War is over

29 08 2015

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

 

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Written when Ernest Hemingway was thirty years old and lauded as the best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Set against the looming horrors of the battlefield—weary, demoralized men marching in the rain during the German attack on Caporetto; the profound struggle between loyalty and desertion—this gripping, semiautobiographical work captures the harsh realities of war and the pain of lovers caught in its inexorable sweep.

A really outstanding book. Poignant, painful and spare, this great novel demonstrates what a brilliant writer Hemingway was.

4.5 stars

 





Fleshy

22 08 2015

Flesh Wounds by Christopher Brookmyre

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Private investigator Jasmine Sharp’s father was murdered before she was born, and her mother went to self-sacrificing lengths in order to shield her from the world in which he moved. Since her mother’s death, all she has been able to learn is his first name – and that only through a strange bond she has forged with the man who killed him: Glen Fallan. But when Fallan is arrested for the murder of a criminal her mother knew since childhood, Jasmine is finally forced to enter his domain: a place where violence is a way of life and vengeance spans generations.

Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod has one major Glaswegian gangster in the mortuary and another in the cells for killing him – which ought to be cause for celebration. Catherine is not smiling, however. From the moment she discovered a symbol daubed on the victim’s head, she has understood that this case is far more dangerous than it appears on the surface: deeper than skin, darker than blood; something that could threaten her family and end her career.

As one battles her demons and the other chases her ghosts, these two very different detectives will ultimately confront the secrets that have entangled both of their fates since before Jasmine was even born.

Another outstanding thriller from Brookmyre. Intricate plotting and a quite compelling narrative with characters who have grown since earlier outings make this a really good read.

stars-3-5.





Not such a grand tour

15 08 2015

Us by David Nicholls

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Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home.

He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together.

So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.

What could possibly go wrong?

It doesn’t all go quite to plan. Douglas is not the most endearing narrator although it is worryingly easy to agree with some of his dubious opinions (not all of them though I should stress).

Reviewers are divided on the novel but actually it is pretty entertaining on the whole.

3 star





The mask

8 08 2015

The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

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English crime novelist Charles Latimer is travelling in Istanbul when he makes the acquaintance of Turkish police inspector Colonel Haki. It is from him that he first hears of the mysterious Dimitrios – an infamous master criminal, long wanted by the law, whose body has just been fished out of the Bosphorus. Fascinated by the story, Latimer decides to retrace Dimitrios’ steps across Europe to gather material for a new book. But, as he gradually discovers more about his subject’s shadowy history, fascination tips over into obsession. And, in entering Dimitrios’ criminal underworld, Latimer realizes that his own life may be on the line.

Excellent yarn which really ticks along. First time reading Ambler and he’s pretty good value. Would make a good movie (although it may already be of course, not checked).

stars-3-5





Clocking on

19 07 2015

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

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One drowsy summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for ‘asylum’. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking . . .
The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly’s life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland’s Atlantic coast as Europe’s oil supply dries up – a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes – daughter, sister, mother, guardian – is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.
Metaphysical thriller, meditation on mortality and chronicle of our self-devouring times, this kaleidoscopic novel crackles with the invention and wit that have made David Mitchell one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. Here is fiction at its most spellbinding and memorable best.

Do love David Mitchell’s writing and, although this one has not enjoyed universal acclaim, the Bone Clocks feels like classic Mitchell. Very much in similar vein to Cloud Atlas with its distinct but interwoven narratives this really does tick along fantastically well.

four stars





Remains

4 07 2015

The Remains of the Day by Kazoo Ishiguro

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The novel’s narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second world war, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him–oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, beautifully crafted novel– namely, Stevens’ own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.

A really outstanding novel this. It’s a book which I had unaccountably avoided reading for many years. Actually this is possibly because of it’s Booker prize winning status, film tie in and general popularity. So, unwarranted prejudice on my part. Anyway, having finally got round to it I realise what I was missing. Terrific and powerful.

 

four stars

 

 





A very British do

27 06 2015

British Story: A Romance by Michael Nath

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What’s haunting Kennedy? He believes that literary characters exist just like you or me, but he’s getting nowhere trying to prove it. His Falstaff project is an embarrassment; Barbara’s wanting a baby; there’s that trouble from last autumn; he can’t even tell a story.

His fortunes change when he’s befriended by Arthur Mountain, a larger-than-life Welshman with a peculiar take on history and a grand distaste for the modern world. Together with his trainspotting wife, snooty secretary and trusty machete, Arthur opens Kennedy’s soul. Philosophical, frightening and hilarious, British Story is an adventure in imagination and a rallying cry for wonder. With this witty and critical examination of contemporary life, Michael Nath has called up the lost spirit of resistance. The stoplines are operational!

The second novel by the University of Westminster academic, this at times surreal tale follows the entanglement of a lecturer with a group of oddballs who share a strange extended tale stretching back to wartime Swansea via Doncaster and Edinburgh. Reminiscent of Vonnegut in parts it is a really rather engaging and entertaining yarn with plenty of knowing literary allusions.

stars-3-5








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