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A Dance to the Music of Time: Winter – Anthony Powell

Anthony Powell’s brilliant twelve novel sequence chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, and is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. It is unrivalled for its scope, its humour and the enormous pleasure it has given to generations.

Volume 4 contains the last three novels in the sequence: Books do Furnish a Room; Temporary Kings; Hearing Secret Harmonies.

As ever no spoilers will be contained in this review so as not to mar the experience for readers yet to embark on, or are already in amongst the wonderful prose.

Having read each season in a different one, Spring in Autumn, Summer in winter and so forth, I finally finished Winter in the heat of August and feel that melancholy of emptiness when eventually concluding a mammoth series and wondering what could top that.

Starting book ten I was feeling a little sad for this, the twilight of the final trilogy and it seemed my thoughts were echoed by Narrator Nick as well. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch characters come and go and age but sadly these last three books didn’t quite live up the magnificent first nine books.

As journey’s go, this one has been immensely gratifying. Even this late into the series, there are still new characters to be met as well as much welcomed appearances from the series stalwarts. Although after the previous war books, the original cast does feel sparse and it does leave a gap, knowing that those characters won’t be popping up unexpectedly in the Dance.

What makes it a little less immersive is the modernity of its time, whilst the inevitability of things moving on is one thing, the choice of actions and, in particular words chosen in their speech felt jarring against previous books.  In other chronicles, this would, perhaps, be a minor point but having the grounding books one to seven (and arguably eight as well), the change has been subtle but is easy to trace on reflection.

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Posted by on 30/09/2017 in Fiction, Modern Classics

 

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The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History – Oliver Tearle

The Secret Library is a fascinating tour through the curious history of Western civilisation told through its most emblematic invention – the book.

As well as leafing through the well-known titles that have helped shape the world in which we live, Oliver Tearle also dusts off some of the more neglected items to be found hidden among the bookshelves of the past.

You’ll learn about the forgotten Victorian novelist who outsold Dickens, the woman who became the first published poet in America and the eccentric traveller who introduced the table-fork to England. Through exploring a variety of books – novels, plays, travel books, science books, cookbooks, joke books and sports almanacs – The Secret Library highlights some of the most fascinating aspects of our history. It also reveals the surprising connections between various works and historical figures. What links Homer’s Iliad to Aesop’s Fables? Or Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack to the creator of Sherlock Holmes?

The Secret Library brings these little-known stories to light, exploring the intersections between books of all kinds and the history of the Western world over 3,000 years.

Books about books are great, they reaffirm our love for the medium and encourage us to go out and buy more, not to mention the exciting finds of obscure literature that can be shared and kept alive by intrepid reading adventurers.

What drew me to the book originally was the cover. Who can resist looking at a cover that has a bit cut out of it?  Stripping off the cloak, rows and rows of books are seen, as through the key hole.  It’s a nice touch and puts the reader in mind of being close to discovering lots of new books, always a good feeling.

This history of sorts is broken down into eras of Western civilisation and the chronological order is as follows: The Classical Age, The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, The Age of Enlightenment, The Age of Romanticism, The Victorians, The Americans, On the Continent, The Modern World.  There is a lot to be enjoyed in each age but it would have been fun to have read about the other continents, but then that was not the remit of the book so hopefully a future book of the sort could grace the shelves. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 14/07/2017 in Essays, History

 

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The Lyons Orphanage – Charlie King

Sam Watkins, an orphaned young teenager, possesses the ability to read the minds of almost everyone he meets.

Howard Lyons, the owner of the orphanage where Sam has lived since he was a baby, has been reluctant to let Sam leave the orphanage.

Unable to read the mind of Mr Lyons, he takes it upon himself to investigate the reasons behind the owner’s decisions and learn more about the origin of his ability, his parents and the potential of his power.

However, Sam’s investigation and mind-reading abilities reveal a power struggle at the top of a faltering orphanage between Mr. Lyons and his assistant Natalie.

Sam’s involvement in this conflict leads him to look for ways to save the orphanage and uncover the true motivations of both the owner and his assistant while trying to learn about his past.

Orphanages don’t seem to pop up in the books I read very often – unless a it’s a grim Dickensian version, that is – so it was a refreshing backdrop for a story.  I had no idea what to expect from it really and by the end I knew I would never expect what I did get from it.  That’s all the hints you will get plot wise as it is fun to discover where it branches off from your expectations.

From the outset there was plenty of character building and this foundation really allows the reader to get invested in the plot.  All this does well to build up a fast paced story where what the characters do and think matters, leading to an ending where all the threads all come together in a pleasingly dramatic fashion.

Main protagonist Sam is a very mature thirteen year old, perhaps too mature for his age but owing to his circumstances, this is perhaps a case of me not understanding the emotional complexities of an orphan.  Not that this was a negative point, it was refreshing to see kids with strong personalities having serious conversations without then resorting to lying about a hurting scar as one book series that-shall-not-be-named did so tiresomely. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 29/06/2017 in Children's Literature, Fiction

 

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A Dance to the Music of Time: Autumn – Anthony Powell

Continuing the chronicles of life experience via narrator Nicholas Jenkins, this spoiler free review focuses on books seven to nine of the series: The Valley of Bones, The Soldier’s Art, and The Military Philosophers.

Obligatory warning to those people who feel it necessary to pick up a series at the half way point for reasons only known to them: whilst not spoiling anything of these or previous books, if you do like what you read, start with the Spring books as the Autumn omnibus will be pretty impenetrable at this point to newcomers, who will lack the sense of nuance created in previous volumes.

This third mini trilogy in greater narrative is another 720 page tome which is a joy to spend time with.  By now its obvious that I love this masterwork otherwise I wouldn’t still be endeavouring to carry on but the more I engage with the characters, the richer the books become.  As with the previous books the reader is in for a treat, discovering and rediscovering characters full of wit, eccentricity and intricacy.

Another phase of life begins anew for Jenkins et al. and the effects of the war lead to some unexpected changes in familiar personalities, whilst exploring the impact of some exiting characters.  The impact of the second world war is far-reaching not just in geographical and emotional ways but also to the shaking up of social class structure.  This book is one of acute change on all sides.

In this modern world of ours where everybody wants to talk (or shout) about themselves, it is refreshing to find a narrator who reveals little of himself throughout the books and focuses on what is going on around him. Whilst he retains the same detachedness that has seen him through school to this point there is now, more than ever, a justifiable sense of experienced world-weariness.  The books he name checks – most noticeably Proust and to a lesser extent Balzac – give a tantalising hint to the man behind the narrative voice and the author himself.

There are the usual slew of new characters introduced and getting to know them counteracts the very real boredom of the war as seen from the backwaters and offices of the UK.  This dullness of duty is offset by Powell’s wonderful prose, it is rich in both depth and message and gives the right amount of balance to delivering bright spots in what is a very downbeat (to say the least) time in history.  Few authors would be able to be as precise and delicate in this depiction. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 02/06/2017 in Fiction, Modern Classics

 

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Next Year in Jerusalem – John Kolchak

A brutal re-imagining of the Gospel story, Next Year in Jerusalem follows the footsteps of Yeshua Bar-Yosif–an illiterate, epileptic, bastard son of a Roman soldier on his ill-fated life journey through a land racked by terror.

As first century Judea bleeds from the oppression of Roman rule and the violent uprisings against it, Yeshua, tormented by familial guilt for abandoning his mother, eventually forms his own family of travelers who preach for peace and compassion in the face of internecine savagery. Their wanderings lead to encounters with false prophets, assassins, and a rapidly growing movement of extremist rebels whose leader Bar-Abbas’ mission is to expel the Romans and establish an ethnocentric theocracy. Chance sends both Yeshua and Bar-Abbas to the court of Pontius Pilate–the dipsomaniac Governor obsessed with leaving a name for himself in the scrolls of history–and the outcome of that meeting seals the fate of the world for the next two millennia.

With urgent parallels to contemporary issues of religious war, this book is both a lament and a warning. It is also a story about the passage of time, the nature of memory, and of mankind’s inherent yearning for life everlasting.

When a HBO researcher gets in touch and asks if you want to review his book, it’s a no brainer so this week I have been spending my time back in Biblical days, enjoying an interesting alternative and to some controversial version of the Gospels which has plenty of interesting theories about those accounts and will certainly inspire plenty of debate.

There is much to intrigue the reader about this book, including plenty of subversion to the original biblical stories as well as a solid depiction of the brutal world of the time, a land torn with rival beliefs which will resonate with readers today as we still see the effects of those ripples all around us.

The main characters of Yeshua and Pilate get plenty of backstory, their memories, philosophies and motivations are established quickly and explored in-depth.  Yeshua is seen as vulnerable, conflicted and frequently unsure of himself and his beliefs, whilst Pilate – the more intriguing of the two character for me – is lost,all alone in his own existential nightmare. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 07/04/2017 in Fiction, Philosophy

 

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Revolt – Jess Harpley

revoltThis is book two in the Verge of Desolation series so if you are new to the series, skip the blurb  and I will do my best to keep out any story spoiling information as you will want to start with book one, The Mill reviewed here.

Jen has departed, leaving mechanically augmented Hopper at the top of a dimensionally phasing building wondering what’s next. Riding home, she encounters the strange but intriguing Ravin, a man so desperate to make a change in their cruel world, Hopper’s never fully sure she can trust him. Her thirst for revenge against the doctors of The Mill shapes the revolt of their century as she adopts Ravin’s quest for freedom and unravels a secret which cuts deeply into her heart. Return to The Mill with Hopper and Ravin on their bloody adventure to destroy the source of the depraved experiments and save the world from the true evil that plagues it.

Revolt picks up straight from where The Mill left off and as with its predecessor is an action packed story that flies along and keeps the body count high, It has a lively, cyberpunk feeling, keeping it fresh with unexpected events and quirky characters..

As usual Jess presents a strong female lead – a theme running through all her work – and one that appeals to both sexes.  This time our heroine is plunged into an uneasy alliance which radiates tension and vulnerability adding another layer to a story already rich with dark imagery. It is that uncertainty which drives the book and keeps an air of mystery to the proceedings as the reader can never quite tell what sort of twists will occur and where that will take the adventure.

Goodbye, you elegant weirdo

The uncertainty drives the character arcs and reveals that there is always something more to each player than was first imagined.  This metamorphosis of character is something that is a constant through the Verge of Desolation series, which really adds, not only to the scope of the characters but also the unpredictability of the story.

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Posted by on 03/03/2017 in Sci-Fi

 

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Kids

For today’s second reblog, or ‘press this’ as I thought I would attempt one of those instead is a belated call for attention to Resa’s upcoming kid’s month in March.  I myself will be participating and submitting my entry soon.  Whilst you’re at it check out Resa’s stunning art gown created for her post with Aquileana on Artemis as well at https://aquileana.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/%e2%96%bagreek-mythology-artemis-dual-archetype-collaboration-with-resa-mcconaghy-and-mirjana-m-inalman%f0%9f%8c%9b%f0%9f%8f%b9/

Also don’t forget to check out my first reblog, of the day too, great content abounds through WordPress all the time and it is good to spread it.

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Here are some youth friendly street art pieces I’ve taken photos of & saved for Kids’ Month.

There are single shots and  selections of 2 or 3 shots. Perhaps you’ll feel inspired to do a poem or short story.

You can post it on your blog, and I will reblog it, or send me the poem or story & I will post it with your chosen pic as a guest post.

There is a row of stars between the possible posts. Leave a comment to let me know your choice. I’ll reserve the pics, pronto! The name of the artist, if known is above the shot.

Source: Kids

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Posted by on 22/02/2017 in Art, Blogging

 

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