About Me

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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 28 October 2013

"The fist of God" by Frederick Forsyth

This thriller is set in the first Gulf War: Saddam invades Kuwait and SAS man Mike Martin goes undercover into Kuwait to organise resistance. Meanwhile his stay-at-home brother, an Arabist, investigates the secrets of Saddam's secret Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Mossad have a high-placed source at the top of the Iraqi government and Mike Martin is transferred into Baghdad to run dead letter boxes and transmit information back to the waiting troops. Will Saddam's secret weapons be neutralised before the Allied invasion?

There are a lot of characters and a lot of threads and all of them run together: there are rather too many coincidences. Did Mike Martin, practising dressing as a Bedouin on the day before the invasion, really have to have his photograph taken by the mother of the USAF pilot who he would later rescue who is also the pilot who kills one of his old schoolfriends who just happens to be behind Saddam's WMD programme? And does it have to be his brother who is the brilliant Arabist who solves the conundrums in London while Mike does the derring-do? All a little too convoluted and unnecessary: some tighter editing would have made this a better book. And there is a great deal of detail. At times this reads like a lecture on the history of the War and its associated military technology and the military structures of the various parties. Detail adds verisimilitude but there were times when yet another page of information rather got in the way of the story.

I was perhaps most interested in the sub-plot of the Mossad agents trying to steal security details from a Viennese bank by seducing the secretary. But that was a totally unnecessary sub-plot and could have been removed without damaging the story in any way.

And I am still not convinced by the unmasking of the villain. Clearly it couldn't be who we thought it was because that was revealed far too early but pinning it on someone else at the last moment leaves too many questions unanswered.

Nevertheless, once I had got into it I read it in a great burst. But it is just a thriller. There is little concern for character. Even with all the details and the weaving in of real persons and events it is difficult to suspend disbelief. It is so much less convincing that his earlier works: The Day of the Jackal and The Dogs of War.

Disappointing. October 2013; 492 pages

Monday, 7 October 2013

"The towers of Trebizond" by Rose Macauley

What a strange and delightful book.

It is a novel though I thought it was a travel book and indeed it reads very much like one in that it meanders and there is no carefully constructed plot and there is no reason as far as I can tell why she first goes to Istanbul and then to Trabzon which is what the Turks call Trebizond which used to be the final outpost of the Byzantine Empire but is now a little fishing port and the citadel quite overgrown and then she travels deeper into Turkey near the Russian border and two of her companions cross the border ("crash the Curtain") so she is alone and running out of money so she goes down to Jerusalem and meets her mother (this is quite by chance) and then she comes to England once again and lives in London and then Oxford where she teaches a monkey to drive a car and then something awful happens and that is the end.

But the real beauty of the book is the way it is constructed in long, meandering sentences like the one above. She chats of all the things that interest her (Circassian slaves are an obsession). The whole thing is quite off the wall. Much of the travelling is done on camel-back. Aunt Dot is dotty and Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg the highest of High Anglicans. There is a lot of religion in it. The narrator is a lapsed High Anglican ("the Church met its Waterloo ... when I took up with adultery") but she is obsessed by it and perhaps by her guilt at lapsing and her fear of Hell.

In many ways this is a stream of consciousness travel novel. And there are many nuggets of wisdom in her gushing thoughts:

  • "I went on musing about why it was thought better and higher to love one's country than one's county, or town, or village, or house. Perhaps because it was larger. But then it would be still better to love one's continent, and best of all to love one's planet."
  • "We all have our price ... but we don't all get it."
  • Adultery is "a meanness and a stealing, a taking away from someone what should be theirs, a great selfishness, and surrounded and guarded by lies lest it should be found out. And out of this meanness and this selfishness and this lying flow love and joy and peace, beyond anything that can be imagined."

Well I loved it. She rambles on about life and nothing really happens until the end and her sentences and long and her paragraphs longer but then that is the way with paragraphs and somehow you get a picture of beauty and a love of life: "After all, life, for all its agonies of despair and loss and guilt, is exciting and beautiful, amusing and artful and endearing, full of liking and of love, at times a poem and a high adventure, at times nobles and at times very gay; and whatever (if anything) is to come after it, we shall not have this life again."

And you could say the same about this delightful book. October 2013; 222 pages