Monday, October 28, 2019

AN ICE-CREAM WAR - William Boyd

























1914. In a hotel room in German East Africa, American farmer Walter Smith dreams of Theodore  Roosevelt.  As he sleeps,  a railway passenger swats at flies, regretting her decision to return to the Dark Continent- and to her husband. On a faraway English riverbank, a jealous Felix Cobb watches his brother swim, and curses his sister-in-law to be.  And in the background of the world's chatter: rumours of an Anglo-German conflict, the likes of which no one has ever seen.

This is a slow burn of a novel, starts very very slowly with several unlikable characters and then  ends up full of surprises towards the end. 

I did not realise there was even a theatre of war in Africa during the 1st World War where the land appears to have killed more than live rounds.

A good historical novel which in my opinion may have been better if it had one less major character but it is still enjoyable.  Boyd is inconsistent, when hes good hes very readable when he's off i.e Stars and Bars  you resent the time wasted.


THE LITTLE SISTER - Raymond Chandler

























Not the strongest of Chandlers seven novels but still a cut above most crime fiction.

The plot gets so convoluted its very hard to keep track of what is occurring which is what I think happened for the author as well.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

THE PURSUIT OF LOVE - Nancy Mitford

























The story of two cousins, Linda and Fanny.  Fanny is the narrator and recounts the life of Linda and her pursuit of love.

This is the first of Mitford's two really good books.  The humour is much more subtle than Love in A Cold Climate which is genuinely laugh out loud, but this has its moments, but is 'nicer'.

This is very autobiographical containing a huge insight into how the Mitford's were raised, which for the time was very different.

The ending while sad is upbeat and I understand why it was such a huge seller,  making Mitford as an author after her two or three previous ordinary efforts.  Good fun and good satire on the rich  and famous.

Monday, October 14, 2019

BUDDENBROOKS - Thomas Mann

























The Buddenbrook clan is everything you'd expect of a nineteenth-century German family - wealthy, esteemed, established.  Four generations later, a tide of twentieth-century modernism has gradually disintegrated the bourgeois values on which the Buddenbrooks built their success.  In this, Mann's first novel, his astounding, semi-autobiographical family epic, he portrays the transition of genteel Germanic stability to a very modern uncertainty.

This is an amazing read, detailing family life with all its troubles, wins , good moves and bad moves.  I found it unputdownable.

Nothing major happens just family stuff, weddings, deaths, feasts but it flows and brings the four main characters to life.

If Middlemarch is 10/10 this is a solid 8. Mann wrote this at 25 years of age, a true feat.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

DEATH IN VENICE & OTHER STORIES - Thomas Mann

























This is a collection of short stories and novellas that I read prior to attempting  his novels. Fantastic, brilliant writing.  Don't expect to wander out on the town with a smile on your face after reading them but you can see  while he is rated as he is.

THE LOST CONTINENT - Bill Bryson

























If you want to laugh out loud and learn a bit on the journey read Bill Bryson.  Never disappoints.

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK - Umberto Eco

























Sub-titled " Hot Wars and Populism" this is another collection of essays by Eco who is far to clever for me to understand what he writes about in one or several reads.  But, even with one read I am left in awe by the scope of his vision.  Superb.