratives is the narrator's reflection on how war is affecting him as a human being. Particularly poignant is the sense which grows through the book that, as a fresh-faced schoolboy, he has known nothing but war unlike his older comrades, and that if he ever makes it home he will have nothing to start a life with other than the experiences of the trenches.

This is the quintissential novel of WW1 trench warfare and should be required reading for all, especially young adults.


Can You Forgive Her? (English Library)
Can You Forgive Her? (English Library)
by Anthony Trollope
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Long-winded but very rewarding, 4 April 2016
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A substantial and very intricate work which explores many aspects of human relationships - mainly of the romantic sort - and also touches on aspects of politics.

Of course this is a 19th-century novel so much has changed but this is ever more fascinating as a result. And of course all written in Trollope's unique style.

Said style is of course very wordy and dare I say it long winded which draws the novel out, and there is also a lot of padding in the plot. Part of the reason for this is that Trollope originally published this book as individual chapters in a newspaper, so a drawn out plot would have had a financial benefit to him.

So yes, I am a little cynical but it doesn't detract from the ingenuity of this work. Stick with it and you will be rewarded.


One Hundred Years of Solitude (Penguin Modern Classics)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylistically both triumphant and unusual, 21 Jan. 2016
This is undoubtedly a work of great literary skill, with fantastic description and a sprawling story which reflects so well the trials and tribulations of Colombian life from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. The underlying message of solitude, portrayed in different ways by the wide cast of characters, is definitely something to ruminate over.

It's not perfect - for one there are so many characters named Jose Arcadio, Aureliano, etc, that you need to be very attentive to who's who. You can tell, and indeed the version I have has a family tree at the front which is very helpful and without which I would have been lost. Also the 'magic realism' style is not to everyone's taste - I found it odd at first (and still do, a bit) - though I was able to finish this book without problems. My father on the other hand, a man of considerable intellect and literary knowledge if I might add, just could not get into it and had to put it down after about 50 pages, so it is not for everyone. However it is worth a try and it is a rewarding read once you get into it.


Notes From A Big Country: Journey Into the American Dream
Notes From A Big Country: Journey Into the American Dream
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A very funny book to be savoured, 21 Jan. 2016
This was the first Bill Bryson travel book I read and safe to say it got me hooked. I notice several reviews from Americans below who are rather miffed at his irreverent and sarcastic views of his home country, which rather proves some of the points he makes in the book!

Bryson takes in vast swathes of American culture, history and life in this book and presents his forthright views and observations. It was originally published as a long-running column in a British newspaper and so each chapter is only a few pages long - as such this book doesn't really work too well if read in huge chunks (part of my reason for giving it 4 instead of 5 stars) but rather if you read a couple of chapters at a time, on the train or before bed for example.

I must say some of his chapters where he jokes about the confusion caused by American instruction manuals or bureaucracy were not really to my sense of humour, and I did tend to skip them as he repeats himself in this regard. However overall the vast majority of chapters are laugh out loud funny. Recommended for anyone who has ever visited or lived in America, or has been faced with American ignorance whilst living in the UK.


Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country
Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Bryson strikes gold again, 21 Jan. 2016
I love Bill Bryson. His laugh-out-loud funny, irreverent view of the world fits my sense of humour perfectly and his visit to Australia, documented in this book, gets similar treatment. It will make you want to visit Australia, I warn you (especially Sydney which he clearly adores) but you will learn a lot too - from the forgotten Prime Minister who drowned during an evening swim to living fossils and everything in between. Recommended for all as it is so funny, but anyone who has ever visited or lived in Australia will, I suspect, find it particularly rewarding.


Go Set a Watchman
Go Set a Watchman
by Harper Lee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging and thought-provoking companion to 'Mockingbird', 21 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Go Set a Watchman (Hardcover)
This book is often described as a 'companion' or 'spiritual sequel' to To Kill a Mockingbird. That is understandable, especially since there are certain parts of the book which TKAM (which was actually written after this) copies. However I do not subscribe to the view that it doesn't work as a sequel to TKAM - it absolutely does, and it in fact enhances your experience of that book and makes you brood on it.

My view is that the changes which Jean Louise (Scout of TKAM) perceives in her father were never really there - for that reason TKAM can be seen more as a naive and idealised view of Jean Louise's childhood, contrasting with her adult life, described in part here, which is more realistic and brutal. I don't know what Harper Lee intended, but that is my viewing and I think it is a more accurate portrayal of how the Deep South seems to have been in the early to mid 20th century.

I would not recommend this for anyone who has not read TKAM, but for anyone who has and wants to be challenged and really think about issues surrounding race and social cohesion, this is ideal. If you are like Jean Louise, stuck in the past with your ideal Gregory Peck view of Atticus, you might want to avoid this.


The Monogram Murders (Hercule Poirot Mystery 1)
The Monogram Murders (Hercule Poirot Mystery 1)
by Sophie Hannah
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but flawed, 21 Jan. 2016
I did enjoy this book and if I could have given it 3 and a half stars I would have. However it does have flaws - characterisation is not brilliant, and Poirot is thoroughly unlikeable during the second half of the book. Also some of the dialogue, especially from Catchpool, the detective who assists Poirot and serves as the narrator, is very clunky and not believeable.

The plot, however, is clearly well-thought out and the conclusion is satisfying, with all loose ends tied up. This book is worth reading for Christie fans - you will enjoy it, even if it's not quite up to the standard of the Queen of Crime herself - but I would probably avoid it if you're a big fan of crime fiction, as it doesn't really cut the mustard as a part of the wider genre.


Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis Signature Classic) (C. Lewis Signature Classic)
Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis Signature Classic) (C. Lewis Signature Classic)
by C. S. Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile for doubters and dogmatists alike, 21 Jan. 2016
An excellent book. C. S. Lewis shows he gets the central message of Christianity and is able to articulate it like few others can. Certainly, many of his defences for Christianity are better than some I have heard given by clerics. This is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Christianity, for anyone who is of faith and doubting, and for anyone who is strong in their faith and interested in their faith growing.


Smiffy's Fox Kit with Ears, Headband and Tail - Child
Smiffy's Fox Kit with Ears, Headband and Tail - Child
Offered by FancyDressForAll
Price: £3.18

4.0 out of 5 stars Fine for both children and adults, 21 Jan. 2016
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Very well priced and despite the description fit an adult man fine (don't ask).


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