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The Girls: A Novel
The Girls: A Novel
by Lori Lansens
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.00
51 used & new from $1.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Six Stars, November 21, 2008
This review is from: The Girls: A Novel (Paperback)
Seldom have I been moved by a novel as much as by this one. Lori Lansens writes with a sparkling clarity and directness, not to mention tenderness. Her other gift is to have concocted such an unusual and ingenious premise for a story and to have seen it through from beginning to end with a breathtaking sure-footedness. Even so, it could well be argued that the craniopagus twins of the title serve mainly as a conduit for Lansen's true purpose, her exploration of the human condition as it applies to all of us. For indeed everything is here: joy, fear, wonderment, loyalty, devotion . . . and of course love and death.

My own sense of wonder is that, long since I finished the book, seldom a day passes that one or more of these vividly realised characters don't at some point enter my mind and in so doing touch on issues that are normally all too easy to simply rush past on the way to the usual worries of everyday life. If it wasn't for the cliché of the life-changing book I'd surely want to venture out and use it about this one.


The Good German
The Good German
by Joseph Kanon
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
157 used & new from $0.01

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Over-plotted, over-long and over here, November 29, 2007
Did I struggle with this book. Buried beneath 500-plus pages of complicated story-telling is a worthy suggestion of the murky post-war 'appeasement' of Nazi scientists by a technological America desperate for their expertise. Once that's out of the way every other aspect of the story brings on a huge 'Who Cares?' The only thing I cared about was how long it was going to take me to get to the end (answer: far too long).

I've seldom come across characters I cared about less since . . . let's see . . . ah yes, 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian'. Although here the characters are bumped off willy-nilly in ridiculous shootings and Wild-West-style set pieces.

The shooting of a Russian general, a (relatively) formative character in the first half of the book is never referred to again. The 'love interest', such a driving force in the beginning, fizzles out like a wet firework.

The same, of course can be said of this plodding, boring novel. On a long plane journey you'll find the clouds more exciting.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 6, 2011 7:23 PM PDT


Where the Truth Lies: A Novel
Where the Truth Lies: A Novel
by Rupert Holmes
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.56
113 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gob-smackingly good, August 11, 2007
Everything you may have heard about this book - whether from the Times of London or the Washington Post - is true. I will use the word 'sensational' here and solemly promise never to use it again.

There were more times than I can remember when I actually had to say to myself (aloud) "calm down, calm down". And not because of the mesmerising storyline but because of the sheer beauty and accomplishment of the writing, all the more so since the book is 'narrated' by a twenty-something female journalist.

As a bonus, not that one were really needed, Holmes has written the best sex scenes in modern fiction (I thought Jane Smiley had already done that in 'Good Faith').

But, strangely and astonishingly, it was only after some three hours had passed since finishing this modern masterpiece that I stopped dead in my tracks and the hair on my neck suddenly rose to attention. Earlier I had wondered how such a perfect evocation of grief and loss had come to be written. And there in the author's acknowledgments right at the end is the answer. A double-whammy indeed.

Drop everything else and read this now.


The Pleasure of My Company
The Pleasure of My Company
by Steve Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.79
343 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, June 15, 2007
Once again our know-nothing publishers in the UK, terrified that no one will buy a book unless it's got "laugh-out-loud funny" plastered on the cover, have done us a tremendous disservice. They did it last year with George Hagen's masterpiece 'The Laments' and now they've done it to Steve Martin's sublime and touching novel.

Martin's mastery of his craft sends him without doubt into the top league of American novelists. 'Shopgirl' was good and brave but this trancsends even that wonderful book. The sure-footedness and tenderness that Martin displays towards Daniel, the novel's main protagonist, is doubled and then squared (how Daniel would love that) when each of the other characters are brought so deftly into his life.

Coming to the end of this book, in which the author summons up every ounce of grace and poignancy to his writing, I was reminded of 'The Time Traveller's Wife'. For like that book Steve Martin's inspiring novel resonates in the mind long after the cover has been closed. Quite unashamedly I admit here to having read the last paragraph four times.

And yes, this book may be funny but in a wry and almost sad way - something much harder to pull off than a collection of gags.

Steve Martin is a deep and wonderful writer. Read this book.


This Book Will Save Your Life
This Book Will Save Your Life
by A. M. Homes
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.57
164 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensational, June 14, 2007
What a talent we have here. Breathtaking in its audacity and full of ideas Homes never puts a foot wrong. And with something new happening in literally every sentence I was amazed how she kept it all up. But she does, and with what freshness and confidence!

Cliche or no, these are characters to fall in love with (even the iffy ones) and Richard Novak is truly a hero for our times. He rises to every occasion and often in satisfyingly unpredictable ways (and if you ever enjoyed Scorcese's 'After Hours' you'll adore this).

And this is also the definitive L.A. novel (yes, the place is nuts), especially so on account of the author being a New Yorker. As the plot proceeds on its completely irresistible and helter-skelter course no detail of L.A life is spared by Homes's mordant eye and I think it's this that ultimately lifts the novel to the very highest plane. And that's on top of the author's compassion, her warmth, the sheer boldness and inventiveness of it all.

I read this book in a few days while holidaying on a Greek island (okay, okay, so it was a 'beach read' but so what, my other book was Stendhal). My experience there was enriched no end by this book and it's hard for me to imagine anything better. And, long after my return, I still can't get adorable Cynthia out of my mind . . .

Finally, amidst all the customary literary sneering at this book having been selected for Richard and Judy's Book Club, I'd like instead to add my pointed congratulations on their having had the high intelligence to have chosen it. They also chose George Hagen's stupendous 'The Laments' a while back and that book, along with this one, remains the finest American novel I've read in some years. I've never watched the show (I work), and I don't really know who Richard and Judy are, but once again I'm truly indebted to them for bringing to this marvellous book the every ounce of publicity that it deserves.


Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
by Frederick Taylor
Edition: Paperback
73 used & new from $0.03

6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, Readable and Illuminating, February 11, 2007
This is how I like my history: intensely readable, balanced and thoughtful. Taylor excels himself in writing about this controversial subject. His thorough grasp both of the historical context in which Dresden existed and of the events that led to its destruction never falters.

Frederick Taylor is a writer who is passionately engaged in his subject and it shines through on every page. I cannot recommend this absorbing and complex book highly enough.


The Abortionist's Daughter
The Abortionist's Daughter
by Elisabeth Hyde
Edition: Hardcover
111 used & new from $0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, October 29, 2006
Elisabeth Hyde has turned out a gripping and superlative novel. So self-assured is her writing that we can enjoy both the tensions of the plot and her wonderfully subtle scene-setting descriptions knowing that the writer has the skill to seemlessly combine the two. Her opening to 'February', for example, is a beautiful piece of exposition that reminded me of something similar in Steinbeck's East of Eden.

An ensemble of real - and very human - characters lend the admittedly slight plot all the engagement we need and the author's ear for dialogue is the best I've come across for such a long time. I can't wait for her next book when no doubt I'll be able to relish once more the pleasure of immersing myself in a writer who so confidently knows what she's doing.

And thank you Richard and Judy for once again getting it so right.


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