Saturday, 28 August 2010

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Book review - We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Undoubtedly, one of the best novels I have ever read, and I don't say that lightly. Despite the name, Lionel Shriver is a woman, and this book could only have been written by a woman. That doesn't mean, however, that it is 'chick lit'. Far from it, this story is hard hitting and often cruel, both in its' concept, and telling.

It is also unusual, in the fact that you start by knowing the crime that Kevin has committed, albeit in no great detail, and the story unfolds through a series of letters from his mother to his father.

Reading it, there are details of Kevin's upbringing that will strike a chord with many parents. Points where you think 'oh yes - my child was like that'. There are other details which are quite disturbing.

This is one book that I sincerely hope they never try to make into a film. There's no way a film could convey the mother's feelings towards her son, or her husband, or the guilt that she feels over Kevin's crime. Or how she tries to rebuild her life afterwards.

As the story unfolds, you feel more and more disturbed, and the final revelations are quite appalling. You're left at the end wondering if Kevin is mentally ill, or if what happened was the result of his mother's feelings towards him, or if he really was born just pure and plain evil.

Rating 5/5

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Book review - The Prester Quest by Nicholas Jubber

The legend of Prester John has inspired many books over the years, both fictional and relatively factual. I say relatively, because the whole business of Prester John and the letters he supposedly wrote, is probably one huge medieval hoax.

In 1177, Pope Alexander III wrote a letter to the Priest-King of the Indies, Prester John. As his emissary he chose his physician, Master Philip. No-one knew where the legendary monarch's kingdom lay (or indeed whether he even existed) but Master Philip was undeterred. He supposedly set out from Venice.......and was never heard of again.

Centuries later, Nick Jubber found a copy of the Pope's original letter, and decided to complete Master Philip's mission and deliver the letter, albeit 824 years late. The Post Office would have been proud of him.

The resulting book is well-written, funny, and full of historical facts and detail. Probably the best bits deal with his and his companion, Mike's, travels through the Holy Land. The situation in the middle east and the eastern side of Africa today, is complex. With so many religions and variants fighting each other, and claiming vast tracts of land as their right, it's often very difficult to sort out who's who.

Nick Jubber has a way of explaining things through the eyes of the people he meets. He also compares today's situations with the happenings during the times of the Crusades, and Saladin, and finds that really, very little has changed over the passing centuries.

Probably the best section of this book, is the section devoted to the Holy Land. It does tend to flag a little, when he passes into Africa and heads ever south.

Does he find Prester John? I'll leave that for you to discover............

On the whole, this is a fast-moving narrative, with much to recommend it.

Rating 4/5

Monday, 9 August 2010

American Football

Yeah! the season's nearly upon us, and yet again, I've got tickets for the Big Game at Wembley.

Don't usually like sport (other than motorcycle racing, of course), but they started showing American Football on UK TV when my son was small, and I used to watch it with him, and got hooked.

He's a Dolphins fan. No accounting for taste, I suppose. When we started watching it, we each picked a team and had a sort of season-long competition between ourselves. I picked the Steelers, simply because I liked their colours. But I soon got really into it.

I think it's because I can understand the game. It's logical, decisive and, being a game of set plays, as easy to follow as a game of chess.

Then they started the London matches. So far, I've been lucky and managed to get tickets for us both every year. It will break my heart if the Steelers ever come over, and we don't get tickets.

So, this year, there will be him in his Dolphins shirt, sitting next to me in my Steelers Polamalu one, and we'll both be cheering on the 49ers. The atmosphere at Wembley is always amazing. Because we only get to see one live game a year, everybody there is out for a good day. Doesn't matter if it's not your team playing, it's a chance to marvel at some of the best athletes in the world, to indulge in some friendly banter with complete strangers, and enjoy the whole experience.

The guys are currently at training camp, and I would like to wish the Steel Men all the best for the coming season. Be assured, if there's a Steelers game showing on TV, I'll be there, glued to the set, oblivious to everything and everyone around me.

And Troy - what about another one of these?

And as an added extra, couldn't resist this photo (that's Troy on the right, if you didn't know), seeing as it combines two of my favourite things in life..........