Friday, July 22, 2016

A HISTORY OF THE MODERN WORLD From 1917 to the 1980's-Paul Johnson

From the ending of the the First World War...which saw the destruction of the traditional European order, the triumph of Einstein's new cosmology, the full impact of Freudianism, the establishment of the first Marxist state and the genesis of the great Marxist heresy, Facism.

We travel through the decades   ....the rise of the two super-powers, locked in Cold War, the Communist revolution in China, the decolonization of Asia and Africa and the tragic aftermath of independence, the stunning recovery of democracy and capitalism in Western Europe, the rise of the Pacific enterprise economies led by Japan, the radicalizng of Latin America, the expansion of Soviet Russia as a global military power, the hegemony of the United States followed by its attempted suicide in the years 1965 - 80.

A very interesting read, it won't be for many left leaning folk, Johnson mounts attack after attack on leftist political thinking and shows it up for the sham that most hard left politics are.

But as a "go to" book of facts in one volume you'd be hard pressed to find a better one.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

RAGTIME - E L Doctorow

This is an historical novel set at the beginning of the 20th century told mostly through the eyes of an anonymous narrator.

As normal in Doctorow's novels real people feature in fictionalisd settings.  Here we have Houdini, Henry Ford and J. P. Morgan.

Most of the novel is set around the deprivations suffered by the poor and black when dealing with the huge industrialists that came to the fore at this time. It ends with one man trying to start a private war as a result of a huge injustice he endured.

Again, with  many Doctorow novels he starts up a character who is given what appears to be a leading role but after a few chapters just disappears. You don't hear from them until a small explanation at the end of the book but that's him and he did this often.

A rear cover blurb on my copy states -Ragtime is the most acclaimed novel ever published-  this is a major stretch " Billy Bathgate" and  "The March" are both much better but this is quality and worth reading.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

TRYING TO PLEASE - John Julius Norwich

This is an excellent autobiography by the son of Duff and Diana Cooper.

From birth to when this was written we get a very honest and very funny telling of a life, that while privileged appears never to have been taken for granted.   Yes, the Churchill's come to lunch, yes, your mother gets a one on one with the Pope in Rome but all these things were of a time and place and not unusual due to your parents social position.

From Eton to Oxford to the Foreign Office and then taking a punt to become a full time historian we meet famous and interesting people.

I love the " between wars period"in the UK and this is another brick in wall.

The author is still ticking over in his late 80's and still writing history.  A pleasure to read.

ROMMEL? GUNNER WHO? - Spike Milligan

Volume 2 of Spike's WWII biography which finds 19 Battery in North Africa.

This is biography is interspersed with fake telegrams,illustrations and is all very entertaining.  Whats true and whats made up doesn't really matter, its Spike, and its laugh out loud apart from the sad bits where you laugh quietly.

MRS McGINTY'S DEAD - Agatha Christie

Mrs McGinty's dead and her lodger is about to be hung for her murder but Poirot steps in and finds there's much more to this than was originally presented to the Court.

An entertaining yarn but with one of Christie's biggest cheating's of the reader I've come across, but if you don't get upset about this is a solid mystery.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

SWORD OF HONOUR - Evelyn Waugh

This is the final version of the three Second World War novels featuring Guy Crouchback written by Waugh.  They were originally published over a 10 year period as, Men At Arms, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender.

From Waugh:

The product is intended (as it was originally) to be read as a single story.  I sought to give a description of the Second World War as it was seen and experienced by a single, uncharacteristic Englishman, and to show the effects on him.

There is much satire involved but gives way to farce in the way men were treated and how the army as an organisation was run.  I have read "Brideshead" half a dozen times and always thought that his best book but re-reading this I find that it is this that is his masterpiece, not his funniest but his best.

Interestingly for me is the book concludes in Split, Croatia . My father in law still lives there and where as a 14 year old was wounded fighting with the Partisans whom our main character, Crouchback interacts.  Our kids think it nifty that one of their grandfather's has bullet holes in him!

This is a great book, one to be read many times.


A collection of book reviews and diary excerpts all written by Mosley (nee Mitford) over the years.

All are entertaining and amusing with the added spice that she had generally met the subject or the author of the book she is reviewing.

She is totally disparaging of anything to do with the UK penal system, having been locked up for 3 years during WWII because she was married to the head of the UK Fascist Union, Oswald Mosley.   She married Mosley at Goebbel's house prior to the war starting so people were understandably not that tolerant!

She is also the mother of Max, recently departed from the head of F1 due to the Nazi uniform fancy dress thing, but a good collection worth reading.