Posts tagged review

“Next World Novella” by Matthias Politycki

I finished this 138-page novella in one evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book opens with Hinrich Schepp discovering the dead body of his wife Doro. She has been editing an old manuscript of his, a novel he started writing before they met and quickly abandoned. Through her scathing margin notes he discovers an entirely different side to her, and to their 29-year marriage. So the story is told through his reading of the manuscript and Doro’s notes on it. The story of the aborted novel bears a striking resemblance… Read More

“Chocolate Nations” by Orla Ryan

This is a comprehensive view of the chocolate industry, following the chain from African farmers to European consumers and explaining exactly why the cocoa farmers receive just 4% of the price of the average UK bar of milk chocolate.  It’s well written and well researched, mixing history with present-day politics to great effect, and illustrating it all with carefully chosen personal stories. I thought the chapter on Fairtrade was a little, well, unfair. Fairtrade gives a guaranteed fair minimum price to farmers, and Ryan shows how in practice this is… Read More

Roelof Bakker, ‘Still’, Hornsey Town Hall

Just wanted to give a belated mention to a really good photography exhibition in Crouch End recently. It was a series of photographs of Hornsey Town Hall, an Art Deco listed building that has been minimally used for a long time now. After Hornsey was absorbed into the larger borough of Haringey in the 1960s, the town hall was no longer needed for its original purpose, and there has been a debate for ages about what to do with it. In the meantime, Roelof Bakker went in and photographed the… Read More

Good review

On the Holloway Road got a nice review from a fellow writer and blogger, Helen J Beal. I found it particularly encouraging because she hates travelogues and Kerouac, so could have been expected to hate my book! Anyway, the site is worth checking out for more than just the review. It’s a good mix of reviews, poetry and tangential musings.

“Mr Palomar” by Italo Calvino

Mr. Palomar sets out to examine every possible aspect of his life and the world around him, trying to name everything and categorise everything scientifically. Of course he fails, and it’s in the episodes of life squirming away from his rigid attempts at classification that the absurd humour comes. The arrangement of the book corresponds to Palomar’s classification attempts, being broken up into sections, sub-sections and sub-sub-sections, with each section having three sub-sections and each sub-section having three sub-sub-sections dealing with three different categories of experience. There is no real… Read More

"Three Stories" by Alan Bennett

All three of these stories have a deeply satirical flavour, with dry, mostly successful humour and pointed observations on the various absurdities and hypocrisies we live by. “The Laying on of Hands” describes a memorial service for a masseur to the rich and famous, at which everyone (including the priest) is secretly worrying about whether the man died of AIDS. It’s told in omniscient third-person narrative, mostly focusing on the priest’s thoughts and perspectives but also dipping into the mind of a straight-laced canon sitting at the back and occasionally… Read More

“Afterwards” by Rachel Seiffert

The style of writing is very conversational. No beauty, not even many full sentences. The sort of writing with not many verbs. Just reportage,and not always very grammatical, like you were hearing someone tell you it on the phone. That part didn’t work for me, but the advantage of it was that it focused my attention entirely on the characters, all of which were strong and fascinating. What made them successful, too, was that while much was revealed about them, important things were also withheld, so that they felt elusive… Read More

“Identity” by Milan Kundera

Warning: this review gives away the ending. There’s something intensely dissatisfying about stories that end “but it was all a dream and then she woke up.” Logically, I suppose there shouldn’t be. We accept that a story is made up, we accept that nothing is true, that it is all in effect a dream being dreamt onto the page by the author. But to have the characters dream for large parts of the book is beyond the pale. I felt cheated on reading it, as if I had wasted a… Read More

“Pandora in the Congo” by Albert Sanchez Pinol

I got this as a reviewing freebie from LibraryThing, which was good because with its title and retro cover of cartoonish man emerging from jungle, I would probably never have picked it up in a bookshop. In fact, it turns out to be a postmodern pastiche of African adventure novels, with a strong metafictional element (the narrator has been told the story by a suspected murderer awaiting trial, and all along he (and we the reader) have to work out whether to believe the increasingly implausible tale). Knowing all of… Read More