My Goodreads reviews
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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…
Not the best of the series, but enjoyed it nevertheless. As always the people whose paths he cross is so cleverly weaved in, especially loved his conversations with Abe Lincoln.
As always, le Carré spins a good yarn about the world of spies. I really enjoyed until the soap opera ending which seemed completely detached from the story, utterly unbelievable and felt like an amateur writer rushing to finish the book. Just plain silly.