Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick

I came to finally reading Matthew Quick’s ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ a rather unusual way. When the book came out a few years ago and was placed on the (now defunct I believe) TV Book Club choices it just wasn’t a book I fancied reading. The title seemed a little bit saccharine and I just had the feeling it might be a real schmaltz fest that I simply wouldn’t get. However at the cinema a few weeks ago (to see Breaking Dawn Part 2, a film that was really only good for 20 minutes which turned out to be a ‘vision’ and hadn’t actually happened) I saw the trailer for new Hollywood adaptation of ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ and took a shine to it. I thought it looked like it would have you laughing and crying the whole way through and so I decided to ignore my previous thoughts on the book and give it a whirl before I saw the movie.

Picador Books, paperback, 2010, fiction, 289 pages, kindly sent by the publisher (so sorry!)

Picador Books, paperback, 2010, fiction, 289 pages, kindly sent by the publisher (so sorry!)

Patrick Peoples, our narrator and protagonist, has just been released from a psychiatric hospital as ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ opens. Many, including some of the doctors there, don’t feel that he is ready to go out into the world yet his mother, and her lawyers, have persuaded people otherwise. Patrick, or Pat, is determined to get his life back on track. He understands that he wasn’t the best husband, initially you think this is because he feels he put on weight during his marriage and is obsessed with losing it, to his wife Nikki and wants to make amends no matter how many times people clearly state to him that this will never happen. As he starts life again his friends introduce him to Tiffany, a widow who has become something of a nymphomaniac, who it seems is just as much of an emotional wreck as he is. Can this unlikely duo and their friendship help each other sort themselves out?

At first I was really quite charmed with the story that Matthew Quick was unfolding, I liked Pat’s rather direct and sometimes blunt outlook on life quite funny and found the story of his initial steps after leaving the clinic and moving home interesting. Sadly however slowly but surely the book started to fall apart for me, and I found myself picking it to pieces, before wishing it would all be over. Here is why…

First of all whilst I liked Pat he remains throughout a rather two dimensional character, I never felt (despite all we go through with him) that emotionally connected to his story. I did want to know the mystery of what happened between him and Nikki and why his father didn’t really speak to him but I never fully cared. This sounds awfully harsh I know, I think the problem was that in having the HUGE ‘what happened?’ over the whole of the book and the mystery behind it you couldn’t know him and while I was interested it was only in the mystery, not about him and what happened to him.

I actually thought that Tiffany and her story, which we get at the very end not long before one of the most saccharine and clichéd of final chapters I have read in a long time, was much more interesting and yet she wasn’t really in the book that much and when she was you might as well have had plot device tattooed on her forehead. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but as the book goes on it appears Tiffany could be a link to Pat meeting Nikki again, let’s just say it was preposterous and the twist that Quick uses was easy to spot a mile off, though maybe that was the idea? Either way it completely jarred with me and the world was broken, but to be fair to Quick I did carry on to find out what happened, I just didn’t believe in any of it.

I did overall like Quick’s writing, well its style, I found some of the set pieces quite funny but as I mentioned before I never quite had an emotional attachment. I also thought the book tried to pack too much in and didn’t know who it was aimed at, something an editor should have sorted out. One minute it had that ‘love story’ quality and the ‘man who went mad and made good’ aspect, oh and the dancing competition (I am rolling my eyes) all which seemed to state this was a book for women. Then there was the never ending (well it seemed never ending) football stuff, American football I should add – the Eagles of Philadelphia to be precise, a storyline which I think was to try and make Pat bond with his brother and father again who have completely ignored him for the years he was away. When his new therapist was also a fan and they met at the game my eyes almost rolled so much that I thought they might never stop like an arcade machine that needs fixing – and no not in a ‘jackpot’ sense. Oh, and don’t get me started on how the book  has ruined, with all its spoilers as Pat reads them, most of the American classics that I have yet to read.

It looks like I really disliked ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ doesn’t it? I think it’s fairer to say I was just very disappointed in it, I had high hopes because the premise looked so could it just didn’t deliver for me personally. I won’t give the book the ‘debut author’ excuse that some might as a) it is patronising to the author and b) I read Emma Henderson’s ‘Grace Williams Says It Out Loud’ last year which does all of this so, so much better and is a debut too. It simply isn’t a ‘me’ book and that is really no one’s fault but mine. I should have stuck to my initial feelings and left the book alone, damn you trailer! Speaking of which I am now unsure I want to see the movie. That said though sometimes, no matter how much it pains me to say so, the films can actually be better than the books which brings us full circle to me mentioning Breaking Dawn Part 2 again ironically.

I am sure I am a part of a very small minority here though and that many people love or will love ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’? Maybe the cold weather has frozen my heart and feelings? Have you read it and if so what did you think? Have any of you seen the movie yet, thoughts?

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Filed under Books To Film, Matthew Quick, Picador Books, Review

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

One thing I really love and admire from a writer is when they give us a familiar scenario and manage to completely turn it on its head or take it apart analyse it and rework it into something quite unfamiliar. Deborah Levy’s ‘Swimming Home’ did this for me early in the year with an initially formulaic idea of a middle class holiday and the arrival of a stranger, now Gillian Flynn has done it with a brilliantly written thriller based on a missing spouse with ‘Gone Girl’. No surprise then that both of these books will easily be sitting high up on my list of books of the year without a shadow of a doubt.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, hardback, 2012, fiction, 416 pages, borrowed from the library

‘Gone Girl’ opens with Nick Dunne telling us how on their fifth wedding anniversary, after a call from the neighbours, goes home to find the door wide open, the lounge smashed up and his wife Amy missing. Soon the police become involved and, as Amy was made infamous in her youth through her parents’ novels featuring the ‘Amazing Amy’, there is a county and soon nationwide interest and search into her disappearance. This is all quite familiar but the first, of many, clever tricks which Gillian Flynn throws into this book is the fact that as we get the story in the present from Nick, we alternately start to read the diary entries from Amy at the start of their relationship.

These diary entries initially start with all the joy and romance of her initial meeting with Nick, her dismay when he vanishes for a while and elation when he comes back. As their relationship goes on it really is all perfect, that is until his parents separately fall ill, Nick and Amy both get made redundant, spend most of her trust fund and wind up living in Nick’s hometown of Carthage, Missouri. This is not a place Amy wants to be and as she writes she tells of her feelings of alienation and that Nick might be buckling under the pressure, and a darker side of her husband is revealed.

The stories start to converge as Nick continues to narrate his version of events in the present and as the police and the public start to cast a suspicious eye on him. Yet as the stories start to meet nothing one spouse is saying about the other quite matches and what really happened is full of twist after twist after twist after twist.

I won’t say anymore about the plot for fear of spoiling anything, and you do want to go into ‘Gone Girl’ knowing as little as possible to be honest. I will say that I think this is one of the best books that I have read all year. I have certainly been completely bowled over by Gillian Flynn’s writing, and not just for incredible and complex plotting, which she makes seem effortless as we read, also for the way in which the world that Nick and Amy inhabit is so vivid and how real they become. I felt I followed their story from young loves dream to rather disillusioned marriage as if I was one of their acquaintances, even when the stories didn’t match which is all the more clever.

I also liked the little intricate bits of them and their marriage was wonderfully done. I thought the back story of ‘Amazing Amy’ was brilliant and how that would affect someone. The issue of cancer and Alzheimer’s which Nick’s parents raise as well as redundancy and the death of the city and the small town were both current and completely believable. The whole world of this novel worked, which is why I couldn’t just label this book as simply a thriller, it is so much more than that.

As you can probably tell I could enthuse about ‘Gone Girl’, and indeed Gillian Flynn’s writing of it, endlessly. I don’t think I have read a book that has taken me to such dark places, it’s not a graphically disturbing novel though get ready to have your mind played with and warped, and have so many twists and turns. I also don’t think I have read a book that so cleverly asks the question ‘how well do you really know your partner’ and answers it in such a shocking, brutal yet also worryingly plausible way. ‘Gone Girl’ is easily one of the best novels I have read this year, I cannot recommend it enough… well, unless you are about to get married, have just got married or have just had a bit of a row with your other half as it might give you second thoughts, or sudden ideas, good and bad.

Who else has read ‘Gone Girl’ and (without spoilers) what did you think? Have you read any of Gillian Flynn’s other novels and if so which ones should I be reading next? I have to admit though the urge to go and get them both now is very, very strong.

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Filed under Books of 2012, Gillian Flynn, Review, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Qualified to Criticise a Classic or Not?

Now that I have updated you on kittens and winners, let’s get back to the serious business (so serious there is no picture in this post) of talking about books. As you may have seen, my recent reading of Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Warden’ didn’t really go too well. What I found interesting was that having finished the book and not really having enjoyed it, I didn’t mind saying exactly how I felt (though hopefully backing the up my reasons rather than lazily saying ‘I really, really disliked it’) because the author was dead and the book is a ‘classic’. AJ however, and I hope he won’t mind me sharing this with you, had the complete opposite reaction to me. He felt that because the book has been read, taught and learnt by so many academics out there he felt that regardless of whether he liked it or not, people would judge him if he slated it or not deem his opinion of worth if it wasn’t written to an academic level. These two polar reactions made me wonder if, because as bloggers and not academics in this field, are we really entitled/qualified/at liberty to critique ‘canon classics’ or indeed books in general?

I think we are. Not in an arrogant way or ‘I read so I can say what I like’ way, though there is an element of truth to that with anyone who reads no matter how little or how much because of our tastes, and not in an anti academic way either. I just believe, and my mother is an English teacher and agrees with this, that what qualifies you to have an opinion (be it at a book group, a random chat about books over a coffee, blogs posts or reviews wherever) is if you read and can compare and contrast, and most importantly back up and validate, your reasons one way or the other. An opinion is an opinion after all, I think it’s an informed critique if it is fairly backed up – be it pro or con. No?

It made me think back to the recent post I did after the whole ‘bloggers versus professional reviewers’ (though shock and horror some people do both, gasp!) and the argument that because – sweeping statement alert – bloggers appear not to be academics and haven’t trained for years and years  they don’t really know what they are talking about. Here I want to interject a recent thought I had that a lot of best selling writers didn’t go on writing courses, does that mean they can’t write? Anyway, back to the point I was making. Just because I didn’t study English Literature past GCSE (where I got an A* thank you for asking) doesn’t mean that I can’t decide if I think that Anthony Trollope is, in my eyes, a good or bad writer. I know he has sold thousands and thousands of copies, but so have Dan Brown and Fifty Shades of Grey? But this isn’t about bloggers vs. reviewers or indeed academics vs. non academics, it is more about if people really need a qualification to critics a book and in particular a ‘classic’ novel, though really I think novels overall should be included in this post, so maybe I have gone off on a tangent as usual?!?

I think I am really having a small internal argument with myself here, but one I thought I should discuss/brainstorm/therapeutically write out of my system. After all, no one has come down on me like a tonne of bricks and berated me for not liking him, which I am quite shocked at to be honest, up until now (and actually I would be interested in an academics thoughts on my thoughts – if you know what I mean) but there is still time, ha. So, as I have often skirted around this question over the past five and a bit years on and off, I thought I would ask you this…

What, if any, qualifications do you think someone has to have to critique a book be it a classic or not? I will be intrigued to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Meet Our Latest Addition Millie… and Great Expectation Winners

So I promised that a special guest would help with the draw of winners for copies of ‘Great Expectations’, the next Classically Challenged title, and while she didn’t pick them out of a hat at random quite by herself I thought it would be a nice way to introduce Millie the Kitten…

Meet Mildred the Minx

Yes, that is right The Beard and I have gone and gotten a play pal for Oscar, as with me going to Grans a lot he is spending a bit too much time on his own and we thought this would be a way of making him feel less lonely. I can’t say that he is 100% thanking us right now, there has been so much hissing and wailing, but he tolerates her at the moment and they can share a room, just not a chair or sofa… yet! That said we have warned him that he might not want to be too domineering of him now as in the long term, whilst a few months younger and rather smaller now, she will be the bigger of the two as we have been informed that, if not fully, she is definitely half Maine Coon and by the age of three years old could be almost a metre long. I shall have to sleep with one eye open!

Now she was named Millie when we got her and I desperately wanted to call her Daphne or Nancy instead but she knows her name and so we have made up our own histories of how we named her which weirdly aren’t the same. The Beard says we named her after Mildred Pierce because he loves Joan Crawford and the movie (which he didn’t know was a book) and I am saying it’s after Mildred Hubble, the worst witch, make of those stories what you will, ha.

She is utterly gorgeous and despite a slightly prickly exterior, she hissed at me for the first 24 hours and now hisses at Oscar on sight though no raised hair anymore which as she is so fluffy was hilarious, she is really friendly. She likes to sit on the reading chair, as shown in the picture, or sit on me in the reading chair or by your feet, apparently this is a Maine Coon trait, and while she can’t mieow she can ‘chirp’ which is the funniest thing every time you greet her, and really confuses Oscar! Anyway I won’t bore you too much but thought you would like to see the new recruit to the Burton-Savidge household. If any of you have Maine Coon’s I would love to hear from you about them, and if you have any tips for making cats be friends do please let me know, it’s going ok just very slowly, and I think the noise when they spat sounds worse than it is. Fingers crossed.

Now for the winners of ‘Great Expectations’ could Susan in TX, Brita Bevis and Laura Caldwell please send me your addresses and I will get Oxford University Press to send your copies out asap. Also, I haven’t answered comments for a while but it seems some people didn’t get ‘The Warden’ can you drop me an email if they still haven’t turned up and I will sort this out asap too. Oh and if you still want to win a copy then AJ is extending his competition entering times till 1900 GMT today as we got confused and posted at separate times so you can enter for another few hours there.

Right, I am off to coax the cats into friendship, or try.

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Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Warden – Anthony Trollope

And so to the second in the series of books AJ and myself have chosen to read by ‘canon authors’ that we have called ‘Classically Challenged’ and to a book that I feel very conflicted about writing about to be honest. Though really the good things about a book like Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Warden’, and indeed any canon classic, is that the author is dead so they can’t take offence and the book has legions of fans already. Plus can anyone’s book thoughts really do justice to books with so much fame/infamy? Interestingly AJ and I have been saying how hard these books are to write about when you think about the legions of academics who have studied and poured over the books in the past, I would never simply say a classic was’ boring rubbish’ or just ‘dead good’ but you know what I mean. Can you tell I am procrastinating actually writing about my thoughts on this book at all?

Oxford University Press, paperback, 1855 (2008 edition), fiction, 336 pages, kindly sent by the publishers

‘The Warden’ is the first in the series of the Chronicles of Barsetshire/Barchester Chronicles, tales all constructed around a fictional English Cathedral town. The novel doesn’t have a particular date in which it is set but as you read on you realise it is very much about the Victorian period in which it was written. Really ‘The Warden’ centres on Mr Harding who is the precentor of the cathedral and also the warden of Hiram’s Hospital, an almshouse supported by a previous and now deceased Diocese of Barchester which supports several men in it and also the warden themselves. It is this income that has been bequeathed that a certain John Bold, a zealous reformer, wants to look into as it seems that Mr Harding gets around £800 a year for really doing very little, is that really what the Diocese wanted and that money not benefit more people in better ways? Throw in the fact Mr Bold is in love with Mr Harding’s youngest daughter Eleanor and all becomes rather awkward.

I have to admit that I just didn’t ever really get into ‘The Warden’ for several reasons. Firstly there was the problem of utter confusion. At the time this was published everyone reading would most likely know what a precentor of a cathedral was, I had no clue and going off an d looking it up I was given a mass of contradicting definitions, some simply said a clergyman others said a man in charge of the choir. I also just got confused with how an almshouse worked; again I went off a researched and still didn’t really get it. So coming to it from that angle, no matter how much I wanted to understand it was a slight issue.

My second issue with confusion was why John Bold was making such a fuss. Not because, as I agreed, the money was extravagant at the time but what on earth it had to do with him. Here I will be as honest with a well respected classic author as I would be with a debut novelist as I like to compare books as a reader not an academic… It seemed simply do be done for the story, throw in this love for Eleanor and there we have a vague plot of a Victorian Robin Hood when actually Mr Harding isn’t really a villain. Plus if you have read the book and see the outcome this all becomes all the more unsatisfying frankly.

I also found ‘The Warden’ a bit boring, both in terms of the subject matter, no offence to anyone of the cloth but it just doesn’t interest me much though that said if I’d enjoyed the book more I would have been happy to find out more, and also the writing. The first few chapters were really tedious trying to build a picture of the town, the history of Hiram’s hospital and Mr Harding situation itself, all ultimately being very confusing. It is also a book of a lot of ‘and then he did this, and then he did that, and then he did another thing’ which some people might like but I find the writing equivalent of those colouring in books where the colour matches the numbers, eventually there’s a picture but the effort wasn’t quite worth all that colouring in.

“As soon as he had determined to take the matter in hand, he set about his work with his usual energy. He got a copy of John Hiram’s will, of the wording of which he made himself perfectly master. He ascertained the extent of the property, and as nearly as he could the value of it; and made out a schedule of what he was informed was the present distribution of its income. Armed with these particulars, he called on Mr Chadwick, having given that gentlemen notice of his visit; and asked him for a statement of the income and expenditure of the hospital for the last twenty-five years.”  

Though in the main I found it rather dull and dry I did like some of his writing. Trollope does describe the setting of the town very well, if a little long windily, at the start of the ‘The Warden’. I could also see that there was some deeper under workings about class and social morality going on, they were just to encased in the mundane, which reminded me of ‘Mary Barton’ by Elizabeth Gaskell only much shorter thankfully. It even manages to put some dampners on some wonderful names and characters Trollope creates, Mr Sentiment, Sir Abraham Haphazard etc.  Also, when there is dialogue I felt the book really came alive it is just a shame this was few and far between.

“‘Why not!’ almost screamed the archdeacon, giving so rough a pull at his nightcap as almost to bring it over his nose; ‘why not! – that pestilent, interfering upstart, John Bold – the most vulgar young person I ever met! Do you know he is meddling in your father’s affairs in a most uncalled for – most…’ And being at a loss for an epithet sufficiently injurious, he finished his expression of horror by muttering, ‘Good Heavens!’ in a manner that had been found very efficacious in clerical meetings of the diocese. He must for the moment have forgotten where he was.  
 ‘As to his vulgarity, archdeacon’ (Mrs Grantly has never assumed a more familiar term than this in addressing her husband), ‘I don’t agree with you. Not that I like Mr Bold – he is a great deal too conceited for me; but then Eleanor does, and it would be the best thing in the world for papa if they were to marry. Bold would never trouble himself about Hiram’s Hospital if he were papa’s son-in-law.’ And the lady turned herself round under the bed-clothes, in a manner to which the doctor was well accustomed, and which told him, as plainly as words, that as far as she was concerned the subject was over for the night.”

So all in all I am really rather disappointed in ‘The Warden’. Partly because I got on so well with Jane Austen so hoped I would every classic I tried and also because my Granddad Bongy, who used to make those books for me as a child and is no longer with us, loved this book and indeed the whole series was a favourite so I hoped I would love it too. I haven’t written Trollope off though, especially since discovering this was his fourth and apparently most disliked novel, so maybe I should try more?

In fact why did so many of you vote for AJ and myself to read this book as the first Trollope if it is so dire, not that I am saying AJ disliked it you will have to check his review yourselves. I am a little more panicked about read Charles Dickens and ‘Great Expectations’ next now. Speaking of which check the post below to win a copy.

So what are your thoughts on ‘The Warden’? Have I missed something? Should I ever read another Barchester Chronicle, or try something else by him instead?

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Filed under Anthony Trollope, Classically Challenged, Oxford University Press, Review

Classically Challenged Giveaway #3; Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

In conjuncture with Classically Challenged  the lovely Oxford University Press are kindly giving away three copies of the third Classically Challenged choice, as voted by you, ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens on Savidge Reads and another three on AJ’s blog too. But as we discovered the international postage takes longer you only have 24 hours to do so, this means you will get them with some time to spare!

So what do you have to do to win one of these novels?  Well, now that you have asked, you need to do the same thing, but twice. So we would like you to tell us which author you have the greatest expectations of and why? AND you need to do this on both mine AND also AJ’s blogs. This actually gives you double the chance of winning and also means both me and AJ get to chat to you, as it were, which is doubly nice all round.

You have just 24 hours to enter the draw (so basically 14.3 GMT on the 26th of November) and the winners will be chosen at random out of a hat and announced by a special guest I’m introducing you all to tomorrow. Good luck!

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Filed under Classically Challenged, Give Away

The World That Was Ours – Hilda Bernstein

Yesterday I mentioned that I am about to start reading all the Persephone books in order and the book that played a part in getting me thinking about doing so was ‘The World That Was Ours’ by Hilda Bernstein, which happens to be the 50th Persephone title and the halfway mark (so I will be coming back to it in a few years). One of the things I have liked about all the Persephone’s that I have read so far is that they have all been, twee isn’t the right word, erm, ‘rather delightful’ might be better. I don’t mean that to sound like I am dumbing them down, just the select few I have read have had a slight ‘frightfully marvellous’ feeling about them be they crime, sensation novels, etc. This, as I said, I love but has also made me read them sparingly and as ‘safe’ choices. I am now thrilled that ‘The World That Was Hours’ felt like a very dark and dangerous book and a memoir that needs to be read to be believed. I am hoping my adventure into Persephone’s will lead me to more like this.

Persephone Books, paperback, 1967 (2009 edition), memoir, non-fiction, 416 pages, from my personal TBR

‘The World That Was Ours’ is a rare first account of the period in South Africa’s history in the 1960’s when the apartheid had been running for some time yet tension seemed to be building to a breaking point with the Government of the time creating bills and arresting people left, right and centre. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, small towns and villages mainly populated by black people were being destroyed and people were being severely punished, even by death, for the smallest of incidents. Hilda Bernstein and her husband, Rusty, were two of the many white people who were fighting for fairness and equality at that time and so were of course raided and often arrested, even imprisoned throughout this period. ‘The World That Was Ours’ in Bernstein’s memoir of the trying and horrific times of that period, not only for her, her family and the people she knew but also of the innocent people, be they black or white, and what the consequences of this awful time were.

I feel slightly ashamed to admit that until recently I have not had much understanding of the apartheid, though I knew who Mandela was and how important all he has done was. That said two of the books on the Green Carnation Prize longlist dealt with the subject, or its effects, fictionally and so Bernstein’s memoir has given me an equally fascinating and horrifying look into the time all the more. Through fiction I was shocked, seeing it written down as a memory has made the horror of it all the more real and mind boggling. I find it difficult to comprehend people’s behaviour or the fact they could think what they were doing was right at the time, I don’t mean the Bernstein’s here obviously, I mean the Government, police and justice system. It is one of those books that has you googling everything and learning more, it is a very important book.

“Now we knew that time was running out for us. The punishment for refusal to accept racial rule was inflated; the objective, to remove every single dissenter, either by forcing them completely out of the country, or by shutting them completely away into jail. Nothing less. Even house arrest was an interim measure; together with specific bans its objective was to make such living impossible, unable to live like a human being, the victim finally left the country. You could not stay and go on living freely.”

Not all memoirs work of course. People can have seen or been part of horrendous things but if they can’t write it can lose something along the way. Bernstein is an incredible writer, and indeed at the time was a journalist, she manages to evoke the atmosphere and tension effortlessly and not just for herself and her situation in Johannesburg but for everything going on in the country too, from both sides. At the same time she writes in a style that makes the book feel like a thriller, in part because there is the aspect of all the secret things that she and her husband were doing in the anti-apartheid movement, yet also from the way she paces it. I found it very difficult to tear myself away from the book even during trials and the explaining of the policies and bills the Government were creating every other day.

This leads to the other very important aspect of ‘The World That Was Ours’, Bernstein manages not to make the book seem like a historical document, even though that is exactly what it is essentially. She brings the message home of how awful things were and the level and scope of the atrocities going on without repeating everything. Her writing seems to say ‘why repeat the point over and over when you can hammer it home highlighting points once’. This doesn’t mean she just says ‘oh it was awful’ and finish there, she gives you an example of one of the awful incidences and then explains how it was happening everywhere and telling of another different incident. Many books would repeat themselves endlessly, Bernstein doesn’t feel the need. She shows faith in the reader’s intelligence too by not over explaining who every person is in the book, or the exact ins and outs of every bill or change to policy/the country/Government. This could have become a reference book in some ways, or a patronising explanation, yet she trusts the reader doesn’t need to be spoon fed and I think wanted readers to go away and read/find out more, which I did almost fifty years after publication.

“And finally – although this was only at the end – there were great quantities of books and pamphlets which we had put into storage fifteen years before to save them being taken in police raids; and now they were all banned, or by authors who were banned, and could not be put in the dustbin or given away, but had to be burned. So we became book-burners. Books resist burning, their pages curl and singe and the fire goes out; it is necessary to work at the burning and destroy them successfully. Perhaps that bath, packed solid with black brittle ashes of books and papers, had become the most striking symbol of the evil and destructive times to which we had come.”

‘The World That Was Ours’ shows the power of books, writing, journalism and memoir. When it was published back in 1967 it was a dangerous book to release and there were many people who would have liked to see it destroyed. Thank goodness it found a publisher back then and thank goodness Persephone have chosen it as a book to reprint for us to discover because it is just the sort of book that everyone should read. I will be re-reading this again for definite.

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Filed under Books of 2012, Hilda Bernstein, Persephone Books, Review