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Bleak House, by Charles Dickens

Bleak House, Charles Dickens, book review Ruth LivingstoneBleak House is, according to some, one of Dickens’ best books. I thought I better read it.

At the heart of the story is a long-running civil law suit, and the effect this has on the young wards of the court. It is also a story about secrets and mysteries, including a hidden scandal and, in the closing sections of the book, a murder. Continue reading Bleak House, by Charles Dickens

The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Cuckoos Calling, Galbraith, book review Everyone knows that Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym used by J.K. Rowling in her recent venture into crime fiction.

I picked up her latest book, The Cuckoo’s Calling in my local library with some trepidation. Would I like it? Continue reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, by Paul Torday

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, book review by Ruth Livingstone
This is a delightful comedy based on the unlikely plan to release salmon into a river in the hot and dusty Arab state of Yemen. It deals with the nature of faith and the boundless optimism of hope, whilst also promoting the application of technical skills to a seemingly insolvable problem. And it has a sly dig at politics and the duplicity of politicians.
Continue reading Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, by Paul Torday

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

Fiesta by Ernest Hemingway, book review Ruth Livingstone I have mixed feelings about Ernest Hemingway. I loved Farewell to Arms but struggled through To Have and Have Not. And Hemingway himself was the kind of man I despise: a shooting, hunting, fishing type who loved bull fighting and drank too much and equated all these nonsensical pursuits with masculinity. So, mixed feelings.

The Sun Also Rises was Hemingway’s first full length novel. Finished in 1926 and told in the first person, the book is loosely based on a trip that Hemingway made to Spain with a group of friends to see the bullfighting during the Pamplona Fiesta. Continue reading Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

Pattern Recognition, William Gibson

Pattern Recognition, book by William GibsonGibson’s first novel, Neuromancer, is a cyberpunk classic and was published in 1984 – an apt year for such a visionary novel. Pattern Recognition is written in much the same style, using ‘hip’ language and featuring computer technology – but it isn’t a science fiction book.

The book is engagingly written in Gibson’s cyberpunk style. Continue reading Pattern Recognition, William Gibson

Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

Solaris, book coverPublished in Poland in 1961, this novel is a very interesting work from a Sci-Fi perspective. The book deals with the darkness of the human psyche, communication difficulties and the unknowability of alien life forms.

Narrated in the first person, the novel begins as a seemingly straightforward space adventure – with a scientist called Kelvin leaving a space ship in a small capsule. His mission is to join an established scientific expedition aboard a space station in orbit around the mysterious planet Solaris. Continue reading Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester

Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester, book review by Ruth Livingstone This book was published in the same year as I was born – 1956. It is the story of the personal journey of an anti-hero – Gully Foyle – as he pursues his revenge against the ship that abandoned him to die in space. During that journey he commits terrible acts, learns new skills and eventually turns from personal retribution to saving humanity.

This book is crammed full of great sci-fi concepts. Continue reading The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester

Double Indemnity, by James M Cain

Double Indemnity, James M Cain, book review by Ruth LivingstoneDouble Indemnity is a crime-fiction novel and often cited as a classic of the genre. First published in 1936, the book remains very popular. Why?

Written in the first person, this is a crime novel told through the point of view of the murderer. The language is simple and conversational, using the idioms and figures of speech consistent with the narrator’s background, era and nationality – he is a Californian insurance salesman. While I’m sure this was perfectly in keeping with the time, the language seems quaintly old-fashioned in the 21st Century. (I guess this is an important lesson in how quickly our contemporary fiction can become dated.) Continue reading Double Indemnity, by James M Cain

Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell

Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell, book review by Ruth LivingstoneI had forgotten how good Patricia Cornwell is. This is her first Kay Scarpetta novel and one that I read a long time ago. As part of my Birkbeck University course, I recently had to revisit it.

This is crime fiction at its best. Kay Scarpetta is the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia, and works with the police to uncover the identity of the serial murderer who is terrorising the city. There is no equivalent role in the UK, but Scarpetta’s responsibilities appear to be a combination of postmortem pathologist and police surgeon. Continue reading Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell