A proper card

27 02 2016

The Card by Arnold Bennett

Don't be put off by the cover

Don’t be put off by the cover

His antics are regarded with affection and admiration by most others, as shown by the book’s final exchange:

“What a card!” said one, laughing joyously. “He’s a rare ‘un, no mistake.”

“Of course, this’ll make him more popular than ever,” said another. “We’ve never had a man to touch him for that.”

“And yet,” demanded Councillor Barlow, “what’s he done? Has he ever done a day’s work in his life? What great cause is he identified with?”

“He’s identified,” said the speaker, “with the great cause of cheering us all up.”

Denry Machin is a social climber and works his way up the ladder thanks to a combination of luck and wit. No-one though can touch him. It’s a quick and amusing read and well written (and apparently was made into a film too). Well worth the effort of a free download for Kindle.



It’s a blast

20 02 2016

Pompeii by Robert Harris


A number one bestselling Roman thriller from the award-winning master of the literary and historical thriller genre: Robert Harris. A thrilling depiction of one of the most famous natural disasters in human history: the explosion of Mount Vesuvius.

A sweltering week in late August. Where better to enjoy the last days of summer than on the beautiful Bay of Naples? But even as Rome’s richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world – the mighty Aqua Augusta – has suddenly ceased to flow. Through the eyes of four characters – a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt millionaire and an elderly scientist – Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction.

A hugely enjoyable thriller set in the last days of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Harris manages to create real suspense and excitement through these characters although his portrayal of Pliny the Elder is rather unflattering. Overall, really rather good. In fact, it’s a blast.

four stars

Housing crisis

13 02 2016

SladeĀ House by David Mitchell



Born out of the short story David Mitchell published on Twitter in 2014 and inhabiting the same universe as his latest bestselling novelĀ The Bone Clocks, this is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night.

Turn down Slade Alley – narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you’re looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn’t quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies.

A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t.

This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and reaches its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe’en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a ‘guest’ is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answers lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs…

I do like David Mitchell (and the other one) but this is not one of his finest. It’s a bit spooky and strange and reasonably suspenseful at times but quite repetitious. The novel’s really well-written, of course, but ultimately rather slight.


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