Books read in August 2006 (11)
Forsyth grips the reader from page one and keeps you in his grasp through a lot of pages. As ever there are sudden twists before the ending. It is a great read as the author is the master of the genre. The research behind the book appears very detailed. But I am left wondering how much of the bigger picture in the book is fiction. Did we fail to find WMDs in Iraq because they are not there, too well hidden or destroyed by the allies? I note Forsyth is starting to make some serious points about politics in his thrillers. Has the West stopped arming tyrants?
2. The Mid-Victorian Generation, 1846-1886 (New Oxford History of England) by K.Theodore Hoppen
Over 700 pages for 40 years of English history? Actually you get more than that for there is quite a lot on the other three British countries too. Here is the political, social, economic, cultural and religious history of the Victorians. It is not a riveting read but is most informative. The second I have read in this series
3. The Veteran by Frederick Forsyth
Five short stories, two with unexpected twists at the end, one with an ending I saw coming and one gripping tale that is just too incredible. As usual there is the well rehearsed attention to detail one expects from Forsyth. He is the master story teller.
4. Icon by Frederick Forsyth
Forsyth never disappoints. Once again, if you start you will not want to stop until the end. The first part set in the Cold War is more realistic and convincing then his foray into what was the future when the book was written. As usual a lot of research has produced a fine thriller.
5. The Deceiver by Frederick Forsyth
This is really four short stories of espionage put into one book as they all feature the same character, a spy who is due to be pensioned off as surplus to requirements in the post cold war era.
Forsyth never lets you down. Always well researched, always gripping. best of the four is the price of the Bride. Right to the end you are unsure as to whether the Russian is a genuine defector or a double agent.
6. Untold Stories by Alan Bennett
The major and best part of this book is autobiographical. There is the untold story of the Bennett family, working class West Riding with aspirations. This is a funny and tragic tale. The author shows his real love for his parents, especially during the long years of his mother's dementia. Bennett is at his most likeable telling this tale and the story of his battle with cancer. The diaries are enjoyable too but I found an everyday story of urban Yorkshire folk to be much more entertaining than all the doings of the London intelligentsia who seem so artificial by comparison. The one family member we hear little of is Bennett's brother, perhaps because he is still alive.
Bennett's homosexuality gets extensive mention but never in too pushy a way. He certainly seems to confound the theory that the most likely factor in the development of such an inclination is a dysfunctional father.
Bennett is at his most attractive caring for others, whether his mother , the Lady in the Van or Thora Hird. His least attractive side is seen in his refusal of honours for such reasons as not wanting to be beholden to Lady Thatcher or associated in any way with Murdoch. He is, as is often the case, an inconsistent leftist as when he pays to jump the queue for cancer treatment.
7. Avenger - Frederick Forsyth
Forsyth never fails to deliver a thriller to keep you turning the pages. In this book he is though stretching the credibility of the reader for the final exploit of his hero could have come from Superman. The writer does a good job of the old moral dilemma of whether the end justifies the means, in this case using a war criminal to stop terrorism from another quarter. I was though left with one question. Why did the CIA boss not recognise the Avenger's tattoo on his second in command?
8. The Rainmaker by John Grisham
This is the first Grisham I have read and it lived up to all the excellent recommendations I have heard. This is a very moral tale about the immorality of the capitalist system in general and the insurance and legal sectors in particular. It is a David and Goliath tale which keeps one gripped. The romantic sub-plot kept clear of adultery which is where other writers would have taken it. I take this as refreshing evidence of the Christian background of the author. I am left with one puzzle. What has the title to do with the story?
9. The Last Juror by John Grisham
I have never been to the Deep South but I am sure this story is truly evocative of rural Mississippi in 1970. This is the old segregated South, deep in the Bible Belt, hot and corrupt, firearms everywhere. His black heroine's family seems perhaps too good to be true but her cooking makes the mouth water as one reads the story. Her Christian testimony, challenging the unbelieving narrator certainly rings true to evangelical Christianity. The narrator brings in a more liberal perspective than the locals and one wonders if the author is speaking, particularly against the Vietnam conflict. At the end we have a surprising twist.
10. Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell
The story is set in the cruel period of Regency England when capital punishment was capital entertainment. The horrors of Newgate are graphically related and these would be sufficient in and of themselves to make the reader recoil against the macabre rituals of the gallows. But that is not enough for Cornwell who has to give us an historical note to say how much he dislikes capital punishment as barbaric . However, his novel is no argument against the punishment itself, only against the cruelty of a past age. What you will learn from this book is a whole new vocabulary of low life and criminality.It is a gripping if not a pleasant tale.
11. Broken Minds: Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're "Losing It" by Steve Bloem
This is the best Christian perspective on depression I have read. A young American Baptist is about to start his first pastorate when he is incapacitated by a severe clinical depression. The story is told by the man himself and also his wife. She in turn suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress. The author shows how C H Spurgeon suffered from all three yet he was a great servant of God. The question is asked, does a mental affliction disbar a man from pastoral ministry?The not unusual experience related here is of some lack of understanding and sympathy from Christians who deny the reality of mental illness or attribute it all to the demonic. The case is made for a medical model of depression, contra the nouthetic counselling stand of Jay Adams. I think there is evidence that severe depression does happen and sufferers may require medication, even as in the case of the writer, electro-convulsive therapy. Some people will require lifetime medication. All who are depressed do have a responsibility to seek treatment whether using counselling help or more resources.Where the writer is very helpful is in pointing to the wealth of literature from Puritan sources to distinguish constitutional melancholy from spiritual depression related to guilt before God.A book to help sufferers and those who want to help them too.