The book club

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  • #138834 Reply

    I must admit I am not a big reader of books but it’s clear that some on the forum are.

    I could of course be tempted and no better time than now when we have very little to do.

    So I thought it would be interesting to hear from members their recommendations.

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  • #140316 Reply

    Finally bit the proverbial bullet and started reading Moby Dick.  Melville don’t ‘alf ramble (paid by the word like Dickens was?, I wonder), but the details regarding whaling are supposed to be pretty accurate, so I’m giving it a go.

    #140318 Reply

    Now reading Grim Expectations by K W Jeter. this being the third in the George Dower trilogy set in an alternative Victorian Britain running on clockwork and steam. Jeter is the person credited with devising the genre name Steampunk but I’m prepared to forgive him that. His Dower character is a most unlikely hero being a terminally pessimistic coward who makes a mess of everything.  Decidedly eccentric and downright odd. Genetically engineered jellyfish postmen, giant walking lighthouses and clockwork predatory monsters roaming Highgate cemetery are just a few of the oddities. First two volumes were okay, this third one is rather disappointing. Nothing much happening.

    #140355 Reply

    I reckon Moby Dick must be worth the effort, Georgie. Read it geological ages ago, probably in my teens, and have fond memories of it. Must confess to having a weakness for anything maritime: Old Man and the Sea, HMS Ulysses, Cruel Sea and, of course, Hornblower.

    #140397 Reply

    And another thing… does anyone have certain books which MUST be read once every couple of years? Or at least regularly? Mine are The City and the Stars by Arthur Clarke, any of the Culture novels by Iain M Banks, Catch 22 by Heller. I’ve read Lord of the Rings many times – once aloud, cover-to-cover to the kids!

    So what are your Must Read Agains…?

    #140450 Reply

    Infernal Devices trilogy and Bookman trilogy duly added to Amazon basket, though I’m not sure when I’ll get to read them, what with the Bryant and May series and Dopy Mick to get through first. 🙂

    Regarding nautical novels – Have you read the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O Brian?  The film Master and Commander is a very good introduction (though, as it wasn’t pertinent to the plot, it didn’t cover Doctor Maturin being not only a surgeon and a philanthropist, but also a spy for the Admiralty).

    ‘Must read’ books – I discovered Winter’s Tale by Mark Helpern when I was 22 and it has been my favourite book ever since, read roughly every 3 years.  Every time the story leaves me feeling emotionally wrung out – like I’ve just experienced a grand feast of the imagination.  (Much to my disgust it was recently ruined in a dreadful film that I do not recommend!

    #140492 Reply

    Winter’s Tale is one of Mrs T’s volumes which sits in a bookcase behind my seat in living room. Have been intrigued by title and keep meaning to pick it up and investigate (many hundreds of books scattered through house). It is now on my list. Will also put Patrick O Brian on list too.



    #140801 Reply

    Finally got hold of Winter’s Tale. Cover notes make it sound utterly intriguing. Shall dive in immediately. Book was sent to  Mrs T in ’84 for review – she wrote quite a lot of book crit’s at the time.

    #140897 Reply

    @Georgie Haven’t seen a post from you recently. Everything OK? Just wanted to say that you really got me with Winter’s Tale. Can’t put the damn thing down. Seriously habit-forming and outrageously eccentric.

    #140933 Reply

    HI, Tharg!

    No worries – I’m about, more or less.  Just had a bit of an MS blip, but getting better. 🙂

    How is Mrs. T. these days, by the way?

    Winter’s Tale seems to be a ‘Marmite’ book: neither sister nor best friend liked it; other friend like it so much she took my copy away with her (allegedly by accident) when she moved to Tokyo (Kawasaki) to teach ‘English as a Foreign Language’ in Yokohama.  Then she met a drummer from Bristol, married him and eventually moved to York.

    #140950 Reply

    Hiya, Georgie

    Good to hear. Glad you’re feeling a bit better. Mrs T is getting better albeit slowly. Much more slowly than after first operation. Continues to get pain from incision scars. Started walking again, up to a mile per day. Still can’t handle the dog though . Hope to build up enough mass and therefore strength soon to take Tilly out. Neighbour still doing the honours.

    All I can say about Winter’s Tale is that I must really like Marmite. Totally intriguing. I feel like I’m drowning in ideas. The character of Pearly is quite brilliant!

    #140960 Reply

    Another thing W.T. got me interested in was the history of the New York water system.  A lot of the old structures are still visible (Google maps) in one form or another e.g. the Great Lawn in Central Park was once a reservoir, the New York Public Library and park are built on the site of another reservoir, the beautiful High Bridge (oldest bridge in New York), now a foot bridge over the Harlem River, was originally an aqueduct and the associated water tower still stands above the western end . . .


    #140962 Reply

    Great link, Georgie. Will read properly when time allows. If I had a criticism of WT it would be that a knowledge of NYC would help a great deal in following more obscure bits. Only in-depth stuff I know concerns the Brooklyn Bridge; wrote a science piece about its construction. Quite fascinating (and deadly).

    #140969 Reply

    My favourite NY bridge – and yes, the construction was both brilliant and deadly.  I wouldn’t have gone down into those caissons for anything!

    #141008 Reply

    Roebling. the bridge’s chief engineer suffered terribly with after effects of pressure sickness. If tales are to be believed, he spent his last days bedridden watching work on the bridge from his window. If I remember correctly, the pressure sickness in caissons for tunnels and bridges was not so new. Brunel the elder confronted the same thing building tunnel(s) under the Thames.

    #141150 Reply

    I’m afraid Dopy Mick has been consigned to the bookcase once more.  I gave it a 180 page shot but, as far as I’m concerned, l’Empereur n’a pas de vêtements.  Er ist nackt.  Nudus.  In, as it were, the nib.

    So . . .  What to read next.  Decisions . . .  Decisions . . .

    Oh.  Of course!

    “I have been to another world, and come back.  Listen to me.”


    #141167 Reply

    Rumex sum. Ad imperatorem vestimenta sua habet. So the whale has driven you back to Helprin’s outlandish eccentricity. Enjoy! Again! I certainly am. All his characters are simply intriguing and wonderfully drawn; even the optometrist – you feel his attraction to, and fear, of Beverley. As for the latter, well, living on the roof in a tent! WITH consumption.

    Have you seen the film? Released in 2014, it stars, amongst others, Eva Marie Saint and Russell Crowe. Colin Farrell is the lead. Hmm. Would have to be very good indeed to come anywhere near the wonder of the novel.

    #141426 Reply
    Mike 700

    “Had some fiction collected into album-type works.” Oh, Bravo! Not sure if I should ask for further details – anonymity being the default for a lot of us here. 🙂 Mike’s poems are also worthy of wider recognition, imho.


    I have written a book around the  Aden troubles which is unedited, unexpurgated, and probably unsaleable in it’s present state –  I have not looked at it since 2014, but this thread has rekindled my interest.

    I wrote a poem/rhyme based on one of the chapters –



    The Blindfold.

    It was so cold on that still ,dark , desert morn
    When in came the Colour Sergeant head newly shorn
    Excuse me sir I remember him say
    It’s oh five hundred already, another busy day

    I wondered what my Dad was doing and if Mam was still asleep,
    And If my mates were at work , grafting hard, but on the cheap
    They all think that I’m now some sort of toff
    “I wish they would take this sweaty bloody blindfold off ”

    The Colour Sarn’t had got the troop together
    They had checked their weapons, and stowed their leather
    Fatty and Taff and that Scots boy Lofty
    Who was six foot six but a real softy

    Off we went in The RAF ‘s chopper
    When all of a sudden ‘bang’, we came one hell of a cropper
    Down we went and hit the ground hard
    And in the words of the immortal bard

    ‘all that lives must die’?
    But why those brave happy fun loving lads of mine – why?
    But some survived & rubbing our eyes we grabbed what we could and we ran
    Away from that smelly burning Whirly, up there in the Radfan

    So what happened? were we hit by some sort of rocket
    Yes, apparently fired by a 9 year old hidden in a pocket
    And now my brave boys had almost all gone
    And I wondered who was left on that cold Yemeni morn

    I wondered what they had said back home in the Papers
    “Welsh boys lost in Radfan capers “????
    But how many I just didn’t know, I’d seen poor Fatty staring into space
    A look of fear etched in his face

    And Jock I’d seen him burn up and fall
    And Taff and Nobby I could still hear them call
    Help me Help me I heard Taffy cry , ‘help me Mam
    But I couldn’t see him , then a shot & silence, damn

    What would I tell their mums and their dads
    About their loving brave hero lads
    If ever I get away from this horrible place
    “And they take this sweaty bloody blindfold off my face ”

    Percy the Whirly Pilot, I remember was like a man possessed
    Screaming & firing into the hornet’s nest
    He’d picked up a rifle from the ground
    And down went the bandits round by round,

    It was just like being in a dream
    Except for the noise, the smell , and Percy’s pearcing scream
    And there he stood, no more than fifteen
    A face of hatred, seldom seen

    Kalashnikov pointing straight at my head
    But then down he went clearly very very brown bread
    I looked around and saw Percy ‘my new best friend
    Who’d made sure that the rebel had met a swift end ‘

    I remember it then went quiet and blacker than black
    I’d been caught in a second wave attack
    When I awoke in some smelly room, I was dry & so hot I started to cough
    Where the hell was I ? “I wished they’d take that sweaty bloody blindfold off ”

    The next day, early, I heard a distant noise
    And I knew at once it was my boys
    Then smoke filled the room and I was suddenly deaf
    And the Colour Sarn’t and Percy entered stage left

    Morning Sir said the Sarge as he grabbed me under my aching arms
    Me, I just gave in to his boyish charms
    I still couldn’t see what was going on
    But I knew it was nasty from the dreadful pong

    Next thing I knew We were in a crossfire
    With the lad of 9 and his mates behind the wire
    Percy then gave them a shot of flame
    And as they burned I heard them scream the prophets name

    Back at the base and before the debrief
    I managed a shower and clean of the teeth ,
    The CO was waiting, now he was ‘a toff ‘!
    Me, I was just glad that “sweaty bloody blindfold was off”


    #141581 Reply

    I’ve never Served, but mine is the first generation in my mother’s family not to have in one form or another – mostly Army (Scots – mum’s brother, their father and his brother, their grandfather and great-grandfather . . .  If he hadn’t been born with psudo-achondroplasia my older brother would almost certainly have joined).

    I inherited a couple of excellent books of War Poems from the Great War: 1914 and Other Poems by Rupert Brooke (1915 Edition) and An Anthology of War Poems compiled by F. Brereton (1930 Edition).  Beyond that the most moving poem I know from WWII is High Flight by Canadian Airman John Gillespie Magee – a copy of which I have hung on my bedroom wall:



    #141583 Reply

    Tharg – the Trailer I was for the film was enough to put me off (they gave the horse wings!), even before I learned that Pearly had been turned into a Demon, the White Horse is a Guardian Angel, and Cecil Mature was written out completely so they could shoe-horn Will Smith into the movie as an entirely new character – ‘Lucifer’, one of Pearly’s men.

    “Beverly discovers Peter preparing to rob the house. When Peter assures her that he no longer wishes to commit robbery, Beverly offers to make him a cup of tea. They tell each other their stories and fall in love.”


    Still, a lot of people (most of whom haven’t read the book) seemed to love it, so . . .

    #141585 Reply

    Never served either Georgie. Should have done the RAF thing, many members of family did during the war: Coastal Command (Sunderland aircrew), Fighter Command (armourer for Spit’s Western Desert), and bombers (Lancaster crew shot down over Black Forest in ’42 spent rest of conflict in POW camp). But it was the 60s when I should have joined and couldn’t face the whole wearing uniform, obeying orders at any cost stuff. Still love flying though. Magee’s High Flight is treasured by aviators everywhere. Am deeply envious of your war poem collections. Love the work of the war poets, especially Owen. For me, the only others to come anywhere near them are the metaphysicals, Donne in particular. Have quite an extensive “poetry corner” in our bookshelves. Includes a collection of Longfellow which might be signed by author.

    Thought that the WT film might be like that. Whenever I see Colin Farrell in a cast, I make a point of avoiding at all costs. The quote you give sums it up, I think. The meeting of Beverly and Lake is one of the most poignant, stirring and moving accounts of passion, desire and, oh so many other things, that I have ever read. Had to immediately go and play Mark Knopfler’s  Lions for the Stranger in the Night lyric. Then Romance from Gadfly suite. Still only just entered the second section of book – it forces me to … read… every… word. Stunningly eccentric – a wonder!

    #141587 Reply

    One good thing I’ll say for the film – Jennifer Connelly was perfectly cast as Virginia Gameley.  The role could have been written for her.  I’ve been a ‘fan’ since she was in Labyrinth.

    #141603 Reply

    I’ve only just met Virginia so my opinion is not fully informed. That said, I wasn’t aware of Ms Connelly as an actor. She’s one of those young pretty things in whom I have very little interest. My opinion of female actors tends to cover the more mature ones. Therefore, Sigourney Weaver (when much younger) would seem a great casting for Virginia. She has the legs for a start; moreover she can project her characters with some assertiveness which Virginia does. Now, Beverly. Only one choice for me and that would be a much younger Emma Thompson. Utterly made for the part. She can do anything from Shakespeare to ridiculous light comedy.

    If you want to see the delicate but strong vulnerability, with an edge, then I recommend Wit with her in the lead. It was directed by Mike Nichols and is, I think, one of his best. It is more involving than The Graduate and as challenging as Catch 22. Be warned though, it is not for everybody; concerning, as it does, a woman (Thompson) who is dying of cancer. Not normally my sort of thing but I’ll watch anything directed by Nichols and this hooked me within a few minutes.

    #141696 Reply

    Helpern reminds me so much of Ray Bradbury, particularly in the Martian Chronicles/Silver Locusts. His writing in these short stories is more poetry than prose. Such a wonderful, driven, almost musical style and so involving and evocative. It was this collection which did so much to lock me in to science fiction when I first read it (late 50s). It real is like reading verse. You feel you can see, hear, even smell the places and things he describes. Much like the city and places in WT.

    #141799 Reply

    Gosh – someone else who has read The Martian Chronicles!  There was also an excellent TV series of the book back in 1980 that I remember little about other than that I loved it.  I think it was the sand-yachts that really caught my imagination.

    Alas, any memory I do have of the show has been sadly contaminated by The Man who Fell to Earth.  (Sorry, David – Songs ‘good’: Acting ‘not so hot’.  Ditto Sting.)


    #141827 Reply

    Never knew that a decent TV series was made. Will have a look for it. The story that sticks in my memory is Night Meeting in which a human settler meets a Martian in a sort of timeslip. As a story, it’s just about everything you can imagine: SciFi time travel, romance, morality, ghost story, etc. etc. Have not read this collection for nearly two decades but still remember so many parts and touches. Added to me Read Again list. ‘Scuse me while I and seek my (tattered 1950s) paperback.

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