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      Important Announcement!   07/28/2018

      Dear BCF members,   This forum has been running now for many years, and over that time we have seen many changes. Generalised forums are nowhere near as popular as they once were, and they have been very much taken over by blogs, vlogs and social media discussions. Running a forum well takes money, and a lot of care and attention, as there is so much which goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.   With all of this in mind, and after discussion within the current moderator team, the decision has been made to close this forum in its current format. I know that this will disappoint a lot of our long term members, but I want to reassure you that it's not a decision which has been taken lightly.    The remaining moderator team have agreed that we do not want to lose everything which is special about our home, and so we are starting a brand new facebook group, so that people can stay in touch, and discussions can continue. We can use it for free and should be easier for us to run (it won't need to be updated or hosted). We know not everyone has FaceBook, but we hope that those of you who are interested will join the group. We will share the link, and send invites as soon as we are ready to go. Added: We may as well get this going, find us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/195289821332924/   The forum will close to new registrations, but will remain open for some time, to allow people to collect up any information, reading lists etc they need to, and to ensure they have contact details for those they wish to stay in touch with.    The whole team feel sad to say goodbye, but we also feel that it's perhaps time and that it feels like the right choice. We hope we can stay in touch with all of you through our new FaceBook group.   I personally want to thank everyone who has helped me moderate the forum, both in the past and the present, and I also want to thank every single person who has visited, and shared their love of books.. I'm so proud of everything we've achieved, and the home we built.   Please visit the new section in the Lounge section to discuss this further, ask questions etc.
willoyd

Willoyd's Reading 2018

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I'm definitely going to look up more Arnold Bennett, and Clayhanger and The Card look like two good starting points. :)

 

20 hours ago, willoyd said:

I wonder if your TBR list is as big as mine (over 1400 now!).

 

No, thank goodness.  It's around 70, but even that seems massive to me!  I can't imagine having over 1400 books to read, I'd never know where to start. :D

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Wishing you a fantastic 2018 for reading and everything else Willoyd, I was sorry to hear you disliked Ben Elton's Two Brothers so much, I have it on my TBR after thoroughly enjoying Time and Time Again earlier this year, I'll have to form my own opinion of course, and the fact that it is set in WWII is a big plus for me as it is an era I am often drawn to.

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11 hours ago, chesilbeach said:

No, thank goodness.  It's around 70, but even that seems massive to me!  I can't imagine having over 1400 books to read, I'd never know where to start. :D

 

I used to worry about this, but then I read Naseem Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan, and found this (it's quoted quite a lot on the internet):

 

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopaedic, insightful, and non-dull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight read-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

 

I find this rather comforting.  Having said that, I would like to reduce my TBR pile (my anti-library!) to something of more manageable proportions!

 

Edited by willoyd

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2 hours ago, chaliepud said:

Wishing you a fantastic 2018 for reading and everything else Willoyd, I was sorry to hear you disliked Ben Elton's Two Brothers so much, I have it on my TBR after thoroughly enjoying Time and Time Again earlier this year, I'll have to form my own opinion of course, and the fact that it is set in WWII is a big plus for me as it is an era I am often drawn to.

 

Thank you! 

On the Elton, If you have liked other books by him, then I would think you're more likely to enjoy this one.  I've found after a number of goes that I thoroughly dislike his books.  This was an honourable attempt to write a piece of fiction about something that was very close to his heart, as it derives from family experience. Unfortunately, I (and other members of the group) felt that he'd heavily overwritten it, feeling the need to explain everything - we felt we were being preached and lectured at.  Now, I find this with most of Elton's work but others hadn't.  I came to thoroughly dislike his stand-up comedy because I disliked being shouted at, and feel that he does the same with his writing; subtlety, IMO, is not his strong point.  There are quite a few other aspects I didn't like about the writing itself, which is why I couldn't finish it, but this is probably the heart of the problem for me. I hope you find otherwise!  

Edited by willoyd

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On 31/12/2017 at 2:48 PM, Athena said:

I wish you a great reading year in 2018, Willoyd :). I enjoyed reading your review of 2017 / preview of 2018 post.

 

6 hours ago, Alexi said:

Happy 2018 Willoyd! 

 

I'm hoping the Round Robin challenge will get me reading some of the titles that have been languishing the longest on my TBR - and like you I plan to read all 14 of them, those handed out by me as well as to me. 

 

My growing TBR has lots of recommendations from you and no doubt that will be the case this year too :lol: 

 

Thank you both!  Good luck Alexi - it'll be good having somebody else going for the double list!  I hope at last some of those TBR recommendations live up to expectations - it'll be good to read your take on them as you get to them.

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3 minutes ago, willoyd said:

Good luck Alexi - it'll be good having somebody else going for the double list!

 

I’m planning to do the double list too and I’ve specifically chosen books for others that I want to read myself. :) 

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2 hours ago, chesilbeach said:

 

I’m planning to do the double list too and I’ve specifically chosen books for others that I want to read myself. :) 

 

Excellent!

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I love the idea of unread books looking at their owner menacingly, it's certainly true!

 

happy reading!

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Happy New Year! Good luck with the Round Robin challenge :D

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4 hours ago, chesilbeach said:

 

I’m planning to do the double list too and I’ve specifically chosen books for others that I want to read myself. :) 

 

I also did this :D 

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18 hours ago, willoyd said:

 

Thank you! 

On the Elton, If you have liked other books by him, then I would think you're more likely to enjoy this one.  I've found after a number of goes that I thoroughly dislike his books.  This was an honourable attempt to write a piece of fiction about something that was very close to his heart, as it derives from family experience. Unfortunately, I (and other members of the group) felt that he'd heavily overwritten it, feeling the need to explain everything - we felt we were being preached and lectured at.  Now, I find this with most of Elton's work but others hadn't.  I came to thoroughly dislike his stand-up comedy because I disliked being shouted at, and feel that he does the same with his writing; subtlety, IMO, is not his strong point.  There are quite a few other aspects I didn't like about the writing itself, which is why I couldn't finish it, but this is probably the heart of the problem for me. I hope you find otherwise!  

I hope so too. Time and Time Again was the first of his I've read, and I have never watched him on TV for the reasons you state above so thankfully I couldn't hear his voice. I found Time and TIme Again a steady read but maybe Two Brothers will be different...I'll let you know! 

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Starting the year off

I'm starting the year's reading with Roger Knight's biography of Nelson, The Pursuit of Victory.  I got a flying start with this, as I was already around 150 pages in as Big Ben chimed the New Year in, but at around 550 pages of text (there's another couple of hundred of notes!) it'll take a few days yet to finish.  It's an excellent read though, even if all his toing and froing can take some following, and so won't take too long or much effort to make it to the end!

 

I've also taken advantage of sales (incl Kindle) and vouchers to add a few to the anti-library too! That'll be it for a bit, unless another sale comes along!

 

The Adventures of a Young Naturalist - David Attenborough (in a local charity shop!)

The Color Purple - Alice Walker

The Cold War, A World History - Odd Arne Westad

The Genius of Jane Austen - Paula Byrne

Outsiders - Lyndall Gordon

All Out War - Tim Shipman

Testosterone Rex - Cordelia Fine

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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Reading for the week to Jan 7th

Last year my blog became a bit intermittent on occasions, particularly if tackling a big book, so this year I'm going to try and make sure I post an update at least roughly once a week; this'll usually be at weekends.  As I haven't finished a book yet this year, this seems like a good time to start!

The week's reading has been dominated by Roger Knight's biography of Nelson.  It's excellent, but it's big, although Knight doesn't waste words; I'm now 300 pages in, with around 250 to go.  Nelson is just starting his relationship with Emma Hamilton, having just become a national celebrity with his victory at the Battle of the Nile (Aboukir Bay), which was a bit of a demolition job on the French fleet (literally!). I'm now getting on to familiar terrain, as it's his early life I was really ignorant about.

 

I've acquired a couple of other books this week to those listed in the previous post: another brand new book from Oxfam (presumably an unwanted present - well I've wanted this for some time, as it's been on my wishlist since it came out!) - The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond by Stephen O'Shea; also Maigret at Picratt's.  This was the Maigret shown on ITV over Christmas (with Rowan Atkinson, but called Maigret in Montmartre for the TV), which I wanted to read fairly immediately to compare, even if out of order, so I will probably turn to this and take a brief break from Nelson whilst it's fresh in my mind.

 

Otherwise, the reading week's been mainly about by getting ready for the Round Robin Challenge.  Just a couple of challenges to receive, and then get cracking!  It's a varied range of books, so should provide good reading and help the year along nicely!  I'm hoping it helps us all make some inroads into our TBR piles, and with almost 1500 books on mine I can do with all the help I can get!

 

Edited by willoyd

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On 1/1/2018 at 11:01 AM, willoyd said:

 

I used to worry about this, but then I read Naseem Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan, and found this (it's quoted quite a lot on the internet):

 

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopaedic, insightful, and non-dull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight read-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

 

I find this rather comforting.  Having said that, I would like to reduce my TBR pile (my anti-library!) to something of more manageable proportions!

 

 

I absolutely love this quote. Unfortunately my financial means only allow for an anti-library of about 30-40 books :lol: 

 

I like how committed you are to reading nonfiction as that's a place I strive to get better at this year and in the future. Do you read a fiction and nonfiction book concurrently or do you read nonfiction as if it was any other book? I think I would have to go the concurrent method just to break up the monotony of nonfiction but perhaps that's just bad nonfiction that I'm reading. 

 

Good luck with your reading in 2018 :)

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45 minutes ago, BSchultz19 said:

I like how committed you are to reading nonfiction as that's a place I strive to get better at this year and in the future. Do you read a fiction and nonfiction book concurrently or do you read nonfiction as if it was any other book? I think I would have to go the concurrent method just to break up the monotony of nonfiction but perhaps that's just bad nonfiction that I'm reading.

 

Generally, I read non-fiction just as any other book, and, most of the time, I read books in sequence.  Occcasionally, I will have more than one on the go, in which case it's usually one of each, as I can't cope with two stories at the same time.  Sometimes, I will interrupt a big book, usually non-fiction, with another one, usually fiction, and then go back to it: as you'll see from above posts, I'm currently reading a big bio of Nelson, but I've taken a break tonight to read a Maigret (it's an evening's read), and will go back to Nelson in the next couple of days. 

The very fact that you refer to the monotony of non-fiction suggests that you haven't really enjoyed the non-fiction you've read to date.  For me, there's plenty of monotonous fiction and non-fiction, but there's also plenty that isn't!  Last year, four out of my five favourite books were non-fiction (just the number 1 was fiction), and, the previous year, my top three books were all non-fiction.  None of them could I in the remotest have described as monotonous - completely the opposite in fact!

So, it's not a commitment so much as the fact that I positively like good quality non-fiction on subjects I find interesting.  Hope that helps.  It may seem a silly question, but what sort of non-fiction are you reading, and is it around what you are fundamentally interested in?

 

Edited by willoyd

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On 1/7/2018 at 2:13 PM, willoyd said:

 

Generally, I read non-fiction just as any other book, and, most of the time, I read books in sequence.  Occcasionally, I will have more than one on the go, in which case it's usually one of each, as I can't cope with two stories at the same time.  Sometimes, I will interrupt a big book, usually non-fiction, with another one, usually fiction, and then go back to it: as you'll see from above posts, I'm currently reading a big bio of Nelson, but I've taken a break tonight to read a Maigret (it's an evening's read), and will go back to Nelson in the next couple of days. 

The very fact that you refer to the monotony of non-fiction suggests that you haven't really enjoyed the non-fiction you've read to date.  For me, there's plenty of monotonous fiction and non-fiction, but there's also plenty that isn't!  Last year, four out of my five favourite books were non-fiction (just the number 1 was fiction), and, the previous year, my top three books were all non-fiction.  None of them could I in the remotest have described as monotonous - completely the opposite in fact!

So, it's not a commitment so much as the fact that I positively like good quality non-fiction on subjects I find interesting.  Hope that helps.  It may seem a silly question, but what sort of non-fiction are you reading, and is it around what you are fundamentally interested in?

 

 

I suppose it was unfair for me to say that I have only read monotonous non-fiction because I have read some autobiographical non-fiction from tv writers (one of my big interests) that I thoroughly enjoyed. However, I've recently tried to read history books. I've always had a lot of interest in history and these books come highly recommended by critics and people I know who have read them, but I just can't seem to motivate myself to really give them the same effort I would put into fiction books. Perhaps it's just my mindset at the time that I attempt to read them because all signs point to them being something I enjoy. 

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On 08/01/2018 at 11:19 PM, BSchultz19 said:

 

but I just can't seem to motivate myself to really give them the same effort I would put into fiction books.

 

It very much depends on the fiction you read, but I find most decent history requires more effort than most fiction:  the biography I'm currently reading is 570+ pages long, and it will take longer and require more concentration than the book scheduled next, which I need to read for my book group - I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes - even though the latter is getting on for 900 pages.  I find the effort worth it though!  

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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1 minute ago, willoyd said:

 

It very much depends on the fiction you read, but I find most decent history requires more effort than most fiction:  the biography I'm currently reading is 550 pages long, and it will take longer and require more concentration than the book scheduled next, which I need to read for my book group - I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes - even though the latter is getting on for 900 pages.

 

 

 

Yeah, this is why I thought I would rather do things concurrently. Part of it is because I'm impatient and part of it is my trying to get to as many books as I can in the small amount of time I have during my breaks from school. I always feel like a history or long biography is dragging me down in pace. But perhaps I should care less about pace. 

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On 08/01/2018 at 11:38 PM, BSchultz19 said:

 

Yeah, this is why I thought I would rather do things concurrently. Part of it is because I'm impatient and part of it is my trying to get to as many books as I can in the small amount of time I have during my breaks from school. I always feel like a history or long biography is dragging me down in pace. But perhaps I should care less about pace. 

 

I don't think reading things concurrently will get you through books quicker, rather the reverse as you lose rhythm and flow.  Whilst I was teaching, I would tend to avoid big stuff requiring concentration during termtime - that's not what I needed then.  Most of my reading of classics and of bigger non-fiction was in the holidays. But then, I've not managed to keep up with the bigger non-fiction, which is why it's now one of my planned main areas of focus for this year. And to do that, I've accepted that I will read fewer books.

 

If you've got a lot of school work etc to get through, then you probably want and need something more relaxing with your reading rather than more non-fiction (my son read a lot at school, but mainly fiction for relaxation).  Maybe my non-fiction is effectively my school work!

 

(I think there's also a difference between 'bigger' non-fiction and lighter stuff: I find a lot of travel and nature is very easy, relaxing, reading, whilst history and science requires more of me, with historical biography in between.  Quite a bit of the history and biography is physically bigger too!)

 

Edited by willoyd

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Reading for the week to January 14th

Another week where my main focus of reading has been Roger Knight's biography of Nelson, The Pursuit of Victory.  I haven't read a huge amount as there have been other distractions (!), but only about 150 pages to go now.  It's been an excellent read, although it does seem to flow more smoothly when Nelson is at sea!  He was certainly a complex character, out of his depth on land (if that isn't a tautology!) but really coming into his own once under sail.  His leadership skills, when not distracted by a certain femme fatale, appear awesome.

I did take a short break at the start of the week to read Maigret at Picratt's, the original for ITV's Maigret in Montmartre over Christmas, which I bought last week and was my first completion of the year.  I was surprised at how different the story actually turned out to be - the basic premise is the pretty much the same, but the thread it follows was different in some fundamentally different ways.  Both were thoroughly enjoyable, but the books remain the favourites (although in some ways I preferred the plotting on TV!).  No review to come from this though - I would simply be repeating pretty much every previous Maigret review - they remain as consistently atmospheric and as involving as ever.

 

Oxfam continues to be a happy hunting ground in the post-Christmas period for unwanted Christmas presents that are at least on my wishlist.  Books acquired this week, all from Oxfam or in an on-line sale:

 

Where The Wild Winds Are by Nick Hunt (published this autumn, bought in Oxfam - nice one!)

Seeking A Role and Finding A Role? both by Brian Harrison, the two most recent volumes of the Oxford New History of England, covering the period 1950-1990.

Six Minutes in May by Nicholas Shakespeare

Winter Birds by Lars Jonsson (gorgeous - a freebie!)

Europe in the High Middle Ages by William  Chester Jordan (long hunted hardback!)

Rough Crossings by Simon Schama

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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Good haul there Willoyd! The very idea of giving away books someone else has got me for Christmas makes me shudder, but at least they have been rehomed to an appreciative individual. 

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23 hours ago, Alexi said:

Good haul there Willoyd! The very idea of giving away books someone else has got me for Christmas makes me shudder, but at least they have been rehomed to an appreciative individual. 

 

I agree - I would at least try reading them before giving them away.  The latest one even has a lovely inscription in it, but apparently the donator said it wasn't the sort of book she read!  Given the way it opens, I don't think she even looked inside. :(   For me, I can't believe my luck - 3 books that were on my own present list, and all immaculate hardbacks (apart from the inscription!). :)  Only trouble is....my TBR list is even longer now!!

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Two Reviews

 

I've finished two books in the past couple of days:

 

The Pursuit of Victory by Roger Knight *****

Lord Horatio Nelson is one of the biggest characters in British history; he is certainly one of the most written about, and there was a particular rash of books a few years ago to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar.  Inevitably there will be those who simply rode the bandwagon (a bit like the awful Waterloo account by Bernard Cornwell rode the 200th anniversary of that battle a couple of years ago), but this is not one of them.  In fact, this is widely regarded as one of the best single volume biographies of Nelson yet, if not the best*.  It certainly reads like that.  Knight's research is clearly formidable, but he pulls it together into a coherent, gripping whole that, even at over 570 densely written pages, never loses its pace or its authority. 

 

What I perhaps enjoyed most about The Pursuit of Victory is how Nelson emerges as such a real person, both in his brilliance and in his weaknesses. Knight is no hagiographer, but nor is he one of those biographers who seeks to turn reputations upside down almost for the sake of it (or for the sake of publicity).  Rather his writing is impressively balanced. Nelson comes over as a highly complex character, so secure in his leadership, yet so insecure in other ways, especially in his dealings with people, not least the two main women in his life, Frances Nisbet/Nelson and Emma Hamilton (although he is perhaps too, cruelly, certain with the former once fixed on the latter).  He certainly seems to have been a very different person when at sea, especially when not having to play second fiddle to another, compared to when on land, even if he wasn't always happy or well.

 

Knight cuts right through much of the mythology that surrounds Nelson (no telescope to a blind eye at Copenhagen for instance) but the story that he does tell, founded on extensive primary research, is actually all the more powerful as a result, and on occasion produced other just as entertaining anecdotes in compensation (what did happen at Copenhagen is that when Hyde Parker flew the message to discontinue the action, the signal was repeated to Nelson by the Defiance, under Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves, but judiciously hung so that it was hidden by the mizzen mast and sails!).  Fully worthy of a five star rating.

 

* I'm aiming to try John Sugden's two-volume biography in the not too distant future.

 

Where My Heart Used To Beat by Sebastian Faulks *

It would be hard to think of a bigger contrast, trying to read this immediately after the above, but I needed to fit it in fairly rapidly, as it's the selection for one of my book groups and the meeting approaches fast!  Sadly, the contrast didn't work, and I soon found myself skim reading sections of what rapidly became an all too tedious experience.  

There is no doubt that Faulks has a beautiful way with words, and on occasions his plotting and characters have lived up to his style, as in Birdsong, but here neither did.  The former was utterly predictable, whilst the central device of the invitation to an exotic southern French island by a mysterious host,  and the ensuing narration of the main protagonist's life story, was just clunky and unimaginative.  Meanwhile, I couldn't even begin to believe in almost any of the characters, especially the women, a problem I've had with Faulks before.  The war scenes were powerful, but war scenes do not make a story, at least not here!

 

I staggered through to the end simply because it was a reading group book, but, whilst it improved a bit, my first instinct to pack it in after the first hundred pages or so still felt right at the end, some two hundred or so hard fought pages later.  Two stars for the writing and the war scenes, but no more. (Later edit - no, I really didn't like this book, so rerated to one star).

Edited by willoyd

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I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes * (less if I could)

 

This is a huge (800+ pages) book  that seems to have made a big impact, attracting over 5,000 reviews on Amazon, and was the choice for the February meeting of one of my reading groups.  Given the multitude of rave comments, I've been looking forward to reading it for a while, and was grateful for that selection.  An added bonus was that it was added to my Round Robin Challenge by Karen.d - my first of the year!

 

It got off to a promising start, a murder scene where it seemed that the victim was completely, and I mean completely, unidentifiable.  Sharp and snappy, I was quickly absorbed.  There were a couple of worries - not least some rather dodgy gender deduction and a bit of rather gratuitous sex, but this could well be just scene setting.  By the end there was a major niggle too - how did they 'know' the it was the murderer not the murder victim who lived in the room - they didn't, and that was never explained as far as I could see.

 

Things deteriorated rather rapidly after that.  Cutting away from the murder scene, we dived into extended back story, and back stories within back stories.  Other warning signs started flashing, not least the establishment of the main character as a wealthy orphan who becomes, and modestly boasts of being, the best secret agent in a supersecret organisation (Bruce Wayne anybody?).  A major alarm goes off when he, this supersecret person, reveals himself as the author of THE manual on investigations, the book upon which the murderer at the start of the novel bases their work (I mean, what supersecret organisation is going to let their supersecret agent write a book that could be used as a murder manual, for goodness' sake).  And what's with the silly names 'The Rider of the Blue', 'Whispering Death' etc?  As the book goes on we find that Pilgrim's just amazing at everything he turns his hand to (at one point he dabbles in sailing and is told he could make it to the Olympics if he tries - just as an aside it seems). Not just a supersecret agent, but some sort of superhero.  Only problem is he keeps, apparently, making mistakes....

 

The plot is, in fact, pretty bog standard.  It's the sort of thing that turns up in virtually every James Bond film ever made: terrorist is going to commit world shattering crime (this time, infect the whole of the US with plague) and only James Bond, er no, sorry, Pilgrim, can stop him).  And to do so, he relies on some incredible, I mean incredible, coincidences.  I thought Dan Brown was bad on these, but I do Mr Brown a disservice.  I won't 'spoil' the book by saying what they are, but for me they were jaw droppingly unlikely.

 

I had an additional problem with the timelines too - they were all over the place as the author indulged in those multiple backstories, chopping backwards and forwards between timelines, and extended narratives in order to move minor plot points forward.  Biggest issue of all was the attempted interweaving of murder and terrorist plot.  As other reviewers have said, they should have been two separate stories, as the connection between the two was tenuous in the extreme (one of those coincidences), and unnecessarily clumsy.  The actual chronology was also dodgy - for instance it only takes the detective an absolute maximum of 3 months to find Jude Garrett, yet the work described would have taken years.

 

An additional problem with the plotting was the point of view used.  The story is told in the first person, which starts well enough. However, as the book progresses, particularly into the backstories, and the author wants to go off into areas where the main protagonist could not have gone, it starts to fall apart.  We are told things the author simply couldn't have known, not even from all the reports and later research he tells us he did.  The POV simply doesn't work in the way he wants to write the book.  And, because we are being told the story in the first person, we know it's going to work out alright: Pilgrim survives and is writing this for our benefit.  For me, the suspense was pretty much non-existent.

 

The author does work hard at developing that suspense.  Unfortunately, he seems to have but one tactic to develop it.  Every chapter, it seems, told us that 'I should have known better', 'Little did I know', 'If I gave any thought', 'And for me? It was a disaster', and so on and so on.  Narrative foreshadowing I think it's called, and occasionally it's fine, but ad nauseam it annoys like anything.

 

So, the main character is a cliche, the plot is a cliche, but neither is a patch on the women or racial backgrounds.  Take the women, for starters.  Believe it or not, they are all stunningly beautiful - flawless skin, high cheekbones, almond eyes, you name it, they've got it, every single one, I kid not, and there's lots of gratuitous flaunting of physical assets too.  Male characters are equally stereotyped - all the goodies are staunch upright Americans, all the baddies are dastardly Arabs/Muslims (not much differentiation going on here).  One sentence in particular clobbered me (p92): the hero is getting out of a cab, trying to avoid the possibility of being shot:  "The driver thought I was crazy - but then his religion thinks stoning a woman to death for adultery is reasonable, so I figured we were about even."  The casualness (and inaccuracy) of that statement appalled me, and it was, I think, at that point he completely lost me and I started vetting the book for attitudes and mistakes rather than reading it as a novel.

 

And there are plenty, I mean plenty, of mistakes.  The book is riddled with them. Places are misdescribed, things happen that can't, continuity is wobbly at best.  Other reviewers have identified them in detail, but they run well into the tens if not hundreds.

 

I managed to just about reach just over 500 pages, and then came to a juddering halt after two horrible plot errors in the space of a few pages, errors that signficant parts of the story depended on (for those familar with the book, they are the 'development' of the mirrors, and the ruins revealed by the 'low' tide).  I'd had enough.  I did, however, jump to the denouement just so I could keep vaguely in touch for the reading group.  A complete anti-climax, simply because it just wouldn't have happened.  All the way through Hayes has been writing about Islamic extremism, and yet at the most critical point, he completely fails to understand it. 

 

In summary, this book is, in one word, awful.  It offends on so many levels, and has to be one of the worst books I've read in years.  My first reaction is that I am shocked that it was even published - what were the editors thinking of? But then, having said that, they obviously got it right, as it's a bestseller.  What really stuns me are the rave reviews it gets.  I have, at least in book terms, never before felt quite so at odds with the mainstream of book reading, although there are enough 1-star reviews to sustain some faith.  If I could give something no stars on my scale I would  It is a rock solid contender for Duffer of the Year, probably Decade, maybe even Century? Certainly one of the worst so far in all those categories!

 

Edited by willoyd

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Sorry you had such a bad experience with a book :(. I don't know a lot about the book but I did know it'd got some good reviews from some people, I've seen it on a bestseller list and things like that. I hope your next book will be a better experience for you!

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