I borrowed Jimmy Savile’s autobiography from our local library. Unsurprisingly, given his notoriety, it wasn’t on display. But I ordered a copy from the archives held in the warehouse.
For those few who don’t already know, Jimmy Savile was a flamboyant, eccentric, and a (once) much-loved celebrity, with a successful career as a DJ and his own long-running TV show, Jim’ll Fix It. But he was mainly revered for his astonishing ability to raise millions of pounds for charity. Continue reading As it Happens, Jimmy Savile →
Diana Athill was an influential editor who worked for several publishing houses in London. This memoir covers the 50 years she spent in the industry.
The book is remarkably interesting for far more than its insights into the world of literary publishing. Diana Athill is honest in her descriptions of her relationships with colleagues, competitors and writers. She also drops tantalising hints about her colourful personal life, the details of which are covered, I assume, in some of her other autobiographical books. Continue reading Stet, by Diana Athill →
Published 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 →
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 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 →
I 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 →
This book is on the reading list for one of my Birkbeck modules this year. The debut novel of a Chilean author, Isabel Allende, and originally written in Spanish, this is an English translation.
The style of writing is rich and dense. With a host of eccentric characters, a story line that spans many years and a meandering style that goes off on numerous digressions, it reminded me of Continue reading The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende →
This is a semi-autobiographical book, describing the experiences of a group of boys at an American boarding school at the start of World War 2.
The book begins with a first-person ‘Foreword’, describing how the author came to be enrolled in this particular school – the Dorset Academy, and ends with a first-person ‘Afterword’, describing what happened to the author and to some of his school-mates Continue reading A Good School, by Richard Yates →