Friday, 27 July 2007




DATE READ: July 2007 (audiobook)

NOTES: Well researched story of sixties London gangland told from different perspectives – rentboy, would be actress, corrupt MP, fellow criminal Jack the Hat and hippy sociology lecturer. Focuses on Harry Starks, a charismatic gangster with very brutal tendencies.

Ambitious sweep across the decades which includes factual figures – Kray brothers, Judy Garland etc. The inclusion of the sociology/Open University part was very entertaining and there was a satisfactorily dramatic ending. Very well read on this audiobook by Dave John.

Friday, 20 July 2007


AUTHOR: Jonathan Coe


DATE READ: June 2007

NOTES: Brilliantly constructed follow-up to What a Carve Up! A group of students share a house in the early 1980s and despite their intense impact on one another they appear to go their separate ways. But things are not that simple and their paths will cross again. The whole book is suffused with theories of sleep and dreams which are in themselves fascinating even if we don’t know how much of the information given has any real scientific background.

Alternate chapters recount the story from the 1980s and from June 1996. The student house becomes a private clinic specializing in sleep disorders run by the ghastly Gregory who was Sarah’s sadistic lover in student days. Terry, a friend of Sarah’s, arrives as a patient and is surprised that Gregory’s assistant Cleo reminds him of Robert and wonders if she could be his sister.

Lots of very funny bits but with some really dark moments. The whole structure is all very cleverly worked out – it propels the reader (well, me anyway) along as you really want to know how everything turns out.

Thursday, 12 July 2007


AUTHOR: Michael Morpurgo


DATE READ: June 2007

NOTES: This book was written for young people but nonetheless has achieved an adult audience. The prose is simple but still manages to create a wonderful picture of the English countryside in the early part of the 20th century, the evolving relationships of the Peaceful family and the horrors of the Great War. He describes the brothers at war in a brilliant way as the supposed heroic adventure of going to fight gradually becomes a living hell on earth.

The dramatic twist at the end of the story works well and I have to admit the last few pages were read with tears falling down my face.

Two negative thoughts: I realise that he was writing for a young audience but I felt that the “baddies” were a bit crudely portrayed. The Colonel in the big house and the vicious Sergeant were both a bit like cartoon characters. Rural poverty and the cruelties of war were caused by the class politics of the time not by individuals.


AUTHOR: Sarah Waters


DATE READ: July2007 (audiobook)

NOTES: Sub-Dickensian tale of Victorian pickpockets, babyfarmers, confidence tricksters and heiresses. Very convoluted plot (which in the end didn’t really stack up) with an underlying lesbian subtext. Some excellent atmospheric writing but spoiled by the overblown plotting. Slow moving in parts – felt it could have done with editing. However despite all this I did want to know what happened at the end.


AUTHOR: Hilary Mantel


DATE READ: July 2007

NOTES: Alison is a medium who earns her living by taking part in psychic fairs along with a sundry group of other practitioners. She is overweight and outwardly confident but she is soon revealed to be surrounded by spirits of men from her childhood. These all seem to be malevolent and a sad, abusive and neglected childhood is gradually revealed. She is joined by Colette, a rational and controlling woman, who becomes her business manager following her unsuccessful marriage to Gavin. Alison and Colette develop a love-hate relationship and after seven years Colette leaves and returns once more to Gavin (who has not had any luck in his life since she left).

The writing is terrific. Alison’s past is shocking and the book is very dark in parts, contrasting sharply with the humour which is frequently “laugh out loud” funny. Even though the subject matter is not one that I would usually care for I found I was swept along by the narrative and in particular by the relationship between the two women and the other psychics.

It is creepy and inventive but not sure if I actually enjoyed it!