Category Archives: book review

Close-up or long view? The Commissario Brunetti Novels Donna Leon

What to re-read after The Darkest Evening? I chose Donna Leon’s books about Commissario Brunetti, a Venetian police inspector, doing his best to circumvent his politically ambitious boss so that he can do his job properly. Continue reading

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The persistence of images The Darkest Evening Ann Cleeves

It seems images make stronger impressions on our brains than sounds or print. So when I read The Darkest Evening, Brenda Blethyn stalked across the Northumbrian moors, and waded through the snow. Continue reading

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Is there a good reason to (re-)read this book? Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell

At the time I first read Peter Abelard I had not heard of the story of Abelard and Heloise, and knew almost nothing of their world. I think Helen Waddell would have expected her readers to know more than I did then. So, although it may be a plot spoiler, I am going to tell some of what is known of the history of Peter Abelard and Heloise of Argenteuil. Continue reading

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What makes a character engaging? A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

We meet Harry, the protagonist of Patrick Gale’s novel, as he endures horrific psychiatric ‘therapy’ in an asylum. Why then, for almost the first third of the book, do I find it so hard to care about Harry? However, this changes, by the middle of the novel I was gripped by the story, and cared a great deal about what happened to Harry, and to his friends. The story unfolds against a convincing background of hostility to homosexuals, emigration from Europe to ‘the colonies’, persecution of Native Americans, WW1, Spanish flu, and (at-the -time) novel psychiatric treatments Continue reading

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What will I find re-reading To Kill a Mocking-Bird immediately after reading A Thousand Moons?

After I’d spent a few days inside Winona’s head I wondered how To Kill a Mocking-Bird would stand up to a re-reading. The links and differences between A Thousand Moons and To Kill a Mocking-Bird jumped out at me as I wondered what to read to follow Sebastian Barry’s work. What did I find different in the experience of re-reading To Kill a Mocking-Bird, written in the 1950s by a woman from Alabama, and that of reading A Thousand Moons written in the 2020s by an Irishman? Continue reading

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Walking in another’s shoes A Thousand Moons Sebastian Barry

Cultural appreciation or appropriation? There is so much discussion about when admirable cultural appreciation shades into inappropriate appropriation. In A Thousand Moons the author Sebastian Barry, a white, sixty-five-year-old Irish family man writes in the voice of a Native American seventeen-year-old orphan girl, and from the first sentence Winona-Ojinjintka is present, a person with a complex history and a compelling, convincing voice. Continue reading

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Reading a play like a novel. Hamlet (Shakespeare) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead (Tom Stoppard)

Is it possible to read a playscript as one reads a novel? Does reading a play’s script improve the experience of watching it? And if it does, is it better to read a script before or after seeing the play? In Hamnet Maggie O’Farrell contends that Shakespeare gave his dead son fresh life in the character of Hamlet, as well as creating a memorial to Hamnet. Is this reasonable? On reading Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Continue reading

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Is a writer’s world basically evil or fundamentally sound? Death at the Dolphin Ngaio Marsh

Some crime writers write as if evil is omnipresent and lurks below the most innocuous surface, everyone is capable of crime, and nearly everyone has a secret in their past that they would commit a crime to conceal. Others write as if they feel the world is fundamentally okay, people of goodwill are in the majority, crimes are unusual and happen as an outcome of unusual circumstances Continue reading

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Why do I re-read a book? Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Discussion of reasons to re-read a book, and review of Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
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