Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Shadow Of The Wind

The Shadow Of The Wind

By Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Penguin 2001

A book that is two stories, about a book, which becomes a never ending story about the book, which serves as the catalyst for the mystery that is the spine of this very good novel. Confused?  Good, I was; and having read it was very pleased I had found the book on my e-reader, the first time I’ve used it properly. So, to the book...
Translated from Spanish, I was first attracted by the idea that there would be a place known as the ‘cemetery for forgotten books’. What a fantastic name for a book shop – (Waterstones, take note!) So, having acquired a book based on one sentence, off I went. And what a journey! I have been to post war Barcelona, I visited the Spanish civil war, and I went back as far as the First World War times. But, I hasten to add, it is nothing to do with war. It is a love story, a mystery, and a darn good yarn.
As usual, I won’t discuss the plot in detail, but it does involve Daniel discovering a book that had been tucked away on a bookshelf. We are then taken on the journey of the book, the history of the author, and the mystery that surrounds both, from the point of view of the new owner. We flit between eras, families and histories, but it is done in a seamless fashion, and it is quite easy to follow the flow, and switching between the component parts of the plot is easy to do. To my mind, the only down side is the very neat ending, we have been exposed to dysfunctional, mysterious and various odd people over the course of the book, it was a little disappointing that it all turned out in the way that Barbara Cartland might have finished it. Until, that is, the very last bit, when the never ending story concept comes to life.
The writing is ink flowing in the most extraordinary way. The lyrical, flowing way that scenes are portrayed, emotions explored and characters built is second to none. Pictures flood off of the pages, the lights and darks, the personalities and the landscapes all become vivid in the words; sentences that make you wish you could write like that. It is pleasing that nothing appears to have been lost in the translation from Spanish to English. In classic literature, it is like Wilkie Collins meets Thomas Hardy.
I thoroughly recommend this story, even if it some years old. The tale itself is timeless so there are no contemporary issues. I wonder if the only issue might be finding a copy, but if all searches to acquire a copy fail, you could also check out the ‘cemetery of forgotten books’, but be very, very careful if you find a copy there...

Check out my other blog site dealing with books that were shortlisted on the Man Booker Prize at

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Last Night Another Soldier... By Andy McNab

Last Night Another Soldier...

By Andy McNab

Corgi, 2010

I was given this book as part of the World Book Night; it is not the sort of book that I would automatically pick up. But, in the spirit of the free book event, I decided to give it a go, before passing it on.
Designated a quick read, the story was a short tale, this particular edition written in reasonably large print, the whole being read in perhaps an hour or two. I believe this is designed to entice the less regular or less confident reader to pick it up and engage with a book. Perhaps it will; I think that this author is a best-selling writer of war novels, and the Special Forces, based in the U.K. in particular. I’m not too sure that this subject is one to promote to the world in general or the skill of the writer, with their ability to transport us to new times and places. But it is here, so here goes...
The tale tells of an episode in the lives of a group of soldiers, on the front line, as told by the youngest of the group. In the first person style, ‘Briggsy’ tells us what it’s like to be attacked, attack, sort through the personal effects of a fallen comrade, how it is to pacify a parent an finally what the effect is when the battle is in full flow. All these things are told to us in only 107 pages of print, so little or none of the above subjects are covered at any length. Very much the type of book where this happened, then that happened and finally that happened. There is little or no exploration into the why’s and wherefores of why they are there, or the politics of the conflict or the moral dilemmas that accompany international conflict.
I have no doubt that the story will, and does appeal to fans of this type of literature, and Andy McNab is a major author in this field, but it is not to my taste. Did that come across in my previous comments? I do hope so. Whilst I will fight and argue for the right of everybody to write and read all manner of literature, and I do accept the perceived fact of the genres appeal to a great proportion of the reading public, but I wonder if blood, gore and obvious blood thirstiness will serve to tease readers back to the shelves of the local library, charity shop or quality bookseller. So I do wonder two things; why was it written in this format, sponsored by an international chocolate bar maker, and who is it aimed at? Young men who want this sort of entertainment have computer games where they can be even more sucked into the scenario, the coffee break audience, I can’t believe, will want war with their early morning coffee, and there is insufficient substance for the glutton (like me) of immersing literature.
If anyone still wants to give this book a go after reading my review, then I do have a copy to pass on. I will be more than happy to send it through the post, to anywhere in the world. Please, just contact me. 

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared By Jonas Jonasson

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window
And Disappeared
Jonas Jonasson

Hesperus Press, 2009

Translated by Rod Bradbury, 2012

ISBN: 978 1 84391 372 6

When I first spotted this book on a shelf in shop in London, I was naturally taken by the odd title; and jolly glad I am that I took it to the checkout and gave myself an opportunity to enjoy one of the funniest books I have read for years. The story takes us all over the world at such a fast pace, and it will help if you follow this simple piece of advice. Suspend your disbelief, sit down with a large coffee and an even larger bar of chocolate and prepare yourself for an international tale of intrigue and comedy.
When Allen decides on his last adventure, events begin to happen around him and to him, rather than him creating the story. As the story goes on, similar events will cause a domino effect on him, his new found friends, as well as his even newer enemies. He leaves a trail behind him that drives the story on to magical effect. Totally believable, yet completely unbelievable. Logical and yet totally illogical; surprising and not in the least surprising. And all told in a totally absurd way.
A mix of looking back on Allen’s life and the day to day events that carry him forward, we discover that he has met some remarkable people, during some historical times. Without giving the plot away, you will discover Allen’s role during the war, with explosives, though to his exploits during the cold war, with all the politics that complicated the Western world. Taking in his spying role, and his promotion of politics in Bali, then it becomes clear that he did live a full life. Being a hundred years old seems not to change anything; dull does not figure in his dictionary. 
This current difficulties do include a couple of murders (or not, or maybe), grand theft (or not, or maybe) and an episode, in the middle of Sweden with Sonya the elephant. Then of course the international flight for the elephant, that is beginning to give away the plot line, which I promise, will spoil it for you.
All the characters are believable, some indeed, are famous. All have their own story, and if you have a grandparent or parent alive, it is possible that you will relate to Allen, and hopefully smile. Whatever, or whoever you relate to, it will allow you to go ‘ah, that explains why the world id like it is’. If only these incidents were true.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough; it may never win literary prizes as a classic novel, but it will certainly live in my memory for a long time to come. So, go on, if you want to smile, give this one a go.

For my blog about the Booker Prize Shortlist then go to: