Book Blog
Fall of Giants / Winter of the World (Guest review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 31 March 2013 00:00

Another guest review by my dear ol' da. I'm stuck in the second book of the Thrones (why do I keep reading gigantic monster books?) So I'll keep bringing in guests (and writing about old favorites) until I can get caught up. But anyway, here's another book review for you...

The first two books of a planned trilogy that covers the first half of the 20th century. This twofer follows the members of five separate families (English, Welsh, Russian, German, and American)  as they experience love, wars, depression, revolution, and all the political currents that ran through this period. I have always found this particular period of history to be a most attractive setting for a broad historical treatment.  Follett has obviously researched deeply this era and takes you into the heads and various motives of all his characters.

Follett intertwines the lives of his principal characters and causes them to intersect at many points.  If the reader can accept the occasional coincidence that is a “bit much” then the books are a good read.  Each book is fairly long but each book is a complete story in itself and can be read without constant reference to the other one.

I have always had a soft spot for the well written family saga and here the author gives you the stories of five families which are all represented by the author’s many different voices, class prejudices, and political beliefs. He is especially strong in writing of the time between the wars when the National Socialists arose in Germany, England slept, and war was tested in Spain.

Also by Ken Follett: Pillars of the Earth.


Last Updated on Saturday, 30 March 2013 09:37
Twenty Years After (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 23 March 2013 17:38

d'Artagnan puts it best-

"Ah, my friends, it is not civil wars which disunite us; it is that we are all twenty years older. The loyal outbursts of youth have gone, and given place to the din of interests, the breath of ambition, and the counsels of egotism."

It''s been twenty years since the events of The Three Musketeers and time has not suited the famous friends. d'Artagnan is still a lieutenant in the musketeers. Porthos has gained a country estate but not the respect his neighbors. Aramis has taken the cloth and pines for his adventurous youth. And Athos, he has become a simple country man. For all their efforts to the benefit of the Queen, the diamond pendants, the deflection of Richilieu and the defeat of Milady, they have received nothing. All their efforts have been forgotten and they stand unrewarded.

Now, civil war is stirring in Paris, the Queen (older yet not wiser) is listening to her lover, the new Cardinal, and imprisoning her nobles. The streets roil. And thus the four friends find themselves divided, d'Artangnan and Porthos in service to the crown, Athos and Aramis backing the nobles. They will cross swords over this, plot and scheme and lie against each other. It is a sad tale of what happens to all of us, long after our glory days, when we've grown apart from our friends.

I really enjoyed this (even though it's a long book, just shy of 800 pages). It reads well, it has battles and turn-abouts and derring do. And it has one of those literary moments that I will always remember (the "curious" events aboard the felucca Lightning). And it works out neatly, with happiness and sorrow dispensed, with the four united (before they part) and the villains tossed.

I never thought I'd feel sorry for Comte de Rochefort, but there you go.

Colorful, wonderful, and truthful, a book for anyone who witnesses the changes of time on friendship.


Last Updated on Sunday, 24 March 2013 08:35
Moby Dick - a counterpoint (Guest Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 17 March 2013 08:26

Mike Krzos is an old buddy of mine - we car-pooled to our rocket-scientist jobs for about two years. You get a lot of time to know someone, an hour each way. One of our biggest (and standing) arguments was about the novel Moby Dick. I reviewed it HERE. Now it's Mike's turn...

Moby Dick. Every person claims to know the story. An obsessive madman, a madman with one leg, possessed by his obsession to the ends of sanity and, presumably, the end of his life. Moby Dick is not a story however, it is a work of art. Just as Rubens’ “David Slaying Goliath” is more than the sum of a painting of a boy at odds with a giant.

The rich tapestry begins strictly as narrative. It lands you directly into the sea-salt laden air and greyed wooden clapboards of 19th century New England. New Bedford becomes a character as rich as Ishmael. Set among this backdrop, the symbolic imagery of Father Mapple’s sermon reveals the majesty of the prose that haunts the rest of the book. Somber in tone, surrounded by imagery of the sea, even focusing on the biblical tale of Jonah, the Father’s sermon prepares the reader, almost as a prologue, for the journey ahead.

The tale is told through the experiences of a 19th century whaling vessel. While some readers balk at the dissertations regarding the minutia of shipboard mechanics and cetacean observation, these descriptions paint the setting of this work. The Pequod is not a vague ideal of a 19th century vessel, but becomes a real working ship. A ship that the reader lives on, works on, and sleeps on, alongside her crew. The reader knows how the hunt unfolds, understands the risks of the chase, and filths themselves in the mess of the post hunt processing. 

Among all this exquisite detail, Melville washes over the reader with prophetic imagery reminiscent of mythology. For me, however, it is the resplendent prose that is the work’s seduction. The best way to describe this genius is by example, as when Ahab addressed his first mate 

The white whale tasks me; he heaps me. Yet he is but a mask. 'Tis the thing behind the mask I chiefly hate; the malignant thing that has plagued mankind since time began; the thing that maws and mutilates our race, not killing us outright but letting us live on, with half a heart and half a lung. “


Last Updated on Sunday, 17 March 2013 08:35
In Sunlight and in Shadow (Guest Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 10 March 2013 00:00

Captain James Raymond is a retired naval officer and voracious reader - he's also my Pop. Given his burn rate on books, it's a natural to ask him to stand in for me while I saw through Twenty Years After. Watch for future reviews by him.

A beautiful novel set in New York City during the early post WW2 years. Henry, a young paratrooper returns from war and attempts to reestablish his family leather business. His wartime experiences leading his squad into Normandy on D-day and during the battle of the bulge establishes his character using flashbacks.  Love at first sight occurs on the Staten Island ferry and the book follows our character as he woos and wins Catherine, an actress who is also the daughter of a wealthy and important family.

Helprin’s love for New York come through clearly in this lyrical book where every word has been carefully chosen.  The principal characters are people you would like to meet and get to know and the city forms the stage for this love story.  The ending leaves the reader saying - “if only…”  This is a book I have added to my short list of books which I will want to reread more than once.

Read also A Soldier of the Great War , also by Mark Helprin.

RAR - I have - great read!


Last Updated on Sunday, 10 March 2013 11:07

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