My Goodreads reviews
Follow me on Goodreads here.
Agent Sonya was a real spy who literary changed the course of history through dedication, bravery and a bit of luck along her most amazing life journey. From Germany to China to Switzerland to England and back again, her story makes for better reading than any spy novel ever could. Because it is all true.
Well researched and very well written, Ben Macintyre has done a remarkable job of bringing both Sonya the spy and Ursula her alter ego to life.
Huon Valley, the apple orchards and the bushfires of 1967 is the starting point of a wonderfully told story of tragedy, love, betrayal, friendship and family. The author transports the reader to a place and a particular time in Australian history in ways you can feel, see and smell. Grapes of Wrath meets Gone with the Wind, I am richer for having read it.
It would be almost impossible to follow up ‘Birdsong’, one of the most moving, evocative and profoundly sad books I’ve ever read. In a good way. This book is also tinged with much sadness, but also humility and strength of the human spirit. Faulks writes the inner life of men living with trauma and regret better than most.
The Chinese walls of many names, shrouded in myths and legend, the Great Wall is a fascinating read of the broad sweeps of history of China. As the western world grapples with China reclaiming its past and yet again becoming a world leader, this is an important book to help understand just how differently it sees itself and the world.
It took me a while to get used to the constantly changing vantage points of the story, but once it got going it captivated my attention. Some of the writing is stunning, at times less so as it takes too many turns. But I learnt a lot along the way (including quite a few Wikipedia detours as well as watching the Patrice Lumunga movie, highly recommended for background). Not for the faint hearted, I had to stop and catch my breath at times. My only minor gripe was the ending dragging out when it didn’t need to; the strength of the story would have benefitted from some loose ends to keep the reader pondering…
author: Simon Winchester
average rating: 4.10
book published: 2021
read at: 2021/05/30
date added: 2021/06/01
A problem of the ages so well defined, missing solutions
Simon Winchester is a superb writer. His grasp of complex issues is surpassed by his ability to make them understandable to the reader. The research behind this book is extraordinary, and the way he binds it all together makes for a riveting read of a rather somber subject. But I was hoping for a better approach to solutions of the malaise we find ourselves in. Maybe there aren’t any…
Don’t be put off by the slow, strange beginnings. Persevere, and you’ll be rewarded by a strangely wonderful story shrouded in the mysteries of awful misdeeds and witchcraft unlike anything else. Very clever, and the style of the prose fits the story perfectly.
A fascinating story well told, much of it feels authentic and is well researched. But where Preservation had a beginning a middle and an end, The Burning Island left me slightly disappointed at an ending that felt rushed and a bit incongruous. Still, it’s a good read and I learnt a lot.
A story that keeps surprising, told with insight, passion and humour, but above all with an eloquence and style rarely experienced. Again and again I found myself reading a passage over and over again in pure enjoyment of the craft of writing beautifully executed by an artisan of word smithing.
author: Ken Follett
average rating: 4.55
book published: 2020
read at: 2020/09/19
date added: 2020/09/19
Another thrilling read by the master of historical fiction
It is hard for any writer to measure up to previous success. Pillars of the Earth was a masterpiece of historical fiction, and the sequels were – although not quite as majestic – both most entertaining reads. With The Evening and the Morning Follett has written another story that puts the reader back in a place 1,000 years ago with imagination, insights and authenticity. I enjoyed reading about the making of Kings Bridge and its many characters, neatly integrated into the historical narrative of Kings and Clergy and the plight of the common people; devouring all 800 pages or so with unbridled delight.
A journey few of us can really understand, but I suspect those who have experienced loss the way Hisham has, will relate to. Grief for a father, a family and a country ruined by a brutal regime pours out of every page. The observations and ruminations are at times excruciating, painfully honest and stark reminders of how precious life is, even as hope is the most fragile of threads. Read it, weep and keep it up until the very last page. The author and his people deserve that – and so much more – from the rest of us mostly oblivious to the seemingly never ending plight of the people of Libya.
The story keeps building from an innocuous beginning, tidbits of intrigue are served in carefully planned measures as the plot unfolds. The people are well crafted with insight and feeling, the love of place – Tasmania – is obvious and so well described on many dimensions. The dialogue is utterly believable. It’s just a great, thought provoking yarn. If you love Australia, if you are concerned about what is happening to this country, politically and otherwise, this is a must read. Not just for the warnings, but for the slivers of hope it offers to those of us who care.
It reads like a masterful novel, yet is a fact based account of the World Fair in 1893, interspersed with the story of what may well be the worst serial killer ever. Both narratives are cleverly conceived, based on an enormous body of research and both keep you turning the pages wanting more. As a one time resident of Chicago I learnt lots about The White City, and even why the magnificent city on the lake is called Windy City. It’s not what I thought…
At first you cringe, then slowly it dawns in you what’s happening, from then on it’s pure delight in a clever yarn so ridiculous it almost could be true. So much of it is…