A lively history

28 05 2016

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

517J8agZBUL._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_

Claudia Hampton – beautiful, famous, independent, dying.

But she remains defiant to the last, telling her nurses that she will write a ‘history of the world . . . and in the process, my own’. And it is her story from a childhood just after the First World War through the Second and beyond. But Claudia’s life is entwined with others and she must allow those who knew her, loved her, the chance to speak, to put across their point of view. There is Gordon, brother and adversary; Jasper, her untrustworthy lover and father of Lisa, her cool conventional daughter; and then there is Tom, her one great love, found and lost in wartime Egypt.

Only 30 years late coming to this Booker-winning novel. It is superbly written, really rather moving and hugely enjoyable. Highly recommended.

 

four stars

 





Number 10 Scotland Street

14 05 2016

The Revolving Door of Life (The 44 Scotland Street Series Book 10) by Alexander McCall Smith

51kPzuYzX5L._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_

For seven-year-old Bertie Pollock, life in Edinburgh’s most celebrated fictional street has just got immeasurably better. The enforced absence of his endlessly pushy mother Irene – currently consciousness-raising in a Bedouin harem (don’t ask) – has manifold and immediate blessings: no psychotherapy, no Italian lessons and no yoga classes. Bliss.

For Scotland Street’s grown-ups, life throws up some new dilemmas. Matthew makes a discovery that could make him even richer but also leaves him worried. Pat makes one that could make her poorer and her father miserable – unless that uber-narcissist, Bruce, can help her out. And the Duke of Johannesburg, we discover, isn’t exactly who he says he is.

From what happens behind Edinburgh Airport’s luggage carousel to Machiavellian manoeuvrings at the Association of Scottish Nudists, Alexander McCall Smith guides us through the brighter, lighter and frankly unexpected side of Edinburgh life. As ever with his 44 Scotland Street series, his readers will make their own discovery: that its blend of wit and wisdom mark it out as a comedic tour de force.

Can’t quite believe we’re already at number 10 in this series. Starting as a weekly serial in the Scotsman this McCall Smith series really has taken on a life of its own. I’ve enjoyed every one of these and the latest one really is one of the best with this being a particular highlight:

“Angus had seen such irritation bring to an untimely end the marriage of a friend who, having married for the first time at forty-three, had found his new wife’s minor idiosyncrasies to be unbearable. The straw that eventually broke the back of that marriage had been her insistence on pronouncing Gullane as it was written, rather than as Gillane, which was what it really was – a highly divisive issue in Scotland, even if not one that might be expected to bring a marriage to an end.”

Having grown up there I can, of course, confirm that the correct pronunciation is as it is written.

Fun for all the family.

four stars





Hired hand

7 05 2016

A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene

 

51MIIEdIscL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Raven is an assassin, a hired killer, and his brutal murder of the Minister raises the spectre of war across Europe. As the nation prepares for battle, Raven goes on the run, hunted by the police and hunting the man who paid him in stolen banknotes, eventually unearthing the terrible truth behind the killing.

A Gun for Sale was published two years before Brighton Rock, and its themes and characters provide a striking echo to that more famous novel, providing a fascinating glimpse into the working mind of a master novelist.

It’s an enjoyable entertainment which does definitely prefigure Brighton Rock. It has a strongly cinematic noir feel and really rattles along. I particularly liked this passage which refers to the University of Nottwich:
The coroner had been a student himself once and remembered with pleasure the day when they had pelted the Vice-Chancellor of the University with soot. The senior surgeon had been present that day too. Once safely inside the glass corridor he could smile at the memory. The Vice-Chancellor had been unpopular; he had been a classic which wasn’t very suitable for a provincial university. He had translated Lucan’s Pharsalia into some complicated metre of his own invention. The senior surgeon remembered something vaguely about stresses. He could still see the little wizened frightened Liberal face trying to smile when his pince-nez broke, trying to be a good sportsman. But anyone could tell that he wasn’t really a good sportsman. That was why they pelted him so hard.
 All good fun.
stars-3-5




American Adventure

30 04 2016

American Interior by Gruff Rhys

51FB3DdLcNL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

In 1792, John Evans, a twenty-two-year-old farmhand from Snowdonia, Wales, travelled to America to discover whether there was indeed, as widely believed, a tribe of Welsh-speaking native Americans still walking the great plains.

In 2012, Gruff Rhys set out on an ‘investigative concert tour’ in the footsteps of John Evans, with concerts in New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St Louis, North Dakota and more.

American Interior is the story of these journeys. It is also an exploration of how wild fantasies interact with hard history and how myth-making can inspire humans to partake in crazy, vain pursuits of glory, including exploration, war and the creative arts.
Myth and reality collide in this record of an expedition by musician Gruff Rhys to follow in the footsteps of the remarkable 18th century farmhand turned explorer, John Evans. The narrative (and accompanying album) cover the history of both tours into the heart of the American interior in search of the legendary tribe of Welsh-speaking native Americans. It’s a cracking read and the stage show, combining powerpoint and some great songs, was excellent too.
stars-4-0._V5268001_




A magical century

23 04 2016

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

51RW3OkKATL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Equally tragic, joyful and comical, Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece of magical realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a seamless blend of fantasy and reality, translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa in Penguin Modern Classics.

Gabriel García Márquez’s great masterpiece is the story of seven generations of the Buendía family and of Macondo, the town they have built. Though little more than a settlement surrounded by mountains, Macondo has its wars and disasters, even its wonders and miracles. A microcosm of Columbian life, its secrets lie hidden, encoded in a book and only Aureliano Buendía can fathom its mysteries and reveal its shrouded destiny. Blending political reality with magic realism, fantasy with comic invention, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most daringly original works of the twentieth century.

Can’t believe it took me so long to get round to reading this. A huge sweeping narrative covering successive generations of one family in the town they founded it has simply got everything in there. Outstanding.

4.5 stars





Honour bound

3 04 2016

Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh

51Sx8l-hJML._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

Fictionalising his experience of service during the Second World War, Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour is the complete one-volume edition of his masterful trilogy, edited with an introduction by Angus Calder in Penguin Modern Classics.

Waugh’s own unhappy experience of being a soldier is superbly re-enacted in this story of Guy Crouchback, a Catholic and a gentleman, commissioned into the Royal Corps of Halberdiers during the war years 1939-45. High comedy – in the company of Brigadier Ritchie-Hook or the denizens of Bellamy’s Club – is only part of the shambles of Crouchback’s war. When action comes in Crete and in Yugoslavia, he discovers not heroism, but humanity. Sword of Honour combines three volumes: Officers and GentlemenMen at Arms and Unconditional Surrender, which were originally published separately. Extensively revised by Waugh, they were published as the one-volume Sword of Honour in 1965, in the form in which Waugh himself wished them to be read.

Comedy, chaos and Catholicism are all here in spades in this classic novel. It covers a big slice of history, features a great cast of characters and is entertaining throughout. Recommended.

stars-4-0._V5268001_





Cheggers played pop: approximation of a playlist §67

28 03 2016

Just a few of the artists who appeared on one extraordinary TV show

chegg5

Cheggers Plays Pop was a classic game show (with an impossibly enthusiastic host) which involved a series of quiz rounds for kids interspersed with some music. What I always enjoyed was the sheer variety of the bands showcased. As this eclectic sample of performers demonstrates:

Suzi Quatro – If You Can’t Give Me Love
Slade – Give Us A Goal
Showaddywaddy – I Wonder Why
Mud – Cut Across Shorty
Sailor – All I Need Is A Girl
Darts – The Boy From New York City
The Dooleys – Don’t Take It Lyin Down
Brotherhood Of Man – Beautiful Lover
Lindisfarne – Run For Home250px-Cheggersplayspop_logo_large
Brian & Michael – Ma, When’s Me Dad Coming Home/Matchstick Men…
Racey – Some Girls
Rocky Sharpe & the Replays – Imagination
The Real Thing – Can You Feel The Force
M – Pop Musik
The Monks – Nice Legs, Shame About The Face
Dollar – Who Were You With In The Moonlight
The Wurzels – Wurzeling Time in Somerset
The Grumbleweeds – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick/Do You Think I’m Sexy
The Krankies – Charlie Brown
The Buggles – Clean Clean
Shakin’ Stevens – Hot Dog
Barbara Dickson – January February
The Lambrettas – Poison Ivy
Dexys Midnight Runners – Geno
Undertones – My Perfect Cousin
Bad Manners – Ne Ne Na Na Na Na Nu Nu
New Seekers – Tell Me
Jona Lewie – You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties
B.A.Robertson – To Be Or Not To Be
Bucks Fizz – Making Your Mind Up
Coast To Coast – Do The Hucklebuck
Duran Duran – Planet Earth
The Beat – All Out To Get You
Toyah – I Want To Be Free
Department S – Is Vic There?
999 – Obsessed
Paul Shane & Ruth Madoc – Hi De Hi (Holiday Rock)
Tenpole Tudor – Swords Of A Thousand Men
Modern Romance – Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey
Altered Images – See Those Eyes
A Flock Of Seagulls – I Ran
Classix Nouveaux – Is It A Dream
Alvin Stardust – Weekend
Bananarama & Fun Boy Three – Really Saying Something
Madness – House Of Fun
Haircut 100 – Fantastic Day
Bow Wow Wow – See Jungle (Jungle Boy)
Tight Fit – Fantasy Island
Yazoo – Only You
ABC – The Look Of Love
Nolans – Crashing Down
JoBoxers – Just Got Lucky
Big Country – In A Big Country
The Police – Every Breath You Take
The Fun Adicts – Bad Boys
Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now
Blancmange – Don’t Tell Me
Bluebells – I’m Falling
Captain Sensible – Glad It’s All Over
Matt Bianco – Sneakin’ Out The Backdoor
Kajagoogoo – Turn Your Back
Nik Kershaw – Dancing Girls
Hazel Dean – Searching
Pauline Black – Pirates On The Airways
Flying Pickets – When You’re Young And In Love
Boomtown Rats – Drag Me Down
Limahl – Two Much Trouble
Spandau Ballet – Only When You Leave
Scritti Politti – Absolute
David Cassidy – Someone
Strawberry Switchblade – Jolene
Erasure – Who Needs Love Like That
Depeche Mode – It’s Called A Heart
Level 42 – Something About You
Ruby Turner – Bye Bye
The Stranglers – Nice In Nice
Hollywood Beyond – No More Tears
Amazulu – Montego Bay
Curiosity Killed The Cat – Misfit
The Housemartins – Think For A Minute
Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hanging On
Red Box – For America
And finally, in episode 82, on 7th November 1986:
Dr & the Medics – Burn

 








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,898 other followers

%d bloggers like this: