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  • AHR
    Full Member
    • Mar 2024
    • 11

    Just finished a re-read of Scott's 'Rob Roy.' The real stand-out character is Bailie Nicol Jarvie. The book comes alive whenever he is present.

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    • LMcD
      Full Member
      • Sep 2017
      • 7486

      A History of Modern Britain (Volume One\ by Andrew Marr.
      Last edited by LMcD; 12-03-24, 00:10. Reason: Title of book corrected!

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      • kernelbogey
        Full Member
        • Nov 2010
        • 5523

        Though I'm a fan of Ian McEwan - I think Atonement is a masterpiece - I haven't read all his novels. I was given a copy of Lessons for a recent birthday, and found myself devouring it over a weekend. It takes the life span of a man as its basis, but pulls in other plot lines about, for example, the reunification of Germany, music and musical careers, and what it means to have been abused as a child. I recommend it.

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        • Jonathan
          Full Member
          • Mar 2007
          • 929

          Nearly finished "The left handed booksellers of London" which, despite all the accolades it's received, did not appeal to me.
          Best regards,
          Jonathan

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          • gradus
            Full Member
            • Nov 2010
            • 5477

            Eamon Duffy's fine book, Fires of Faith, presenting a closely argued defence case for Mary Tudor and Reginald Pole, notorious for their relentless pursuit and burning of those who would not re-convert to Roman Catholicism.

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            • smittims
              Full Member
              • Aug 2022
              • 3174

              I'm re-reading 'Lytton Strachey, a biography' by Michael Holroyd, which I first read 50 years ago.

              Although there is much to be said for the Bloomsbury Group and their emphasis on loyalty to friends, one thing struck me particularly this time round. They were all pretty well-off: a house in central London and another out in the country,and able to go to the Russian Ballet every night without having to think about the cost.

              I think only E M Forster seems to have understood this enough to give expression to it, in the character of Leonard Bast in Howard's End. Saying to Helen Schlegel 'I think you will recall the occasion because it was at a perfromance of the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven' he shows that such an event would be something he would look forward to for weeks or months, saving his shillings and sixpences to get a ticket. She says merely 'I think we hear the Fifth every time they do it' : the voice of someone who never has to think about money.

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              • johncorrigan
                Full Member
                • Nov 2010
                • 10138

                I picked up 'Alone in Berlin' by Hans Fallada in a local chazza last week. I had never heard of it or heard of him before. I was attracted by the front cover, though initially put off by the 600 pages. It starts in Berlin in 1940, a city paralysed by fear and suspicion. Based on a true story, an old couple embark on an act of resistance in the city. The book also gives a picture of how various characters survive under this regime, the small minded dignitaries, the ambitious thugs, the blackmailers on the make. It has been sucking me in to a world I hadn't inhabited before

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                • Sir Velo
                  Full Member
                  • Oct 2012
                  • 3173

                  Just downloaded The Ambassadors to my Kindle. Almost immediately derailed by this passage from the Preface:

                  "I could even remember no occasion on which, so confronted, I had found it of a livelier interest to take stock, in this fashion, of suggested wealth. For I think, verily, that there are degrees of merit in subjects—in spite of the fact that to treat even one of the most ambiguous with due decency we must for the time, for the feverish and prejudiced hour, at least figure its merit and its dignity as possibly absolute. What it comes to, doubtless, is that even among the supremely good—since with such alone is it one’s theory of one’s honour to be concerned—there is an ideal beauty of goodness the invoked action of which is to raise the artistic faith to its maximum.​"

                  Only another 500 pages to go.

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                  • vinteuil
                    Full Member
                    • Nov 2010
                    • 12372

                    Originally posted by Sir Velo View Post
                    Just downloaded The Ambassadors to my Kindle. Almost immediately derailed....:
                    I didn't get in to Henry James until I was in my late thirties, and was in a similar way 'almost immediately derailed'. I knew he was 'important', and in my arrogant way thought, well, I'll plunge straight in to the 'late, difficult' works. What could possibly go wrong - blessed with a good brain, an expensive (state funded... ) eddication, an Eng Lit degree from a serious university... So I started The Ambassadors. Skipping the Preface, into chap 1 - and totally defeated after a few pages. What the f*** was going on? What did the sentences even mean???

                    To my credit, I was not defeated. I went back to early James (The American, The Europeans - easy peasy), and read most of the stuff chronologically from there on - and by the time I reached the last three - well, not easy peasy, but so well worth it*...

                    [ * not sure that The Sacred Fount is worth it, tho'... ]

                    .

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                    • richardfinegold
                      Full Member
                      • Sep 2012
                      • 7291

                      Originally posted by johncorrigan View Post
                      I picked up 'Alone in Berlin' by Hans Fallada in a local chazza last week. I had never heard of it or heard of him before. I was attracted by the front cover, though initially put off by the 600 pages. It starts in Berlin in 1940, a city paralysed by fear and suspicion. Based on a true story, an old couple embark on an act of resistance in the city. The book also gives a picture of how various characters survive under this regime, the small minded dignitaries, the ambitious thugs, the blackmailers on the make. It has been sucking me in to a world I hadn't inhabited before
                      Is that the same book as Every Man Dies Alone? It was retitled when the movie was made

                      Comment

                      • richardfinegold
                        Full Member
                        • Sep 2012
                        • 7291

                        Originally posted by vinteuil View Post

                        I didn't get in to Henry James until I was in my late thirties, and was in a similar way 'almost immediately derailed'. I knew he was 'important', and in my arrogant way thought, well, I'll plunge straight in to the 'late, difficult' works. What could possibly go wrong - blessed with a good brain, an expensive (state funded... ) eddication, an Eng Lit degree from a serious university... So I started The Ambassadors. Skipping the Preface, into chap 1 - and totally defeated after a few pages. What the f*** was going on? What did the sentences even mean???

                        To my credit, I was not defeated. I went back to early James (The American, The Europeans - easy peasy), and read most of the stuff chronologically from there on - and by the time I reached the last three - well, not easy peasy, but so well worth it...

                        .
                        I am reading Portrait of A Lady currently. I preferred The Ambassadors to the Bostonians

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                        • richardfinegold
                          Full Member
                          • Sep 2012
                          • 7291

                          Originally posted by kernelbogey View Post
                          Though I'm a fan of Ian McEwan - I think Atonement is a masterpiece - I haven't read all his novels. I was given a copy of Lessons for a recent birthday, and found myself devouring it over a weekend. It takes the life span of a man as its basis, but pulls in other plot lines about, for example, the reunification of Germany, music and musical careers, and what it means to have been abused as a child. I recommend it.
                          I posted on this a few weeks back. # 3392 It is more kaladescopic with all the diverse themes than his usual work

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                          • Sir Velo
                            Full Member
                            • Oct 2012
                            • 3173

                            Originally posted by vinteuil View Post
                            To my credit, I was not defeated. I went back to early James (The American, The Europeans - easy peasy), and read most of the stuff chronologically from there on - and by the time I reached the last three - well, not easy peasy, but so well worth it .
                            I can't help thinking of T.S. Eliot's objective correlative when considering James. Beautifully written, yes. Scrupulously observed, undoubtedly. Of course, the past is another country - we all know that, autres temps autres moeurs etc but doesn't he rather make mountains out of molehills? Nevertheless, I will follow your example and persevere (for the present)!

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                            • vinteuil
                              Full Member
                              • Nov 2010
                              • 12372

                              Originally posted by Sir Velo View Post
                              doesn't he rather make mountains out of molehills?
                              As HG Wells described Henry James - "It is leviathan retrieving pebbles. It is a magnificent but painful hippopotamus resolved at any cost, even at the cost of its dignity, upon picking up a pea which has got into a corner of its den."
                              Grotesquely unfair, but one knows what he means.

                              I love the Edith Wharton anecdote -
                              "Another year we had been motoring in the West Country, and on the way back were to spend a night at Malvern. As we approached (at the close of a dark rainy afternoon) I saw James growing restless, and was not surprised to hear him say: ' My dear, I once spent a summer at Malvern and know it very well; and as it is rather difficult to find the way to the hotel, it might be well if Edward were to change places with me and let me sit beside Cook.' My husband of course acceded (though with doubts in his heart) and, James having taken his place, we awaited the result. Malvern, if I am not mistaken, is encircled by a sort of upper boulevard, of the kind called in Italy a strada di circonvallazione, and for an hour we circled about above the outspread city while James vainly tried to remember which particular street led down most directly to our hotel. At each corner (literally) he stopped the motor, and we heard a muttering, first confident and then anguished. 'This — this, my dear Cook, yes . . . this certainly is the right corner. But no; stay! A moment longer, please — in this light it's so difficult . . . appearances are so misleading ... It may be . . . yes! I think it is the next turn . . . a little farther lend thy guiding hand ... that is, drive on; but slowly, please, my dear Cook; very slowly!' And at the next corner the same agitated monologue would be repeated; till at length Cook, the mildest of men, interrupted gently: ' I guess any turn'll get us down into the town, Mr. James, and after that I can ask' — and late, hungry and exhausted we arrived at length at our destination, James still convinced that the next turn would have been the right one if only we had been more patient.

                              The most absurd of these episodes occurred on another rainy evening when James and I chanced to arrive at Windsor long after dark. We must have been driven by a strange chauffeur — perhaps Cook was on holiday; at any rate, having fallen into the lazy habit of trusting him to know the way, I found myself at a loss to direct his substitute to the King's Road. While I was hesitating and peering out into the darkness James spied an ancient doddering man who had stopped in the rain to gaze at us. 'Wait a moment, my dear — I'll ask him where we are'; and leaning out he signalled to the spectator.
                              'My good man, if you'll be good enough to come here, please; a little nearer — so,' and as the old man came up: 'My friend, to put it to you in two words, this lady and I have just arrived here from Slough; that is to say, to be more strictly accurate, we have recently passed through Slough on our way here, having actually motored to Windsor from Rye, which was our point of departure; and the darkness having overtaken us, we should be much obliged if you would tell us where we now are in relation, say, to the High Street, which, as you of course know, leads to the Castle, after leaving on the left hand the turn down to the railway station.'
                              I was not surprised to have this extraordinary appeal met by silence, and a dazed expression on the old wrinkled face at the window; nor to have James go on: 'In short' (his invariable prelude to a fresh series of explanatory ramifications), 'in short, my good man, what I want to put to you in a word is this: supposing we have already (as I have reason to think we have) driven past the turn down to the railway station (which in that case, by the way, would probably not have been on our left hand, but on our right) where are we now in relation to . . . '
                              'Oh, please,' I interrupted, feeling myself utterly unable to sit through another parenthesis, 'do ask him where the King's Road is.''Ah —? The King's Road? Just so! Quite right! Can you, as a matter of fact, my good man, tell us where, in relation to our present position, the King's Road exactly is?'
                              'Ye're in it', said the aged face at the window."

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                              • smittims
                                Full Member
                                • Aug 2022
                                • 3174

                                I've just finished re-reading Henry the Sixth part one. I think Shakespeare's earlier plays are underrated . Even this one, which is full of battle scenes, is more about speaking verse than realism, a point missed by the BBC's Hollow Crown screening where they cut the text and turned it into a Hollywood action thriller . I prefer to imagine it stylised, ritual almost. At one point there are three different armies on stage; trying to make that look realistic would be absurd.

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