Saturday 28 May 2016

Collected Adrift: A Secret Life of London's Waterways by Helen Babbs from the library today

Friday 27 May 2016

Review: Pier Review: A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside

Pier Review: A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside Pier Review: A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside by Jon Bounds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Several things come to mind when you think of the classic British seaside holiday; sand, soft ice-cream, seagulls, fish and chips, driving rain, occasional glimpses of the sun and that Victorian bastion of the coast, the pier. Jon and Danny conceived and idea late one night in the pub, the place where all good ideas are formed, of visiting every pier still standing in England and Wales.

All fifty-five piers. In two weeks. In a car that they are not convinced will make it…

Fully enthused, they approach friends to fund their project, with the promise to send postcards regularly. With not quite enough cash secured, they need a driver. They choose Midge, an unemployed man they vaguely know, who only has two weeks spare before he needs to get back to Birmingham to sign on again. Planning consists of a spreadsheet with a list of the piers, a tent that they have never put up and a card with Linda Lusardi on for writing notes. They are ready, they think; so what could possibly go wrong…

This type of travel book is something that the British do best; a mad idea, planned whilst under the influence of alcohol and carried out in a slightly disorganised way. Both authors write from their perspective on their trip, nicely done in the book with different fonts rather than being a homogenised text. The book is full of humorous moments as they metaphorically stumble from place to place. Each pier they visit has a little box with facts and anecdotes including length, when built and most amusingly ‘Burn Baby Burn’ for all those piers that have had fires. It is an enjoyable book, full of wistful memories of the heyday of summer holidays brought right up to date through slightly hungover eyes, told with self- deprecating wit and the odd one or two scrapes. Good stuff.

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Thursday 26 May 2016

Review: The Running Hare: The secret life of farmland

The Running Hare: The secret life of farmland The Running Hare: The secret life of farmland by John Lewis-Stempel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Industrial farming has succeeded in turning turn fields into open roofed factories. Copious amounts of fertiliser and weed killers have decimated the natural environment. Plants, birds and animals that were once common sights in the countryside are now very rare or no longer exist. The fields are now only able to support the growing crop.

These fields are silent; empty of life.

It used to be very different. A field of wheat supported a whole eco-system, from the worms in the ground, all the way up to the raptors that drift across the crop. Wild flowers added colour to the fields, corn buntings and lapwings flitted across the top of the crop and hares fought on the fields. Lewis Stempel remembers this way of farming and wonders if he can bring some life back to the countryside again. First he needs to secure a field. Most people he approaches are horrified that he would go back to the old methods claiming that the weeds will bring disease and pests, but he finds one called Flinders and so begins his experiment.

Assessing the land, he realises that it is in pretty poor condition, but not as desolate of life as the field next door. This is farmed by twins who he calls ‘the chemical brothers’, but he pushes ahead with his indulgent experiment nonetheless. First edition to the field is a bird table, and he spends ages observing all the species that realise that there is a new source of food available. He unearths his old Fordson to begin the ploughing. It is not a powerful tractor, unlike the £250,000 modern machines, but it weighs considerably less and does not compress the ground. It reveals the richness of the earth in this Herefordshire field. Sowing is entertaining, as he opts to hand sow, before acquiring a hand operated machine to make life much easier. It still takes a while with 1 tonne of grain though. Then he adds his wild flower mixes, opting to bring colour to the green with cornflowers and poppies.

But will these fundamental changes in the way he cares for the land, bring the hares back?

Lewis Stempel has written a very poignant book. He raises hugely important questions about the sustainability and to be perfectly frank the point of the huge industrial farms and techniques. Why if these chemicals are so safe do the manufactures insist on a sealed cab for tractors spraying this on the land and why do we need to eliminate anything that flies. Not all of them are pests; we might just need the bees you know… More than that, this is a very fine book; the writing is top notch and he is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about his subject. Woven into his superb prose are quotes and poetry about the farming year, all carefully chosen and relevant. However, what comes across most in this book though is his passion for this single field, farmed in the traditional way; a way that seems just right given modern farming methods. The possibility and potential for wildlife is huge if lot more farmers were prepared to give it a go.

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Received two books through the post today:

Nemesis by Alex Lamb won in a Good Reads giveaway

Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies by Alexandra Harris

Monday 23 May 2016

Review: An Octopus in My Ouzo: Loving Life on a Greek Island

An Octopus in My Ouzo: Loving Life on a Greek Island An Octopus in My Ouzo: Loving Life on a Greek Island by Jennifer Barclay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Tilos is a tiny Greek Island, and it was here that Jennifer Barclay ended up with her boots, a laptop and a slightly broken heart. She moves into a small apartment with the delightful name of the Honey Factory and a new life and adventures are just beginning. Learning a new thing every day seems to be a good philosophy, and the best way to get to know her neighbours and the locals is to join in.

So she does; learning the local dances held at the regular festivals and weddings, teaching the local children English and helping her boyfriend, Stelios, with his early morning fishing trips and run a beach cafĂ© with her help immerse her in the local society. Even though the apartment is small, she has enough space for a small garden and a few chickens. What they don’t have is enough space for is a dog! However, after a trip to Rhodes, she is offered a puppy free. Lisa becomes her new companion and almost soul mate joining her on walks and the daily trip to the beach to swim in the crystal clear seas of the Aegean.

This is a really good companion to Falling in Honey, her first book set in Greece. All of life’s rich experiences seem to touch Barclay. She is refreshingly honest too, wearing her heart on her sleeve whilst sharing these pivotal life moments and there is as much happiness in here as there are sad moments. Jennifer paints a beautiful picture of her island too; the descriptions of the landscapes and scenery are evocative. It is a lovely book to read, the writing makes you feel that you are there as well, watching the lightning flash around the hills, soaking up the sun with a glass of wine to hand or tucking into the delicious food. This book does what any good travel book should do, not only do you feel that you are there, it makes you want to that place at the first opportunity. 4.5 stars.

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Just received a review copy of Quartz and Feldspar: Dartmoor - A British Landscape in Modern Times by Matthew Kelly through the post:

Saturday 21 May 2016

Review: The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World

The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World by Laurence Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

You are no doubt reading this on a screen, most likely some sort of tablet or phone, but it could be on a computer. This constant interaction with the 1’s and 0’s of the digital world is starting to have an effect on our own lives, as we are drawn into a world of constant connection, information at your fingertips and 24 hour communication. Scott calls this new persona, the four dimensional human, and in this book considers the ways that this influx of digital consciousness will affect us. Some of his subjects include the private and public faces that we show online, how the digital sphere is affecting us and our thought processes and the perils on our sanity with a constant stream of news.

It was an interesting book in lots of ways, almost everything we do these days has some sort of interaction with a computer or screen, and Scoot has made a good attempt to try and see what sort of human being we will become with the constant digital feeds in our lives. The first part of the book dragged a little, but thankfully picked up in the last half where he gave a number of examples on social media and his own experiences on it as well as illustrations from the film and fiction worlds. Overall good, and it would be a subject worth re-visiting again in five years or so with my children’s generation who have only know this world.

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Thursday 19 May 2016

Review: No Way But Gentlenesse: A Memoir of How Kes, My Kestrel, Changed My Life

No Way But Gentlenesse: A Memoir of How Kes, My Kestrel, Changed My Life No Way But Gentlenesse: A Memoir of How Kes, My Kestrel, Changed My Life by Richard Hines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Richard Hines is a Yorkshire man through and through. Raised in, Hoyland Common, mining was the chosen career of his father and grandfather and many of the men in the village. He remember sliding down heaps of waste, hearing of accidents in the pit; knowing that his father would open the door the same time after a shift; there was that dread in the stomach that came when he was late. Sitting the eleven plus exam, it was hoped that he would pass and follow his brother Barry to grammar school. He failed and entered the local secondary modern school; a place that sought to crush the spirit and hopes of all children it was supposed to be teaching.

Despondent because of the cruel antics of the teachers and the system, Richard spent time walking the fields beyond the slag heaps. It was whilst walking the grounds of a ruin he saw a kestrel fly into its nest. Spellbound by the sight, it motivated him to head to the library to discover more on the ancient sport of falconry. They wouldn’t lend him the book, so he ended up buying that and many others as he devoured every piece of information he could about raptors. Having read everything it was time to find a hawk, and a friend of his came up trumps bringing him his first kestrel; Kes. Just from the information in these books he trained his bird, from the very first stages to flying it with lures.

If the name Kes is familiar, there was a film of the same name about a boy learning to love nature and training his kestrel. The film was based on the book, A Kestrel for a Knave written by one Barry Hines, Richards brother. Richard was employed on the film to train the actor and the three kestrels required for all the filming.

This is a fine quality memoir, full of gentle, lyrical prose. It is a sad book to read too; he didn’t have that educational opportunity that his brother did, ending up at the secondary modern, future potentially dashed. Life as the son of a miner was tough too, you never knew if you would see your father again when he left for work in the morning. The descriptions of the natural world that surrounded the man made waste from the mine make for good reading too. Mostly this is about the birds; that you can take a creature that is so very wild, and with persuasion and gentle coercion make it respond to your commands.

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Tuesday 17 May 2016

Review: The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like his father before him, Stevens is a butler, a career chosen for service and dedication to the highest in the land. Working for Lord Darlington in between the World Wars, he offered loyalty and discretion as various high-powered guests met to discuss the increasing perilous situation in Europe.

Post war the social landscape has changed dramatically. Stevens is still the butler at Darlington Hall, but his master is now a rich American, Mr Farraday. Stevens is encouraged by him to take a brief break, and offers to lend him his car for a motoring holiday. It is ideal timing as Stevens has recently received a letter from a past colleague, Miss Kenton, and sees it as an ideal opportunity to pay her a visit. As he travels through Wilshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall enjoying the sights and countryside he takes time to consider various matters; his service to Lord Darlington, the relationship that he had with his father and his housekeeper.

It is a melancholy story, full of subtlety whilst still having profound meaning and depth. The main character, Stevens, is the quintessentially English butler, composed and proficient; but whilst he can say the right words he lacks feeling and empathy because of his upbringing and career. I am not sure just how he does it, but Ishiguro has managed to capture the class distinctions perfectly in this book. Possibly because he has an outsider’s perspective on how society at the time functioned, or didn’t, and understands the minutia and restraint that a member of the household has to have whilst dealing with the great and the good. It is equally about what isn’t said and happens between the two main characters as it is about what actually happens, and it is impressive just how much emotion can be wrung out of such restrained prose. Good stuff.

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Monday 16 May 2016

Four books arrived today from the fantastic publisher Summersdale

An Octopus in My Ouzo: Loving Life on a Greek Island by Jennifer Barclay
On the Road... with Kids: One Family's Life-Changing Gap Year by John Ahern
It's on the Meter: One Taxi, Three Mates and 43,000 Miles of Misadventures around the World by Paul Archer & Johno Ellison
Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing by Philip Baum

Saturday 14 May 2016

Review: The Travelers

The Travelers The Travelers by Chris Pavone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Will Rhodes has an almost perfect job. He is an award winning correspondent for The Travelers, an upmarket travel magazine catering to the super rich. His latest assignment is at a luxury hotel in Argentina nestled beneath the Andes; it means that he is sampling fine wine and superb food, and watching the polo. But what starts as an innocent flirtation with a pretty girl he recognises from elsewhere, suddenly becomes far more deadly, and he realises that he has been the target of an operation.

You can read the rest of the review here

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Hadn't intending buying any books today. Ended up buying five...
In Siberia by Colin Thubron
Journey into Cypress by Colin Thubron
Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham
Ticket to Ride by Tom Chesshyre 
The Beauty in the Beast by Hugh Warwick 
Not bad for £7

Friday 13 May 2016

Review: Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The New Yorker’s readers demand the highest standards of copy, and Mary Norris has been of of those editors for the past three decades giving the readers what they demand. Having sharpened all her pencils, she now brings us her take on the newspaper business and the (American) English language. Working her way through the most common language issues, such as spelling, commas, when to swear, and when not to. She investigates the less common punctuation, extols the use of the hyphen – excessively perhaps and contemplates the genders. Drawing from classic works by Dickens and Melville and reasonably up to date works by Flynn and Wallace she aims to enlighten us in the ways and foibles of our language, from the Oxford comma to the apostrophe that wanders up and down the word depending on the profession.

This is not a bad read overall; it is fairly short, light hearted and informative and she writes with a gentle humour. Whilst she goes in to the minutiae of language with regards to punctuation, it is very much centred on the The New Yorker and her work there. There are some good parts, the chapter on profanity is quite amusing, her ventures into the historical reasons behind certain word uses and her penchant for a particular type of pencil. It is almost trying to do too much; is it a memoir of her work at the paper or a book on language? I’m still not sure. Worth reading, but if you are looking for a book on the delights of language, pop it back on the shelf.

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Got two books from the library today:

It's on the Meter by Paul Archer & Johno Ellison
Kaleidoscope City by Piers Moore Ede

And bought:
The Ocean at the End of the lane by Neil Gaiman. I have a copy of this, so a friend will receive this in the post this week

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Review: The Old Straight Track

The Old Straight Track The Old Straight Track by Alfred Watkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Originally published in 1925, this book by Alfred Watkins bought the concept of ley lines to the public. The concept came to him after visiting a Roman excavation and looking at the map to get a perspective on the wider landscape, he saw that a number of features seemed to line up. When he had the opportunity to get to higher ground he had the opportunity to look at the landscape and see that these features had straight paths running between them. He came to believe that the people of this country had made a series of straight paths through the forests with the prominent features being used for guide and navigation.

He first presented this theory of leys at a public meeting in 1921, and went on to develop his theories to present in this book. Controversial at the time, the Antiquity magazine refused to publish even an advert for his book, it captured the imagination of the public. He was an excellent PR man, using pagan rites to demonstrate and promote his work, and it inspired generations of readers and walkers to take a closer look at the country that they walked through. The concept of lines passing over hill and dale were picked up by those seeking to rediscover the the mysticism and ancient ways of the Celts and re-enchant the English landscape.

There was only one flaw though; none of it was really true. It can be proven that given the sheer quantity of ancient and prehistorical sites in the landscape that the chances of them lining up is as much coincidence as it is design. This page: shows just how a random collection of 137 sites can give 80 or so four point alignments. Richard Atkinson, an archaeologist, has even proved that red telephone boxes could produce their own leys by lining up.

Theories aside, this is still worth reading. Firstly, it is a classic piece of text on the English landscape. Secondly, the eloquent and atmospheric text and the black and white images and maps that are liberally scattered throughout the book giving us a snapshot of the English countryside between the two world wars before big farms and pylons spoilt some of the finest views. At the time the science of excavation was starting to change and improve, Watkins may have prompted people to look at and discover the genuine links between sites in the wider context of the landscape.

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Monday 9 May 2016

Review: Cold Blood: Adventures with Reptiles and Amphibians

Cold Blood: Adventures with Reptiles and Amphibians Cold Blood: Adventures with Reptiles and Amphibians by Richard Kerridge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To say that Richard Kerridge is fascinated by reptiles would be an understatement.

It is an obsession.

This obsession is one that he has had since childhood, from watching early wildlife programmes that showed all manner of animals from the exotic continent of Africa. Back then, he collected and caught all manner of small creatures and reptiles for the zoo that he had in his room and back garden. As he collected the frogs and toads, newts and lizards, grass snakes and even foolishly an added, it fuelled a desire to learn all about these animals. He is still asking questions about them today.

Kerridge has written a book that is partly a guide to these creatures, partly a journal about our relationship with nature and partly a personal memoir of his escapades with his friends and his tumultuous relationship with his father. It is packed to the gills with facts and details of these absorbing creatures, and thankfully is no less readable because of it. What he also brings to life is the differences between then and now. These days you cannot disturb a lot of the animals, let alone pick them up, without a licence from somewhere or other, that is if you can get a child away from a screen and outside to see them in their natural habitat. It is a well researched and written book, and what you most appreciate when reading this, is his enthusiasm for his cool subjects.

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Saturday 7 May 2016

Review: Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot

Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot by Sarah Marquis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wild by Nature is the account of the 10,000 mile hike that Sarah Marquis made across Mongolia, China, Siberia, Laos, Thailand before a journey on a cargo ship and then a further walk across the Australian Outback. Whilst she had backup and sponsors, Sarah undertook this walk solo. Not only is this a huge physical achievement, she had to stay sharp whilst facing thieves, drug dealers, tropical diseases, lethal wildlife, life threatening illnesses and natives who were not always best pleased to see a foreigner. She had to cope with freezing temperatures in the Gobi desert, scorching temperatures in the Australian deserts, being blasted by the winds on the Mongolian Steppe and survived some unbelievable thunderstorms.

It is quite an challenge for anyone to undertake, but for a single woman in some of these countries it is even more of a trial. This is not her only achievement wither; she has walked 23 countries in total; earning herself the National Geographic’s title of Adventurer of the Year. She is tenacious and stubborn, two qualities that you need to push yourself to the physical and mental limits that a walk like this demands, but there are times even for her when it all seems too much. But I think that there are a few things that let it down a little, one is that her journey seems to jump around somewhat without following any logical route. I would expect a journey of this type to flow nicely, but it doesn’t. You got a good sense of her emotional highs and lows, but it was also difficult to connect to her as a reader at times. This is one worth reading if you like walking books, but could have been much better.

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These are the two books I bought when scouring the charity shops this morning:
Mirror to Damascus by Colin Thubron
The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

Thubron is one of my favourite travel writers, and this is the last book of his that I haven't read.
It is always nice getting free books though the post, even more so when they are as beautiful as this:

Friday 6 May 2016

Review: The Bees

The Bees The Bees by Laline Paull
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Flora 717 is on the bottom rung of the hive. Given the lowest task of ensuring it is clean she has only three orders.

Accept, obey and serve.

She, like her sisters, are prepared to sacrifice everything for their beloved Queen. But Flora has skills that mark her out as different from a regular sanitation worker; normally it would ensure that she would be eliminated. Trusted enough to feed the newborn bees, she begins her ascent of the strict hierarchy in the hive, and becomes a forager collecting the life giving nectar. But this simple bee also holds a secret; a desire to break the most sacrosanct of laws in the hive, one that her enemies would use against her without any hesitation.

There were a few things that I liked about this; the dystopian feel of the book; the totalitarian society and strict etiquettes of the bees, and the sole protagonist (can you call a bee that?) who sets out to fulfil her yearning. But it didn’t quite do it, for me. The plot wasn’t too bad, but even with the twists felt a little predictable and it felt a lot like Animal Farm by Orwell, where it is alien and familiar at the same time. It was a shame really as other have really liked it and I thought that I would too. 2.5 stars overall.

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Wednesday 4 May 2016

Review: Terra

Terra Terra by Mitch Benn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most aliens think that the earth is doomed. None of them can understand why we are so intent on ruining our only planet, especially as we haven’t developed the technology to get of it safely They are not going to help us either; can you imagine the chaos that would cause! One alien thinks that the earth is worth studying, partly for the places and partly for the other creatures; just not for the humans.

The Bradbury's were driving home whilst mid argument, as usual, and really weren’t expecting the lemon coloured and shaped spaceship to suddenly appear in front of them. Terrified, Mr Bradbury crashes the car. The parent’s climb out and run away as fast as they can. The alien discovers a child in the car. He decides that she need rescuing; from there, from Rrth and from humanity, and he decides to break every rule in the non-contact recommendations and takes her home.

Eight orbits later, Terra was about to enter formal education. As the only human on the planet Fnrr this was going to be very strange, very strange indeed. This is a time of change too, as the extraordinary world ofFnrr spirals into a terrible war.

Mitch Benn is best known for his funny songs and stand-up comedy, and this is his first venture into the realm of the novel. He has drawn on inspiration from various people, including Gaiman, Pratchett and Douglas Adams, whilst still ensuring that his own humour and voice stands out strongly. The concept of the human being the alien is a great one, and he has given her a plot that works really well too. It is definitely aimed at the younger audience, but that doesn’t make it any less readable or enjoyable. Great debut.

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I'm not sure if you have heard of the author Melissa Harrison, but she has written the haunting beautiful books, In Hawthorn Time and Clay as well as the new non fiction natural history Rain. She is well worth reading, and here is a little interview i did with her.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

The longlist for the Wainwright Prize has just been released:

Being a Beast by Charles Foster (Profile Books)

Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore by Patrick Barkham (Granta)

Common Ground by Rob Cowen (Penguin Random House)

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane (Penguin Random House)

Landskipping by Anna Pavord (Bloomsbury)

Rain by Melissa Harrison (Faber & Faber)

Raptor: A Journey Through Birds by James Macdonald Lockhart (HarperCollins)

The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury (Bloomsbury)

The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy (John Murray)

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (Canongate)

The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks (Penguin Random House)

Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies by Alexandra Harris (Thames & Hudson

Have read 11 of them so far!

Monday 2 May 2016

Review: The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream

The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream by Katharine Norbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Norbury has always been missing something from her past. She had been abandoned as a baby in a convent just outside Liverpool and had been adopted into a loving family. She had never been able to settle completely wandering and moving around the globe. Whilst living in Spain she miscarried, losing a long hoped for sibling for her eldest daughter Evie. Grief for the loss the child and of what might have been turned into an introspective look at herself, and the germination of an idea to follow a river from mouth to source. Moving back to the UK meant that she was closer to family and could start to develop this idea fully. Hoping that the walk will distract her from the grief, a life changing event means that she has to try to find her birth mother who she hopes will have some of the answers to her questions.

Norbury has drawn inspiration from several genres to write this book. Weaving travel, natural history, poetry and mythology it is also a very personal memoir. It is quite an emotive read too, with the highs and lows of family and life laid bare. The writing is poetic, lyrical and at times dreamlike and ethereal, almost with a imagined quality. Her writing is when she is describing the natural world and landscape is very evocative too; you could be standing alongside her. Painful to read at times, you live with her trials and tribulations, but she is tenacious in the face of everything. Enjoyable generally, but occasionally felt a touch fictional. Would definitely read more by her though. 3.5 stars.

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Sunday 1 May 2016

Review: Last Tango in Buenos Aires: Sketches from the Argentine

Last Tango in Buenos Aires: Sketches from the Argentine Last Tango in Buenos Aires: Sketches from the Argentine by David Marsh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When you ask people to think about Argentina; the most popular memories would be Maradona and the ‘hand of God’ and them invading the Falklands. Other things that might spring to mind are the Perons, the vast ranches raising the beef cattle for their spectacular barbeques and the stark beauty that is Patagonia. David marsh want to push past these stereotypes and discover the real people that live in this troubled country of contrasts.

On his journey he meets the real Argentinians; war veterans, gold diggers, teachers, priests and the indigenous Indian peoples. They tell him their stories, brining alive an Argentina that we know almost nothing about. There are tales of happier times when it was a rich and potentially key player in the world, to the tragedy of the families devastated by the military dictatorship that ‘disappeared’ so many innocent people.

It is not like a lot of travel books where it is a recollection of a series of observations; he meets all the people and draws the stories out, making this such an interesting book to read. Marsh has managed to convey a sense of the landscape too, as he travels from the cities to the high Andes and onto Patagonia. Well worth reading. 3.5 stars

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