Tuesday, 3 May 2011

What I've been reading

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The Gargoyle
by Andrew Davidson

"The nameless narrator is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and wakes up in a burns ward. One day Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress enters his life and tells him that they were once lovers in medieval Germany."
One of Landlady Lola's books, and fairly graphic in its exposition at the beginning of the treatment of a burns victim, but given that I did a case study on the subject, it covered old ground. The book as a whole feels a bit like the author really wanted to write short stories, but then managed to tie them together with a tenuous plot. Not too bad really, a bit weak at the end.

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The Constant Princess
by Philippa Gregory

"Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry."
I think I read this too soon after the other book by the same author - this one covers the era following the death of Henry VIII. It's quite good, and puts forward a version of the rationale behind Henry marrying his brother's widow - a mixture of envy, dishonesty and ambition on both sides. I think I've had enough of Philippa Gregory for the time being, though.

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And Now on Radio 4
by Simon Elmes

"What this book intends to do is take you on a journey through that distinctive, instantly recognisable Radio 4 world. I hope that through the programmes I've featured and the voices I talk about, as well as the generous contributions from the many Radio 4 people - presenters, producers, controllers - who've spared the time to talk to me, some sort of coherent picture of the phenomenon that is Radio 4 will emerge."
It's a bit of a mess, to be honest, a mish-mash of verbatim quotes from various luminaries that haven't even been tidied up for grammatical accuracy, jumping here, there and everywhere around the past 40 years of the station. It's a lot less formal and more readable than the serious academic history of Radio 4 that I read a while ago, but where that was very thick porridge, this is thin soup, and ultimately unsatisfying. So there's still a gap, waiting for the perfect book to illuminate my favourite radio station. Step up, Stephen Fry...

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