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17 thoughts on “Submit a book review

  1. The Woodhouse Boys by Neil Cawtheray (Guildford, Surrey: Grosvenor House Publishing, 2011) pp. 313 £9.99

    The Woodhouse Boys is a delightful story of a close-knit community where the streets are typically northern, with midden yards and outside loos. Set in 1950, the book is the story of two ten-year old boys growing up in Leeds in the post-war period. The two central characters are Neil Cawdray and Billie Mathieson. The book is a rites of passage in many ways between the transition from junior school to secondary modern. It is also about adventure and the reader meets many people along the way- along with some real laugh out loud moments where the school bully and Neil’s grandfather appear.

    The adventure starts with the newly-formed rugby team at Woodhouse Junior School. It is probabaly fair to say that the spirit was willing but the talent was not – at least not initially. Fun and games is also found in the twice yearly visit to Woodhouse Feast and the detective agency which the two boys formed after watching Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe at the local picturehouse; while leisure time is spent playing conkers, “taws” (marbles), “bogey-ing,” (wooden go-cart made with old pram wheels), or “chumping” – collecting wood for the bonfire. The local custom of “Mischievous Night” was also practiced with great relish on the eve before Bonfire Night.

    Much of the action in The Woodhouse Boys takes place quite close to and including Woodhouse Ridge – often in the mud and the fog – or avoiding the “Wharfies.” The “Wharefdales” being the streets on the Meanwood Road side of the Woodhouse Ridge. Densely populated, and largely respectable working class, the area of Woodhouse itself is approximately two miles north-west of the Leeds City Centre. It sits between Leeds University and Woodhouse Moor to the west, and Woodhouse Ridge and Meanwood Road on its east.

    Many of the street names survive – as do the larger houses towards Delph Lane and those on the other side of the Ridge which were not demolished under the clearances of the mid-1970s.

    All in all Neil Cawtheray has done a ‘grand’ job in The Woodhouse Boys, which is essentially a child’s-eye view of the world, but written for young adults and adults in mind. There is also scope for further local research to be gained from the book. The potential for further research is limitless where the community, it’s people, its streets, local business, factories, leisure, peace and war, is concerned. Woodhouse was also a rich recruiting ground for the two world wars. The sense of change between past and present is quite palpable in the first reading.

    I for one would certainly like to see a follow up – I’m desperate to know if Mr-what’s-his-name-who served-in-the-Merchant-Navy got to visit Dewsbury. A fine read!

  2. Hi – I can offer a scan of the book cover if needed and made some changes to the review. Please let me know if you want me to (re) submit. Thanks!

  3. Dear Book Lovin Girl,

    Every November, a group of optimists get together via the internet to write a 50,000 word novel. Known as ‘National Novel Writing Month’, this event is supported by the Office of Letters and Light.

    I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo since I first heard about it 6 years ago, I always participate and have got some good work done as a result.

    See website for more info…

    http://www.nanowrimo.org/

    Although I know this isn’t the right place to put this, I couldn’t find a more appropriate place…

  4. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

    Read this as a part of a readers group and loved it.

    Starts quite slow and I wasn’t sure where it was going but all of a sudden found myself gripped by the story. The central character Harriet appears to be a nice person but as the book progresses you begin to wonder if she is all she seems. The book is written in first person narrative and is quiet strange as it often refers to things not described but indicated you should know about for example refers to articles in the press or court ledgers. There is a twist in the tale which leaves you wanting to find out what happened but on finishing the book I was still not sure if Harriet had committed the crime or not. A very clever book written in a style I have not come across before.

  5. This is the last read for one of my book-club’s and the last book-club of 2012. *sobs quietly*. Book-club is amazing, it’s a magical place where everyone gathers and discusses ‘the chosen one’. Sometimes people haven’t read it for several reasons, other times it can create heated debates or as in The White Swan discuss a TV show (Sunset Beach. What you’ve never heard of it?!? it was channel 5’s main soap. Google it, it’ll blow your mind!) because I thought a book reminded me of the set – up. So here’s my first attempt at a book review. And thank you to the three I go to, I’ve had a fantastic year!

    The History Boys -Alan Bennett

    “A play of depth as well as dazzle, intensely moving as well as thought-provoking and funny.” –The Daily Telegraph

    An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys’ school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, of their schooling. In The History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy’s life. In doing so, he raises–with gentle wit and pitch-perfect command of character–not only universal questions about the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today.”

    Goodreads

    Quote from the film “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours”

    Goodreads

    This is the second of two plays read at book-club and I think It’s quite interesting and different reading a play, I think it makes you work harder as things aren’t set out so that it’s a continuous read. The scene is described then it’s followed by dialogue of the characters, each line starting with the names of the characters.

    The main problem I had with this book was trying to remember who was who. Perhaps if the word ‘Mr’ in front of the male teachers I might have found it easier. The other thing that threw me was the four pages where they talk in French I tried to translate it but couldn’t get the jist of it. I got a bit annoyed at myself for not being able to remember French from school or the fact that the amazing app I downloaded helped me to translate it but I lost patience trying to copy it down so I ended up skipping that bit.

    I didn’t pick up on who was meant to be the lead character in this or whether all of them were. But surely in a play as well as a story someone should stand out? I got very confused to who was teacher and who was boy. Also with the setting, the places it was set in a sixth form in Sheffield but I didn’t really pick up on the setting either. I knew they were in a classroom but wasn’t sure on the type or style. Although I did give a shout of ‘hooray’ when Durham was mentioned and instantly thought of home.

    When reading this I did like the fact that it was about a bunch of boys sometimes being idiotic and in some cases winding up their teacher(s) and I liked the way we get to find out expressions with the subtle hints of ‘says (doubtfully)’ and the one I liked ‘(mimes being mystified)’ . Like I said before it just took me a few attempts to grasp who was who and it was made worse when the two teachers were put together in a class and then I was completely lost. I did like the relationship between the characters but missed the plot completely. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about and the it jumped to a few years down the line and left me thinking ‘how did I miss that’. I did enjoy reading it although it doesn’t sound like it or perhaps reading plays aren’t for me and I should watch the film and do my usual when a book turns into a film or I discuss the book with someone else, ‘oh, so that’s what it was meant to mean, silly me.’

    Overall I really enjoyed it, I like the writing style just not the structure, I think it lacked something that didn’t quite bring it together and so I look forward to seeing the film and it answering some questions.

  6. The Forgotten Waltz – Anne Enright. Central Library Bookclub, January Read
    Blurb from Goodreads site

    “The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing, that reads with breathtaking immediacy. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. A woman recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for “the love of her life.” As the city outside comes to a halt, she remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, she awaits the arrival on her doorstep of his fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie. In The Forgotten Waltz, Enright is at the height of her powers. This is Anne Enright’s tour de force, a novel of intelligence, passion, and real distinction. “From the Hardcover edition.”

    This is the first book read of 2013. I’m not quite sure what I think of this book. I couldn’t find any information on it at first. There’s not much on the back cover and the most I’ve found is on Goodreads after I posted it as finished. Mustn’t have been looking properly. :)

    I don’t like to know too much about a book before I read it but I would have liked a bit more than what is on the back cover instead of having to search for it. This left me feeling like I couldn’t engage with the characters until half way through when I worked out who was who. I stuck with it as it’s the first book for bookclub and wanted to make an effort. I liked the ending. It had a message in a way and made me realise that everyone’s actions however small have an reaction and their effect, however small on other people without you realising it and how that stays with them for the rest of their lives.

    The story is told in first person all the way through, and I found this a bit annoying. I think it’s because I was slightly scarred from the Twilight series (sorry). The story centres on a child and what happens to her when the people (or one of them) responsible for her let her down.

    The story is told by Gina who has an affair with Evie’s Dad, Séan.

    The story starts with Gina explaining how it happened.

    ‘If it hadn’t been for the child none of this would have happened, but the fact the child was involved made everything much harder to forgive. Not that there is anything to forgive,of course but the fact that a child was mixed up in it all made us feel that there was no going back; that it mattered. The fact that a child was affected meant we had to face ourselves properly, we had to follow through.’

    She then goes onto explain about how Evie is peculiar, that she was ‘special in the old-fashioned sense of the word’ and that before Evie saw her and Sean kissing she thought her ‘a beautiful, clear little person a gift’ and that seemed to change after that one moment.

    The book then leads on to how Gina meets Sean, and gradually introduces the rest of the characters and the story begins. I got lost to who she was seeing to be honest. I thought at first she was betraying her Sister but I think it was a neighbour. Apart from not knowing who was connected to who, unless I didn’t pick up on this, was that I found that she described every little detail as if she felt like she needed to explain everything. This didn’t help me ‘place’ where the characters were at that moment in time.

    I did like the titles to each chapter I thought they were from songs (I could be wrong),it was almost like a message for each chapter. Stolen Love, affairs not working when children involved, How humans are selfish, how we think what we deserve is different to what we have and we always desire more.

    I don’t think the ‘extra’ or ‘sub’ characters were giving enough time or explanation. In all the book seemed to short for such a complex subject. It tried to involve to many characters and didn’t really focus on the people involved and not delve further into who these were.

    The main theme seemed to be how the affect of the affair had on the child and the perhaps would it have been different if the child didn’t have such ‘difficulties’. Because at the end she questions what her actions have had on the child and on the child’s mother and how Séan stayed with his wife for such along time and wondered why she didn’t say anything or if she kept quiet for the sake of the child. From this it felt like this was a person and not someone making statements all along. I started to feel something for the ‘Gina’ character in a way because she starts to question what’s she’s done after spending time with the child who is now almost a teenager:

    ‘If love is a story we tell ourselves the I had it wrong.’

    I have given this book a 3 out of 5. It’s probably a good holiday read but think it lacked depth until the end. I think the first person narrative can take a lot of concentration, because you’ve got to be able to jump into that person’s head almost immediately. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But if you want a quick read, and like the drama in soaps I recommend you pick it up the next time you have a Sunday free.

  7. The Greening by Geoffrey Aguirre
    What happens when Jason is sent back in time to fix something? We discover that to succeed in his mission he must prevent Original Sin! Jason is a clueless soldier, can he do it, does he want to, should he? What was the Garden of Eden like? Did God object to what Jason was trying to do? How did Adam and Eve react? Read this book and find out. If you think these are easy questions, read the thoughts of the author and then ponder what it all means? How would you like Jason’s mission? This book was thought provoking and tests our conceptions of “the beginning.”

  8. The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo:
    A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky
    By Kent Nerburn

    “… another masterpiece from Nerburn – No Bullshit”

    This time it’s a persistent, nagging, and ominous dream that propels Nerburn on his third encounter into the American Indian world of “Dan the Elder;” Grover the grouch; Jumbo the gentle giant; a slobbery orphan dog; a wistful, young girl with an old soul; a woodland Anishinaabe man known by Dan as one of “the old ones”, who raises buffalo; and a gruesome Indian insane asylum in South Dakota.
    Of the three books Nerburn has written on his experiences with the Indian people of “Dan the Elders’” world, “The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo.” is the most fleshed-out, mysterious, awe-inspiring, sad, humorous, suspenseful, and courageous. Nerburn walks to the edge of a deep precipice of human understanding and shows us the terror and magnitude of things Western Europeans may never fully understand. In the framework of indigenous spirituality, cosmology, and culture all things are connected. In the hands of the literary master craftsman Kent Nerburn, the disparate landscapes, personalities and situations in his book are also connected and profoundly meaningful.
    Nerburn has an understanding of the Native culture that transcends the best efforts of theologians, anthropologists, sociologists, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, American government, and zealot do-gooders. He puts himself in situations he knows will pummel his ego but lead him to a place of knowledge and understanding. To be available for these teachings, he is lead across axel-busting-back-country roads, greasy roadhouses, a senior citizens home, deep forests, encounters with a menacing buffalo bull, and a historically suppressed Indian insane asylum. Most often, he is reluctant to challenge his own comforts but always committed to his friendship with Dan the Elder, and subsequently, the search for Dan’s long-lost sister, Yellow Bird.
    The Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians, Canton, SD (1901 – 1934) was an institution in a small town in southeastern South Dakota that was the brainchild of Indian agent and Republican Senator R.F. Pettigrew and Canton’s former town mayor, Oscar Gifford. The former mayor wanted to promote jobs and bring esteem to an otherwise unknown entity on the edge of the western prairie. It was, ostensibly, erected to serve the truly desperate Native individual who suffered from “mental illness” and needed institutionalization. In fact, Gifford was a land developer who made out pretty well on the deal and became the first Administrator of the asylum without any prior medical experience, knowledge of hospitals, psychiatry, or Native Americans.
    The Indians? You guessed it – they got screwed again: chained to radiator pipes; abandoned in locked cells to lie in their own filth for weeks; forced labor; beaten and tortured; and most of them never heard from again. One hundred and twenty one “inmates” were buried in graves that now lie between the fourth and fifth fairways of the local golf course. The asylum was the last place Dan’s sister was suspected of being seen or heard of alive.
    Enter Nerburn. Armed with new information about Dan’s sister that is related to his unusual dreams, Nerburn travels back and forth between Minnesota, South Dakota, and remote forests of Northern Minnesota more than once finding, again and again, one more clue or possibility in the search for Yellow Bird. In between the many miles of his travels, he witnesses events and situations that tear at the tenuous membrane of our understanding of reality. For “the old ones”, it is business as usual. For the readers of this of this book, it is fantastic.
    There are “homilies” in all of Nerburn’s “Dan the Elder” books that should be required reading for every history, social studies, and religious studies program in our public schools. The words of Grover in chapters 16, “Priests and Pelicans” and Dan’s in chapter 24, “Two Worlds Inside You” are examples of the words of the Native people that need to be heard by everyone. What Nerburn relates to us is “No Bullshit” (Chapter 17) and we need to hear it.
    Kent Nerburn is committed to mutual understanding between the dominant society of the Christian Western European and the indigenous people of this continent. He, of course, is not alone in that effort. However, he is one of the few who brings humanity and perspective to an acrimonious relationship between two opposing cultures. He knows the difference between the humanity of his Indian characters and the “idea” of what an Indian should be.
    Below the surface of his literary skill rides the underlying question posed by Harvard researcher and ethno botanist, Dr. Wade Davis, “What does it mean to be human and alive?” Nerburn brings humanity to the indigenous milieu and gives flesh and bones to people who were perceived as “non-human” by a society that felt it knew what was best for the “savages.”
    Abandon all preconceptions ye who enter this realm of the indigenous world of the seen and the unseen. You may not believe what you see and hear but for the Indian people it’s all connected.
    To hear and see Kent Nerburn talk about his work, go to: http://youtu.be/IgHs9uk5qYI

  9. Angel Time – Anne Rice

    First published in 2009, I found this book last week and loved it immediately. Very different in style from Ms Rice’s Vampire novels, it’s the story of Toby, an assassin on the brink of an existential crisis in the wake of his latest job. In the depths of his despair, he is accosted by Malchiah, a seraph who needs Toby’s particular talents to intervene to prevent an angry mob from attacking two innocent people. Toby’s journey towards redemption is tied to his actions as he tries to unravel the mystery and find a way for the two accused to clear their names.
    Beautifully written, meticulously researched, this book was a joy to read from first to last and I was delighted to learn there are more in the series for me yet to discover.

  10. The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo:
    A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky
    By Kent Nerburn

    This time Nerburn starts having vivid dreams. They’re relentless, confounding, and ominous. Eventually, they propel him into his third encounter with the American Indian world of Dan the Elder; Grover the grouch; Jumbo the gentle giant; a slobbery orphan dog; a wistful, young girl with an old soul; a woodland Anishinaabe man known by Dan as one of “the old ones” who raises buffalo; and a gruesome Indian insane asylum in South Dakota.
    Of the three books Nerburn has written on his experiences with the Indian people of “Dan the Elder’s” world, “The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo.” is the most fleshed-out, mysterious, awe-inspiring, sad, humorous, suspenseful, and courageous. Nerburn walks to the edge of a deep precipice of human understanding and shows us the terror and magnitude of things Western Europeans may never fully understand. In the framework of indigenous spirituality, cosmology, and culture all things are connected. In the hands of the literary master craftsman Kent Nerburn, the disparate landscapes, personalities and situations in his book are also connected and profoundly meaningful.
    Nerburn has an understanding of the Native culture that transcends the best efforts of theologians, anthropologists, sociologists, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, American government, and zealot do-gooders. He puts himself in situations he knows will pummel his ego but lead him to a place of knowledge and understanding. To be available for these teachings, he is lead across axel-busting-back-country roads, greasy roadhouses, a senior citizens home, deep forests, encounters with a menacing buffalo bull, and a historically suppressed Indian insane asylum. Most often, he is reluctant to challenge his own comforts but always committed to his friendship with Dan the Elder, and subsequently, the search for Dan’s long-lost sister, Yellow Bird.
    The Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians, Canton, SD (1901 – 1934) was an institution in a small town in southeastern South Dakota that was the brainchild of Indian agent and Republican Senator R.F. Pettigrew and Canton’s former town mayor, Oscar Gifford. The former mayor wanted to promote jobs and bring esteem to an otherwise unknown entity on the edge of the western prairie. It was, ostensibly, erected to serve the truly desperate Native individual who suffered from “mental illness” and needed institutionalization. In fact, Gifford was a land developer who made out pretty well on the deal and became the first Administrator of the asylum without any prior medical experience, knowledge of hospitals, psychiatry, or Native Americans.
    The Indians? You guessed it – they got screwed again: chained to radiator pipes; abandoned in locked cells to lie in their own filth for weeks; forced labor; beaten and tortured; and most of them never heard from again. One hundred and twenty one “inmates” were buried in graves that now lie between the fourth and fifth fairways of the local golf course. The asylum was the last place Dan’s sister was suspected of being seen or heard of alive.
    Enter Nerburn. Armed with new information about Dan’s sister that is related to his unusual dreams, Nerburn travels back and forth between Minnesota, South Dakota, and remote forests of Northern Minnesota more than once finding, again and again, one more clue or possibility in the search for Yellow Bird. In between the many miles of his travels, he witnesses events and situations that tear at the tenuous membrane of our understanding of reality. For “the old ones”, it is business as usual. For the readers of this of this book, it is phantasmagoric.
    There are “homilies” in all of Nerburn’s “Dan the Elder” books that should be required reading for every history, social studies, and religious studies program in our public schools. The words of Grover in chapters 16, “Priests and Pelicans” and Dan’s in chapter 24, “Two Worlds Inside You” are examples of the words of the Native people that need to be heard by everyone. What Nerburn relates to us is “No Bullshit” (Chapter 17) and we need to hear it.
    Kent Nerburn is committed to mutual understanding between the dominant society of the Christian Western European and the indigenous people of this continent. He, of course, is not alone in that effort. However, he is one of the few who brings humanity and perspective to an acrimonious relationship between two opposing cultures. He knows the difference between the humanity of his Indian characters and the “idea” of what an Indian should be.
    Below the surface of his literary skill rides the underlying question posed by Harvard researcher and ethno botanist, Dr. Wade Davis, “What does it mean to be human and alive?” Nerburn brings humanity to the indigenous milieu and gives flesh and bones to people who were perceived as “non-human” by a society that felt it knew what was best for the “savages.”
    Abandon all preconceptions ye who enter this realm of the indigenous world of the seen and the unseen. You may not believe what you see and hear but for the Indian people it’s all connected.
    To hear and see Kent Nerburn talk about his work, go to: http://youtu.be/IgHs9uk5qYI

  11. Rock stars – or, at least, wannabe-rock stars – will tell you Keith Richards is the most interesting member of The Rolling Stones. Don’t listen to them; it is, and always has been, Mick Jagger who is the most intriguing, most complex, member of the self-styled “world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band”. This latest biography by Phillip Norman, author of highly-respected studies of both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, tells us why.
    As a middle-class teenager from Kent drawn to the sound of the Delta and Chicago blues; as an intelligent and cerebral man making a living from his vocal expressiveness and his raw physicality; as an inveterate social-climber, a natural conservative and an early health freak, who found himself as a poster-boy for ‘60s revolutionary-protest chic and ‘70s hedonism – at every stage Mick Jagger has lived a life full of contradiction.
    Norman shows us the man who can write an historically-rooted epic such as “Sympathy For The Devil” (1968), but who is apparently unable – or unwilling – to recall his own past after signing, and then cancelling, a £1m deal to pen his memoirs. He also brings us the notorious lothario – father of seven children with four different women – who is simultaneously capable of producing such paeans to desire, longing and regret as “Wild Horses” (1971). Norman’s Jagger is also that man who smothers any expression, or even hint, of genuine feeling in an Americana of his own invention (what Norman refers to as his “Noo Awleans” accent and persona). This Jagger is a slippery, evasive, character – a chameleon changing his colours to suit. He would have made a fine courtier at the Palace of Versailles – fawning and charming, ambitious and scheming.
    Ultimately, for Norman, that is, in a sense, the point. Jagger is a man of such intelligence, charisma and wit, that he would have been a success in any field he chose. Instead, having conquered the rock ‘n’ roll world by the age of 30, he spent the 40-years since as nothing more than a kind of ersatz tribute act to his own blistering youthful triumphs. He could, and should, have achieved so much more. But, with his wealth, his women, his wine, his song – and, yes, his “satisfaction” – should he even care what might have been?
    This fine and supremely well-researched biography, then, is Mick Jagger in all his lived complexity: can’t you hear him knocking?

  12. Hellkite, a collection of short stories by Geraldine Mills,
    published by Arlen House Press (Syracuse University Press distributes in the U.S.)
    Geraldine Mills’ new collection of short stories, Hellkite, is brave and uncompromising. Breaking stance with the common theme of exploitation of women by men, the female characters that inhabit the world of her stories reveal themselves through infidelity, mental illness, abandonment, and on occasion, sheer evil. From an angel who appears in the body of a man jumping on a trampoline, to the hellkite of an ex-wife, her characters dwell in a place without ordinary boundaries, where a life of predictability and comfort may be an elaborate deception. The collection is unsettling in the best possible way as it challenges the status quo, the basis of institutions and relationships that the characters (and ourselves) come to trust. As metaphor for the present turbulent times of upended financial institutions, corrupt politicians, houses in foreclosure, and individuals who disappoint and sometimes devastate each other, the collection reminds us both of our vulnerability and the necessity to look beyond the obvious for answers, or perhaps the true questions.

  13. Pingback: New Year’s resolution – join a readers’ group | Leeds Reads

  14. MESSI by Guillem Balague

    This new biography of the world’s best footballer is eccentric and too long, but not without real merit. Balague is illuminating on the importance of Argentinean society to Messi’s development; initially by defining his playing style, but also – crucially – because the economic crisis of 2000 convinced his family to accept an overseas offer from FC Barcelona. Later, the player’s single-minded dedication is used as the starting point for a wider discussion of nature and nurture: “Leo is not a natural-born genius. Nobody is.” We also witness the complexity of Messi’s relationships with, among others, his father (who is also his manager), Frank Rijkaard, Ronaldinho, Pep Guardiola and, inevitably, Cristiano Ronaldo. Off the field we see an introverted Messi: his closest friends share his Argentinean background and his only hinterland is computer games. Balague ends on a strangely melancholic note, imagining a time when Messi and his circle must accept that he is no longer a footballer: “Everyone, his family, is a Leo who will stop being Leo one day.” Until that day, this biography will stand as the definitive portrayal of a generation’s finest footballer; only time will tell whether he can be ranked alongside Pele, Maradona, Di Stefano or Cruyff.

  15. A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 years of Hunting for Proof – by Roger Clarke

    In this fascinating book the “hunting” is more important than the “proof”. That is to say, Clarke is more interested in exploring why people–at various times and in various places–believed that they had perceived things that evaded explanation. The mocking disbelief of modern readers in those events is not the point: in place of ironic laughter the intellectual pleasure lie in the distance that time affords to see those ‘supernatural’ occurrences in their proper historical context. As such, this book truly gathers weight from the 18th-century–witnesses since then leaving sufficient testimony that the particular alchemy of social forces can be seen clearly. As with all texts on this subject, the sections on the 19th-century are by far the most gripping; the cast an eclectic cross-section of Victorian society, culminating in the curious figure of the ‘medium’ Daniel Dunglas Home: “a uniquely unexplained individual”. These chapters can be read as a warning against teleological notions of progress from ‘barbaric’ ancestor-worship to atheistic ‘sophistication’; portraying, instead, a peculiarly Victorian rationalism where the ‘spirit world’ was placed under the same microscope as any other ‘natural’ phenomena. Not a book, then, for sceptics, nor one for believers – but instead a book for anyone interested in the myriad cracks and crannies of the very-much earth-bound human soul.

  16. A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 years of Hunting for Proof / Roger Clarke

    In this fascinating book the “hunting” is more important than the “proof”. That is to say, Clarke is more interested in exploring why people–at various times and in various places–believed that they had perceived things that evaded explanation. The mocking disbelief of modern readers in those events is not the point: in place of ironic laughter the intellectual pleasure lie in the distance that time affords to see those ‘supernatural’ occurrences in their proper historical context. As such, this book truly gathers weight from the 18th-century–witnesses since then leaving sufficient testimony that the particular alchemy of social forces can be seen clearly. As with all texts on this subject, the sections on the 19th-century are by far the most gripping; the cast an eclectic cross-section of Victorian society, culminating in the curious figure of the ‘medium’ Daniel Dunglas Home: “a uniquely unexplained individual”. These chapters can be read as a warning against teleological notions of progress from ‘barbaric’ ancestor-worship to atheistic ‘sophistication’; portraying, instead, a peculiarly Victorian rationalism where the ‘spirit world’ was placed under the same microscope as any other ‘natural’ phenomena. Not a book, then, for sceptics, nor one for believers – but instead a book for anyone interested in the myriad cracks and crannies of the very-much earth-bound human soul.

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