Sunday, 25 July 2010

Who Murdered Chaucer?

By Terry Jones (The Terry Jones)

Yes, it is a book by the Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. However, that doesn't mean that this is a book that is utterly irreverent, silly and outright nonsense. Oh, no, Mr Jones and his co-authors instead take this book down a very interesting route.

Geoff (as I will call him) did just disappear around the year 1400 with no real explanation of where he went, no funeral, no will etc. For a man of his fame at this time it is highly unusual. So, Mr Jones et all follow the theory that he could possibly have been murdered. Now, this book isn't a simple, examine the evidence of who had the motive, means etc. It instead takes in a much wider scope. Looking at the political situation of the time, the whole nine yards as it were. This makes for very interesting reading as it teaches me some aspects of medieval history that I was largely unaware of.

Once the whole scene is set, the authors then don't go onto the suspects but do look at reasons WHY Chaucer could have been viewed as dangerous by the newly established Henry 4. (It seems that the A-level text of the Canterbury Tales is an incredibly shocking, salacious piece of work for its time).

They also don't argue solely for the murder line and do look at some interesting evidence that Chaucer MAY have lived past the year 1400, and also that he could easily have just taken a tumble off a ladder whilst white-washing. (they don't specify the white-washing part, I added that).

Now, they do suggest a candidate at the end of it all. Thereby not cheating the reader of a solution to this potential crime. I would reveal who it was but then you wouldn't have to read the book.

Overall, reading a piece of non-fiction has made a rather nice change to the otherwise fiction heavy challenge thus far. I rather enjoyed this book, the writing style was rather light but informative and not too heavy and dry in comparison to some non-fiction writers.

In other news, I am moving on from the guitar to the clarinet. A different instrument I know. Will blog more on it later in the week.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A Single Man

By Christopher Isherwood.

Now I know that you can see the words "Now A Major Motion Picture" atop the book in this photo. So you're probably thinking, oh he's seen the film and now wants to read the book. Well, I am afraid you are mistaken. Not seen the film, although after reading this book I am even more uncertain. I am of course curious to see if they have got the sheer emotion of it all transferred onto the screen. I sincerely hope that they do, because this book is quite simply wonderful.

Long time readers may remember me talking about my love for the likes of Bennett, Fitzgerald and Wodehouse and the sheer joy of their language and the characters they create. Well, Mr Isherwood can happily join their ranks. Some of the language he uses here is simply wonderful, utterly picturesque, maybe a little too so at times but the rest of it it is an utter joy to read.

Now I don't want to go giving the plot away, that's not my job, I am a not a blurb (as an edited line from the Prisoner goes). However sufficied to say it follows a lot of those universal themes that all good successful books do. When reading you really feel to connect with George despite the fact he is what a lot of us aren't. Unless, of course there are a number of you who are English professors living in 1960's America, who are gay, in their sixties and have recently lost a loved one. If you, hello and I hope you are well. Heck, that seems rude, so I hope those of you who don't fit into that very small category are also well.

The book itself clearly has some heavily autobiographical tones. That is very apparent to those who are aware of the basics of Isherwood and his life. However, you can feel really connected with the character. When George feels upset, you feel rather down yourself. The sense of isolation of being a single man who doesn't fit in with the world around him leaps out of the page and you find yourself feeling sorry for George. It also offers some interesting insight into one mans view of a world that was very different from the one I was born into.

As the book progresses and you get to know George more, you really do begin to like him more and more. Because it is all told from his perspective, a true first person, you get to see the world as he sees it. Feel the actions he feels.

The books is also about growing old, something that I really am yet to feel. The book really does take a very bleak approach on it all. An acceptance of death and a feeling that, rather than just a hey it happens. More a, it happens and it can be rather bally horrible. This makes you look at death and the whole aging process in a whole new light.

I'm not sure what else to say but read this and just revel in the sheer wonderfulness of how it is written.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Crocodile Tears

By Anthony Horowitz.

Another kids book, well I say kids, this is what some class as a young adult. Now, I came to the series fairly late on. I decided to give them a try after reading the Young Bond series and rather liking them, so I thought I would give what are considered to be a very good series of books a perusal.

I have to say I was very impressed. OK, so they are a very fantasy based concept, teen super spy. That is what makes it quite fun. Real escapism. They are very well written I have to say, now, the snob would add the dread words "for a kids book" to the end of that particular sentence. However I won't because I am not a snob. Now I am not saying that they are utterly brilliantly fantastically literature for all ages. However, they are written in a very clear, thrilling and yet in such a way that doesn't talk down to its audience. Which is what all good books aimed at younger readers intend to do.

Now, this book is the EIGHTH in the series. Now, many books do struggle with maintaining the series over such a long period. The James Bond series dipped around book 4 as did the Young Bond, they did however pick up again. This series did have that point and that was a couple of books ago. However this book really is a return to form. It is a good, page turning thrilling read. However it isn't all action, the book also educates. It for example has given me some rather useful little facts about GM crops and poisonous creatures. Whilst I wouldn't claim to be an expert on these, I now know more than I did.

Overall, you can feel that the series is beginning to wind down. There is in fact only one book left for Alex and then another one following another character to come. You really do get this feeling as you read the book. Characters do seem to be changing and the whole thing feels to be growing as a series. Definitely a nice little book.

Friday, 2 July 2010



I am a great pile of idiocy mixed with a sheer ammount of dopiness. Remember the writing competition I was going to enter? I spent the past week or so editing it. Went to email it today, thinking I was well within the deadline. WRONG! UTTERLY WRONG! As wrong as a penguin skateboarding to McDonalds.

I have now got a story that I was moderately happy with and can't send it off. I am an utter foolish fool. However. All is not lost. I shall instead post it on here at a later date.

Coming tomorrow a review of my H book.