I’ve consulted my master spreadsheet again to bring you some more of my capsule reviews from my pre-blog years. Again, these are all from 2006 or before…
Bringing Out the Dead by Joe Connelly
This autobiographical novel is relentless, I read it in two sessions, only ending the first as I was completely drained. A paramedic in Hell’s Kitchen must be one of the most emotionally stressful jobs on earth if even a fraction of Frank’s story in this novel is the norm. Dark it may be, yet like in many cop novels, the camaraderie between the ambulance crews keeps it all from falling totally apart, and towards the end poor burned-out Frank is beginning to see a path glimmering through all the torment.
Scorsese’s film which came out a year later was pretty good too! (book published in 1998)
Archangel by Robert Harrie
Robert Harris, the British journalist, also writes historical spy thrillers. In Fatherland, he tackled an alternative post-war Germany where Hitler won; Enigma was based on the work of the WWII code-breakers at Bletchley Park. Both excellent. In his third novel he tackles Russia, & the search for Stalin’s lost ‘black book’. Stalin may have got the USSR through WWII, but he also systematically purged most of those who got close to him and the book brings this home. So when an English historian gets drawn into the search for Stalin’s lost papers – everyone else is interested too. The book is full of detail; historic background and authentic Russian life. The first half is pacy, as befits a Le Carré style novel, but this level isn’t maintained right to the end.
It’s still a good example of the modern cold war spy novel & will interest those who like reading about Russia. (book published in 1998)
Bodies Electric by Colin Harrison
A tale of boardroom v. bedroom, work life v. family life, profit v. loss. You sympathise with the main character Jack instantly, when you hear his pregnant wife, an innocent victim, was murdered in a drive-by shooting. Then he gets used as a top-level pawn in the corporation’s business battles and you sympathise a bit more, so that when he gets another chance at love you can’t blame him if he gets a bit obsessive about finding out his new partner’s past…
Although a thick novel at 500+ pages, I sprinted through this quickly and enjoyed it thoroughly. (book published in 1993)
The Walpole Orange by Frank Muir
The late Frank Muir’s first and only novel is a sweet and undemanding read. Walpole Club Secretary, William has to organise an orgy (codename orange) for the Club’s 250th birthday event! Naturally this causes much consternation for the rather straight-laced William, and much hilarity ensues as he tries to give the old gents what they want. The novel descends into farce as he tries to sort out a cabaret, before a rather sentimental ending. The cast of characters are all bit-part players typical of PG Wodehouse, and the whole is rather like a Stephen Fry novel with any offensive bits taken out.
A pleasant read with some good chuckles. (book published in 1993)
England, England by Julian Barnes
At the end of reading this brilliant novel which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1998, I did succumb to some philosophical musing: Isn’t England enough of a theme-park at times anyway? Are we really such suckers for “authentic” experiences recreated for us? Answer to both: Probably sometimes! What I really enjoyed though was the creation of megalomaniac Sir Jack’s theme park England. The thrill is all in the build-up, and when it’s finished, it’s all a bit of an anticlimax, as Martha in the novel found out to her dismay.
Recommended. (book published in 1998).
That’s your lot today! More another time.