4 books read, 4 reviewed

Since I last wrote I’ve managed to complete 4 books, so I’ll do some brief reviews of  them here before I start number 5.

 

5-riversI started the month with a book I picked up on a weekend away in Liverpool. Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by Barney Norris. Its the story of five separate lives that interconnect briefly around a single incident – a car accident in Salisbury. Judging the book by its cover, it had some decent reviews. Plus I hadn’t heard of it before…(see the paragraph below about Down Station), plus I used to live in Bournemouth so had visited Salisbury a few times back then.

The prologue is a bit of a red herring. It’s a bit of flowery prose about the five rivers that flow onto Salisbury Plain, tracing time from prehistory through to the modern era. It has nothing to do with the story other than (I’m guessing) as an analogy for the 5 people who’s lives flow separately but come together in a single moment that has it’s own story and tributaries.

The interconnectedness of people’s lives isn’t a new idea, but Barney Norris does it very well. He’s also a playwright so I can imagine the story working very well as a play or film. The characters are likeable, or at least interesting. I enjoyed the different stories (some more than others).   This is a fine read. It engages the reader, and should hold your attention right the way through. Recommended.
I moved back in time then to re-read a book I last read (I Think) about 30 years ago – The Diary of A Young Girl – by Anne Frank.  anne-frank
There’s something about how the world is at the moment that motivated me to revisit this well known work. When I read it first I was either a teen or in my early 20’s. Either way, I had forgotten much of the detail. Anne Frank in the early chapters isn’t the most likeable child. She comes across as quite vain, and full of herself. Turns out, in the case of her writing she had every right. I had forgotten how good her writing is. It’s easy for forget that she was 13 when she started and 15 by the end of the diary. I imagine after the war, people may have doubted it was written by someone so young. Her depth of understanding and articulation of her emotions and feelings towards her family are very surprising, and lift it beyond the general description of the claustrophobic life she lived for those years.

Beyond that the unwritten story is of course a vital reminder of the horrors of the time. The family’s eventual arrest and death of all but Anne’s father Otto a few weeks before the camp’s liberation a tragedy.  What strikes is the simple pleasures she lost, her desire to be a normal young person and the bravery of the people that helped the 8 people in the Anne Frank House. I don’t know if this is still essential reading in the school curriculum, but it certainly should be.

DOWN-STATION1.jpgWhether it’s because of the internet and having so much information ready to hand, or because if the shops I tend to browse in, I am increasingly finding I rarely ‘discover’ new books any more. I seem to have heard about or read about the new books I see in the shelves of my local Dubray Bookshop. So when I’m away I like to see if there is something I haven’t seen before. I’m returning to my trip to Liverpool where the local Waterstones 3 for 2 had be checking for something new. To my surprise I found Down Station by Simon Morden.

The story – a couple of groups of people are working in London’s underground network. Some sort of catastrophic event is happening. The world is on fire. The escape through a service door in a disused station and emerge in what turns out to a totally different world. The way back seems to disappear, along with it their way back. They’re not the first to come through into this world, from which there seems to be no return. They have to learn how to survive and who they can or cannot trust.

I enjoy fantasy and this is something a little different. It move along nice and briskly and has all the ingredients for a great series. I am looking forward to number 2, and learning more about the world of Down. If you like fantasy that isn’t Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, but that has an intriguing dusting of magic, then you’ll like this.

orphan-xFinally, a book that’s been in my TBR pile for a while now. I fancied what I hoped would be a straight forward thriller and wasn’t disappointed by Orphan X by Greg Hurwitz. It is what I hoped and is very enjoyable. I flew through it, and enjoyed it all.

Orphan X was literally an orphan taken and trained to be an assassin/spy/tool ah la Jason Bourne I guess. He eventually leaves the world of black ops, and becomes a sort of vigilante, man for hire…like a younger Equalizer. After he has sorted your problem, your payment is to pass on his number to one person that really needs his help. And from there he gets tied up in a conspiracy with all the thrills and spills you might expect.

This is the first in a series apparently, with number 2 (The Nowwhere Man) currently available. I would expect to see a movie to go along with it too.

First book of 2017 – Born to Run

My first book in 2017 was not typical of my reading, but certainly was a treat. As a Christmas gift I was given Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, with accompanying record (yes record, a lovely bit of vinyl) ‘Chapter and Verse’.
bruces-btrI’m not a die-hard Springsteen fan. I enjoy his music, have a few cds and his (and the E-Street Band) Live 1975-1985 Box set on vinyl is a treasured possesion. Its an 80’s purchase after all. But, I’ve never seen him live, I don’t know all of his songs and I’m not able to singalong confidently to the best of his music. I’m just a casual fan that enjoys his music.

I don’t read too many biographies, but I enjoyed this one. I imagine die hard fans probably didn’t find too much new material in it. For me each chapter was new ground. He didn’t go deep into too much. A cursory knowlege of his music (even if only the live version of The River in the afore mention box set) would tell the listener he had some father issues.

There are some revelations about his mental health, some insights into his unusal upbringing and the formation of the E-street Band and for me the most interesting of all, the background to the music, to the albums and the songs. But this is no exposé. There isn’t loads of dirt thrown around, no grudges settled. He discusses some disagreements, but even those he had major legal cases with, he talks about how great they are, how much he likes and respects them. Either he’s genuinely a really nice guy, or just doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers unneccesarily.


My impression of Springsteen is one of a driven character, sure of his talent, and of the limits of that talent. He comes across as a generous control freak. He seems to be a caring father who wants the best for not just his family, but all of those around him.

The book is a nice easy read. The chapters are short allowing  the reader to dip in and out quick and often if preferred. If you are a big time fan, it probably just completes much of the picture you already had, but if you are like me, this is a great addition to the music. I loved the Chapter and Verse album, especially the old pre E-Street music. It made be listen to the different albums again. Sometimes with book in hand.

 

Recommended. Wholeheartedly.

 

bs-live