I Was Told to Come Alone: My journey behind the lines of jihad


Read 14/04/2018-22/04/2018

Rating: 4 stars

All you need to know is, you need to read this book.

I became aware of I Was Told to Come Alone when it was included in the March Madness Reading Challenge. After I read Home Fire, I felt like I needed to read something based on the real experience of the young men who become jihadis and the young women who become jihadi brides. So I reserved it at the library. And I’m very glad that I did. Continue reading


Vertigo (W G Sebald)


Read 15/08/2016 to 18/08/2016

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Olympic Challenge

I’ve been meaning to read some Sebald for a while. I know next to nothing about him, save that other writers whose work I admire speak warmly of him. I read his bio at the start of Vertigo, of course, and learnt that he studied in Manchester and taught at the University in the 1960s. I can be very partisan at times, and learning that someone made Manchester their home, however briefly, makes me warm to them.

Vertigo starts with a veteran of an alpine march led by Napoleon in 1800 reminiscing thirty-six years later about his experiences in the armed services. Continue reading

Effi Briest


Read 07/12/2015-12/12/2015

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

I loved this book. I really liked the main character and thought she was drawn very well. In fact, all the characters were well realised, very human and believable. I liked Effi’s youth and self assurance that was actually naivety, and thought the description of her change following the life changing event, that is really only ever hinted at throughout the book, no need for passionate or salacious details, was very well executed. The whole book models the politesse of 19th century society, where nothing is discussed in the open, but everyone understands what is going on under the surface. Continue reading

All Quiet on the Western Front


Read 13/06/2015-14/06/2015

Rating: 5 stars

Back in 2014, I thought I would try to read a novel set in the Great War (1914-1918) for each full year of that war’s centenary. My only exposure to such literature previously was Sebastian Faulks’s ridiculously romanticised and overblown novel Birdsong. That is a book that makes me incredibly angry and it mystifies me why other readers love it so much.

I decided to read All Quiet on the Western Front to get some perspective in the tub-thumping rolling centenary of WW1. Continue reading

Death in Venice


Read 13/03/2016

Rating: 3 stars

LibraryThing review

There is something of E M Forster in the writing. A celebrated writer, creating his own personal myth of existence, full of his sense of worth, taking meaning from the patterns of his life, but realising that he is stuck, needs adventure, needs to flee. It reminded me of Forster’s novels in which bored British people take a tour of European cities, don’t say very much, and are introspective and repressed before falling into a passion they think they should deny themselves. Continue reading