Looks Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (book review)

05/03/2016 § Leave a comment

Look Whos Back Timur Vermes Front Cover

Hitler is inexplicably catapulted through time into 2011 Berlin. Making fast-friends with a well-connected Kiosk owner, Hitler, presumed satirical method actor, lands himself his own TV spot.

Although sardonic quips are amusing, they would be none the poorer attributed to any cantankerous old man. The meta-satirical novel, even on a backdrop of Farage and Trump, doesn’t pack enough punch to justify converting Adolf Hitler into a lovably grumpy archetypal grandpa. A distastefully disheartening encounter with a Jewish Grandmother compounds Vermes’ failure to deliver a political point. Genuine YouTube clips of Donald Trump do the job nicely on their own, thanks.

“…my daddy used to say that death was the timing of the world’s worst comedian and I think he was right”

Orwell’s Cough by John Ross (book review)

04/02/2013 § Leave a comment

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A collection of medically focused mini-biographies of literary greats, most of who are connected by acquaintance and shared ailments. Although comprising some occasionally tenuous theories, Orwell’s Cough is fascinating whether you’re interested in literary or clinical history. It details the development of medicine via profiles of prolific authors plagued by the signature illnesses of bygone creative minds; mental disorder and venereal disease. From a collection of well researched essays Ross has put together a sinuous and gritty read that will enable you to see the writers of your favourite works (and their doctors) in a new, and not altogether flattering, light.

Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now by Craig Taylor (Book Review)

29/11/2012 § Leave a comment

This collection of interviews aims to paint an original picture of one of the world’s most enigmatic cities. Spanning squatters to bankers, north to south, Taylor’s five year odyssey allows readers glances into the windows of an array of the city’s relationships, acquaintances and pen-pals. Unfortunately, Taylor peaks with his poetic introduction, with exciting and surprising accounts (the voice of the tube and TFL lost property deserve a mention) too sparsely scattered. More importantly, despite well thought out categories, the domineeringly bitter portrayal of the city as grim and unfriendly alienates those readers who are residents and overwhelms the remainder.

To paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw “If you only get one great love, then London may just be mine… and I can’t have nobody talkin’ shit about my boyfriend.”

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Book Review)

31/08/2012 § 2 Comments

Six characters, whose lives traverse aeons, geographies and genres, are linked by disparate windows into one another’s worlds. This is not just another book jumping onto the multi-storyline bandwagon. Mitchell produces both quality and quantity by delivering an extravaganza of extraordinarily distinct narratives that are unified by cohesive themes. This novel reads like an all you can eat buffet; with generous helpings of humour, atmosphere, tension and philosophy. Readers will mourn the loss of one account only to fall in love with the next. Their richness will leave you pondering Cloud Atlas’ intricacies long after you’ve gobbled up the final words.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Book Review)

30/05/2012 § Leave a comment

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During the brutal 1942 roundup of Jews in Paris Sarah, naively believing her absence to be temporary, locks her brother in a secret hideaway. Her plight to return to him intersperses the story of Julia, an American journalist living in the modern day capital. Tasked with writing a commemorative piece for the 60th anniversary of the roundup, Julia discovers a connection with the past that threatens to unravel her present. Sarah’s mournful and affecting narrative is thrown into stark contract by Julia’s melodramatic and tedious story, leaving the reader wishing the 1940’s tale wasn’t diluted by an unnecessary dual narrative.

Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum (Book Review)

29/01/2012 § Leave a comment

This non-fiction work retells the early history of England’s first criminal lunatic asylum, Broadmoor. Using its recently released archives as source material, Stevens creates a complete picture of the institution within the Victorian period that includes portraits of its staff and (in)famous ‘guests’ as well as escape attempts, births and deaths, all of which occurred within the confines of this eminent and progressive component of the judicial system. Retold in a readable and engaging manner this unexpected gem is an eye opening quick read for anyone intrigued by mental health, criminology or the justice system. And if you own a kindle, it’s free!

Sherlock Holmes – The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Book Review)

05/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Watson, after the death of his beloved companion Sherlock Holmes, sets out to recount one of his early ventures with the most famous of detectives; one too monstrous to be released to a contemporaneous audience. It’s abundantly clear why The House of Silk was officially approved by the Conan Doyle estate. Horowitz has succeeded in capturing the essence of Homes and the narrative style of Watson to create an entirely original adventure. Horowitz satisfies modern bloodlust with controversy unthinkable to Conan Doyle, but remains faithful to the original characters and style. This novel is impeccably researched and a cracking mystery.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose (Book Review)

13/12/2011 § Leave a comment

Jac is struggling to supress mental health problems and save her ancestral perfumery from bankruptcy. But when her brother uncovers a familial artefact that may be the saviour of controversial Tibetan beliefs in reincarnation, Jac’s precarious sanity is put to the test by cryptic clues, murder and a reunion with a long lost love. The bizarre plot is not adequately addressed by even the supposedly sceptical characters. However, the mysteries that the reincarnation catalyst ignites are entertaining; enhanced throughout by Jac’s bittersweet romance.  The Book of Lost Fragrances whiffs of intoxicating insanity comparable to Süskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Book Review)

03/10/2011 § Leave a comment

The Help is set in 60s America’s Deep South, told from the points of view of two black maids and a white society lady, Skeeter, whose journalistic ambitions lead her to confront the shocking realities of living a life of servitude for less than minimum wage. Skeeter’s project provides the novel with a conduit through which a wealth of anecdotes surface. Whilst numerous incidents are harrowing, many are brimming with love and humour. The three distinct but complimentary voices are perfectly drawn, and Stockett’s bold choice to adopt voices of black Mississippian women paid off superbly. It’s popularity is well-earned.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Book Review)

13/09/2011 § Leave a comment

Miller retells the Iliad through a Patroclus who is both companion and lover to Achilles. Together they journey through lives that culminate in the Trojan War. In focusing on the romantic element of the central relationship Miller diminishes Achilles into a swooning character more suited to the Twilight saga than a retelling of an epic poem. This novel adds nothing to the pre-existing story; rather using it as a template for an insipid love affair. It contains a few boastful references to peripheral knowledge of Homer that will slightly bewilder your average reader and do nothing to excite a classicist.

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