Thursday, April 18, 2019

THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL - Baroness Orczy

























The English gentleman, the master of disguise , who is recusing French nobles form the guillotine, tricking the French Government  in the time of "the Terror".

This is fantastic  lightweight hokey, holes in the plot the size of the sun but just total escapism and I loved every page.

Its a shame Hilary Mantel didn't read the story and enjoy it for what it is.  Her very waspish "Introduction" is just very unfair.  For people to try and place 'mores' from this day and age onto an author publishing in 1902 is not justifiable.

So, we will ignore Ms Mantel and say this is great rollicking yarn, not literature, just a great fun read.

Monday, April 15, 2019

SHORT STORIES - Anton Chekhov

























This is the first time I've sat and read an entire collection altogether rather than just dipping in to a couple of other collections I have of Chekhov's writing.  This is been an error , these are brilliant and after reading thirty four stories consecutively I understand why he is regarded as the greatest short story writer of them all.

My favourite, " No Comment" , about the monk's who after centuries of living in isolation are told about the world and all the sins of the flesh by a member who ventured to town and has returned disgusted with the sinning.The teller of the tales goes to bed but wakes in the morning to discover all the others in the monastery have taken off to town to do some testing in the bars and brothels they have been told about.

Fantastic stories, some very funny, some very sad but all completely enjoyable

Monday, April 8, 2019

EVERY KIND OF WEATHER - Bruce Mason edited by David Dowling

























This is a collection of letters, reviews and criticisms lifted from over thirty years of writings.

Some I found interesting, some I found dull but it is a great social history of New Zealand in a time when it was all very regulated, regulations that didn't come off until the Lange Government of 1984.

Mason had some great battles with people all played out in letters to the newspapers, naturally these played out over many days, whereas these days there'd be a Twitter argument and its done and dusted in an hour.

Great pub trivia fact, Mason had a brother who was an All Black. 

All in all an interesting collection





















Tuesday, March 26, 2019

THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE AND THE FINAL SOLUTION- Mark Roseman

























This book is about persons who took part in the discussion about the final solution of the Jewish question that took place in Berlin, 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee, on 20 January 1942.

At the beginning of the discussion, chief of the Security Police and the SD, SS--Obergruppenfuhrer Heydrich reported the Reich Marshal had delegated to him the preparations for the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe and this discussion has been called for the purpose of clarifying fundamental questions.

Fifteen men got together to organise the eradication of millions of humans.  Reading the protocol itself is chilling as it is so matter of fact.

Personally I'm still undecided who of the Nazi top brass was the most evil, its a tight run thing between Himmler and Heydrich.  Heydrich would have won in a canter if he hadn't been assassinated in 1942 so didn't reach his full 'potential'.  Both totally inhuman.

This is an interesting book, one I never knew existed, bless secondhand book dealers.


Monday, March 11, 2019

THE HEART GOES LAST - Margaret Atwood

























Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of economic an socail collapse.  Living in their car, surviving on tips from Charmaine's job at a dive bar, they're increasingly vulnerable to roving gangs, and in a desperate state.  So when they see an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of Conslience - a 'socail experiment ' offering stable jobs and a home of their own- they sign up immediately.  All they have to do in return for this suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month, swapping their home for a prison cell.

At first, all is well.  But slowly, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develope a passionate obsession with their counterparts, the couple that occupy their home  when they are in prison.  Soon the pressure of conformity, mistrust guilt and sexual desire take over, and Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.

Forty odd pages into this I was wondering where this story could go and was getting a bit disheartened, then 'boom' the genius known as Margaret Atwood kicked in and I was enthralled.

This is seriously funny, the imagination that has come with his story and put it down on paper is a one off. 

A excellent read.




Thursday, March 7, 2019

AN INNKEEPERS DIARY - John Fothergill

























This is laugh out loud funny.  Fothergill owned and ran the Spread Eagle Hotel from 1922 until it closed in 1931 and was a real life Basil Fawlty.  Fools were not tolerated  neither were whinging guests.

There is anecdote after anecdote of guests and dining parties that did not pass the Fothergill test as the "right type of people".  needless to say they are all amusing and at times the author felt a small amount of guilt about his behaviour but he had standards and if you failed the test you were generally gone.

Fothergill was an interesting man in own right, he knew Oscar Wilde and the likes of Evelyn Waugh were guests.

This is a great bath book, you can dip in , have a laugh and put it away or just read it right through.

Not as funny as 'Three Men in a Boat" but not far behind.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

ANY HUMAN HEART - William Boyd

























Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary, but Logan Mountstuart's - lived from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century- contains more than its fair share of both.  As a writer who finds inspiration in Paris and London, as a spy betrayed in the war and as an art-dealer in the 60's in New York, Logan mixes with the movers and shakers of his times.  But as  son, friend, lover and husband, he makes the same mistakes we all do in our search for happiness.

This is very good, very entertaining and has good social history and as the blurb states, Logan mixes with painters, writers and royalty.  The only problem I have with this is three weeks ago I read Boyd's 'The New Confessions" a book with an identical conceit:

Beginning with his bizarre boyhood and schooldays in Scotland we move on to his incredible experiences of the First World War , and from there we follow his fretful progress through the Berlin of the Twenties, Mexico in 1939 and the Allied invasion of St Tropez and Los Angeles of the McCarthy era.


This problem is mine, just my bad luck to have picked up both books within a month but it was a distraction.

As I said its interesting, and moves along nicely.  It's a better book than 'Confessions'  which is to be expected given the author had a further 15 years experience before writing this.

Recommended as a novel and of course this is the book that gave the world CAUC. ( Look it up )