31 12 2008

Vertigo by W G Sebald


Vertiginous stuff – another outstanding interior/imagined/real travelogue of the mind, taking in the lives of Stendhal and Kafka as well as Sebald’s own youth in Bavaria. The meditations and meanderings built upon travels around northern Italy and beyond are just exceptional and spellbinding.

Doesn’t get much better than this.

4.5 stars

Also, just spotted this blog dedicated to the author and related work which is well worth a look.

Razor sharp

30 12 2008

The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham


Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of this spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham’s most brilliant characters – his fiancee Isabel, whose choice between love and wealth have lifelong repercussions, and Elliot Templeton, her uncle, a classic expatriate American snob. The most ambitious of Maugham’s novels, this is also one in which Maugham himself plays a considerable part as he wanders in and out of the story, to observe his characters struggling with their fates.

Slower-paced than some other Maugham works but extremely well-written and well-realised characters as always. However, Larry and Isabel are difficult to feel huge sympathy for and Elliot’s snobbery really is quite sad all told. Still, great stuff.

4 star


29 12 2008

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

A huge and rather dark Conrad which sprawls across the imaginary South American country of Costaguana,

The story centres around a silver mine in the mountains outside of the capital, Sulaco, “vividly depicting its allure and the price each character pays for its success”.

The Amazon review continues: “When Charles Gould, returns from England to claim and reopen the rich silver mine he has inherited from his father, he has good intentions–to provide jobs for the peasants and contribute to the economy of the town at the same time that he also profits. Soon, however, he becomes obsessed with wealth and power, and as the political climate gets hotter, he must pay off government officials, bandits, the church, and various armed revolutionaries to be able to work.”

Key to the novel are the actions of Nostromo, a local hero who looks after the mine’s silver by escaping to sea with Decoud, a seedy journo, but then leaves both the silver and his passenger on a nearby island, with dark results.

Revolution and counter revolution, darkness and destruction are present throughout. A really outstanding work.

Rubber ducking

22 12 2008

Attack of the unsinkable rubber ducks


Highly entertaining stuff – good suspense and a few twists along the way. Complete ruthless demolition of cranks, fortune tellers and the spiritualist world – perhaps too determined though as it does feel like polemic at times (entirely legitimate but not quite the right place).

3 star

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