Wednesday, 21 December 2016

What I've been reading

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Don't Tell Alfred
by Nancy Mitford

narrated by Emilia Fox
"Fanny, who is married to the bumbling, absent-minded Oxford don Alfred, is content with her role as a plain, tweedy housewife. But her life changes overnight when Alfred is appointed English Ambassador to Paris."
The third of the trilogy of which the first (The Pursuit of Love) is the best, but they're all great. Who would have thought that I would like Nancy Mitford, of the notorious Mitford Sisters and their association with fascism and Hitler and all that? Given that all the sisters will be distinct from each other I should perhaps find out more about the family. Anyway, this book sets out exactly how your offspring can disappoint you despite all your efforts at avoiding the mistakes that you have observed in your parents and others.

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The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton

narrated by David Horovitch
"In the highest circle of New York social life during the 1870's, Newland Archer, a young lawyer, prepares to marry the docile May Welland. Before their engagement is announced, he meets May's cousin, the mysterious, nonconformist Countess Ellen Olenska, who has returned to New York after a long absence."
My classical literary education continues with this book, which isn't bad at all. Not exactly gripping, but I was happy to carry on reading, and the ending was particularly fine. I haven't been happy with many endings recently, so this was refreshing.

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The Reckoning
by Patrick Bishop
"An intellectual poet and mystic, Avraham Stern believed himself destined for greatness; the Jewish liberator of British Palestine. This is the tale of a rebel who terrorized Palestine, the lawman determined to stop him and the creation of a cult of martyrdom that destroyed any hope of compromise between Arab and Jew."
This book covers the years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel and describes the violence faced by the British forces administering the Mandate in Palestine. Arabs were resisting the encroachment of Jewish immigrants, and Jews switched their focus of resistance away from the Arabs towards the British police with increasingly violent acts of terrorism. Meanwhile other desperate Jewish refugees were being refused entry to Palestine as they fled from persecution and the Nazi death camps. There is a long narrative of events leading up to the death of Avraham Stern and its aftermath. It's probably well researched, but I finished it through a sense of duty rather than any interest in the particular story it told.

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by George MacDonald Fraser

narrated by Colin Mace
"Harry Flashman: the unrepentant bully of Tom Brown's schooldays has three main talents - horsemanship, facility with foreign languages and fornication. A reluctant military hero, Flashman plays a key part in most of the defining military campaigns of the nineteenth century despite trying his utmost to escape them all."
Quite good but would have been better if it were a bit shorter. I don't know if the conflict in Afghanistan that makes up the majority of the action is based on real events, but if it was then I'm sure it would have been a more engrossing read if I knew more about that period of colonial history.

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