Regeneration by Pat Barker [Review]

regenerationRegeneration. A brilliant, intense and subtle novel set in the First World War. The book is set at Craiglockhart War Hospital, 1917, a hospital for treating soldiers suffering from different forms of shell shock. It starts with anthropologist turned psychologist William Rivers waiting for the arrival of Siegfried Sassoon, who has been sent to Craiglockhart due to him protesting against the war, throwing his military cross in the Mersey River and writting a ‘letter of wilful defiance’. Robert Graves also makes an appearance in the book, a friend of Sassoon’s, who has actually sent Sassoon to Craiglockhart Hospital to spare him being court marshalled after his declaration against continuing fighting the Great War.

Throughout the book we are met by different characters suffering from shell shock. Some are fictitious and some are based on real people. Despite the fact that some patients are fictitious, Barker seems to have based them on actual cases recorded by the real Dr. Rivers which makes them as real as the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. When reading the book, you cannot help but feel a bit melancholy and sorry for the poor victims suffering from shell shock. While Dr. Rivers makes his rounds of Craiglockhart checking on his patients, you get the feel of a life surrounded by suffering and tragedy. A haunting life.

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Siegfried Sassoon

Barker manages to mix fiction and fact so effortlessly. Most of her characters did actually exist. As already mention, there is Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, along with psychologists who actual did exist and treat numerous of shell shocked patients (even though in the book some are nameless). We, the reader, get to see the inside world of these magnificent characters. We meet young, idealistic Wilfred Owen shyly giving his poems to Sassoon to look at. Sassoon helps Wilfred Owen have more faith in himself and soon we experience the writing of one of Owen’s famous poems; ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’.

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Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

They become good friends and eventually have a mutual respect for one another. Dr. Rivers is another factual character in Regenation and you cannot help but love him. He cares for his patients and tries to treat their shell shock with the most humane way possible as well as with something close to tenderness. He himself has never been in battle so there is a distance from the horrible experience his patients have gone through. He lives the experience of warfare through his patients while secretly, I believe, feels guilty that he could not fight alongside his fellow countrymen. He believes that ”the war must be fought to a finish, for the sake of the succeeding generations”.

As well as her factual characters, Baker’s fictional characters are also very interesting. Billy Prior, for example, has a working-class background and risen to become a second- lieutenant. He comes to Craiglockhart not being able to speak (due to his experiences) as well as suffering from severe asthma. He is intelligent, ambitious, awkward and, socially and sexually ambiguous. At first, I have to admit, I was not sure whether I liked Prior as he was rude, crude and just … unbearable at times. But I did grow to like him and I was happy to see his progress and his route to recovery. His relationship to factory worker Sarah Lamb shows his softer side (I believe). Other patients (who are fictional) are: David Burns who has ‘vomiting nightmares caused by a mouthful of decomposing German flesh’ (not pleasant at all!) and Anderson, who was once a surgeon, but due to his wartime experiences cannot continue practising due to the fact that he hates the sight of blood and experiencing mental breakdowns.

There is a particular scene in the book which actually made me feel uneasy. To be fair, there were a few scenes that made me feel uneasy and so sorry for the soldiers going through all that; however, this scene takes place in a London hospital. Dr Rivers visits this particular hospital one day and watches Dr Lewis Yealland administering frequent and agonising electrical shocks to a patient who has been mute by his wartime experiences. When you area reading you can feel the terrified soldier trying to utter one single word so that this inhuman torture can stop. Even Dr Rivers feels uneasy during this ‘treatment’. We find out at the end of the book, an author’s note telling us that Dr. Lewis Yealland actually existed and he did use those ghastly methods during wartime as detailed in his book. Not my favourite part of the book at all.

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W.H.R. Rivers outside of Craiglochart Hospital

Regeneration is a thoughtful, sombre and sometimes a intense read. It’s a book that explores the mental state of soldiers affected by the Great War. It is a really good read and you do get invested in the characters. You are supporting them through their treatment and hoping they get better. You feel sorry for those who probably will not get better but are still remaining hopeful for them. I would recommend it to anyone especially those who are history fanatics and are interested in the First World War, but also to anyone who wants to give it a try. I have to warn you though, it is a book about a hospital with soldiers suffering from shell-shocked, it will be upsetting at certain times.

Apparently Regeneration is the first book in a trilogy. The second book is ‘The Eye in the Door’. Might have to go and find a copy of that soon.  Enjoy!

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out these hasty orisons.

-From Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

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The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini [Review]

“For you, a thousand times over.”

The Kite Runner. What a heartbreaking story.

It tells the story of Hassan and Amir, two friends who are as close as brothers and great at flying a kite. The two young boys live in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. The book starts with Amir, a grown man, living in America and through him we go back to when he and Hassan were 12 years old in Kabul. We get to know the way of life in Afghanistan, the local kite-tournament (a popular Afghan pastime) and how everything changes when war comes to Afghanistan and the country becomes a dangerous place. the kite runner

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant whereas Hassan is the son of their servant. Despite this, the boys are as close as brothers, both lost their mothers when babies and were nurtured by the same woman. Their fathers also grew up together and were as close as brothers. Hassan is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste, and usually gets a lot of abuse from other Afghan children especially Assef, a known bully amongst the children. Amir during this story commits an act of betrayal towards his friend Hassan, which will haunt him for the rest of his life and have to live with that guilt. During the war, Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan for America. Thus The Kite Runner becomes the story of Amir’s journey for redemption and a way to ‘set things right’. He has to return to Afghanistan to make ‘things right’ as it were. On this journey Amir makes new friends, reunites with old friends but also with old enemies.

The story is fast paced and never dull. When I started reading this story I could not put it down. I needed to know what will happen and will Amir ever find peace. I feel for Amir, love Hassan’s loyalty towards Amir and the sacrifices he makes for the family. I hate Assef and his horribleness. I want to shake Amir’s father and tell him that he needs to accept his son for who he is and to show him that he loves him. You get so much invested in the characters that you can’t do anything but read, read and read. We are introduced to the world of Afghan life, strange and fascinating and devastating when war breaks out.

The Kite Runner tells the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. It is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country torn by violence and war. A gripping and emotional story of betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. The Times have accurately stated that ”Khaled Hosseini  is a truly gifted teller of tales. He’s not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing”. It is a powerful novel that has become one of my treasured books, one-of-a-kind classic as others have described it. Definitely give it a read and see for yourself. I won’t lie, you will be heartbroken by the end and it will stay with you for a few days/weeks BUT it is so worth it. I even cried while reading it. Do put it on your ‘To Read’ list!

‘The shattering first novel by Khaled Hosseini… a rich and soul-searching narrative … a sharp, unforgettable taste of the trauma and tumult experienced by Afghanis as their country buckled’ (Observer)

‘A gripping read and a haunting story of love, loss and betrayal. Guaranteed to move even the hardest heart’ (Independent)

Trade Wind- M.M Kaye [Review]

”An enthralling blend of history, adventure and romance”

Not so long ago, I wrote a review about M.M. Kaye’s Shadow of the Moon. I did love that book, still do. After reading that my mum suggested Trade Wind. She guaranteed that I would love it also. By god she was right. Now I don’t know which one is better, Shadow of the Moon or Trade Wind? I cannot decide, they are both equally as good.

Whereas Shadow of the Moon was based in India during the Indian Revolution in 1856-7, Trade Wind is based in Zanzibar in 1859. Zanzibar was the last and largest centre of the slave trade. Hero Hollis, our main protagonist, is the niece of the American consul in Zanzibar and a passionate opponent of slavery. Her main mission is to travel from America to Zanzibar and try and stop the slave trade. Soon she involves herself in a revolt that sweeps the island, and then cholera breaks out.Trade Wind

A story full of action and drama. A book that I could not put down. Hero Athena Hollis is a handsome, courageous, wealthy American who travels to Zanzibar after her father’s death. Her journey to Zanzibar was anything but smooth. She finds herself caught in a storm and soon is thrown overboard, thought to be  dead by her fellow companions. She is then fished out from the harsh sea by a Captain Emory Frost. Rory Frost is scandalous, gun-runner and slave trader; everything Hero stands against. You want to hate him but you can’t. Rory delivers Hero to Zanzibar without realising what a beauty he has had on his ship, as Hero was battered, bruised and sick from her fall in the ocean. Probably for the best really! Once in Zanzibar, Hero finds herself joining a plot against the Sultan (with the best intentions as far as she is concerned)in order to throw him off the throne and his younger brother, Yabid Bargash, to take over.

M.M. Kaye’s story is rich in historical detail and background, the storylines have depth and scope. Kaye’s description of Zanzibar is just magical and so colourful. Images of an exotic paradise  of shimmering sand beaches, crystal waters, and perfumed with the scents of blooms and trees. But, there is also the horrible side of Zanzibar, that of squalor, filth and disease. When Hero arrives to Zanzibar she comes across with the sight of slaves being thrown overboard , being sold or just transported. She is horrified, and cannot believe a place as beautiful as this can be at the same time horrible and barbaric. The contrast between the eastern and western cultures is interesting and thought provoking. Hero soon comes to the conclusion that her noble mission to stop slavery might not be as simple as she hoped.

Hero can be seen as naive and spoilt. She thinks that she can change the world despite Rory Frost telling her it is not that easy. She soon realises that everything is not black and white as she originally thought and you get to see Hero mature throughout the book and gain a perspective that is more realistic. She becomes more open and warm. We also get to know Rory Frost’s background and the reasons that led him to be who he is and do what he does. Hero and Rory’s relationship is intriguing, and despite the fact that when you began reading the book, you could see their differences, slowly but steady you understand their attraction for each other and can see it developing into something more.

There is a particular scene in the book that a lot of readers were appalled by and in a way ruined the book for them. I am not going to say what the scene was in case I spoil it for anyone who wants to read this book but I will say this. I will acknowledge that this particular incident is very controversial, but for myself, I can see why M.M. Kaye put it in the story. If you think the context of the plotline, the time period  and maybe the motivation of the lead male character, I believe the action was well justified. I will be honest and say that when I first read this particular scene I was angry, frustrated and shocked. I did not know whether it would make me change my appreciation for the main male character. After thinking about it and when I read his reasons for doing so I could see the importance of ‘building of character’ and the necessity of it later in the story. However, I do understand if other readers will not agree with me.

The characters in Trade Wind are well drawn and some you hate and some you love. From the beginning of the book you know there is something strange with Hero’s fiancé, her uncle’s stepson, Clayton Mayo. He turns out to be exactly what you think and in some certain circumstances he will surprise you. Like in Shadow of the Moon there is always another female character who you dislike at the beginning but in the end turns out to be a respectable woman and a great friend to the main female character. After Rory Frost and Hero I think my favourite character would be Batty, a sailor on Captain Rory’s ship, who was a rogue through and through, but also has a heart. He is the loving uncle who would protect Rory as best as he could and tell him when he is being a scoundrel and wrong. The Sultan is also an interesting character. Rory Frost is his confidant and great friend and can manage to get away with a lot because of his connection with the Sultan.

M.M. Kaye has a beautiful way with words. Her knowledge of the far East shines throughout the book. She stays as historically accurate as she can and she does not hold back when it comes to the customs of Zanzibar, the slave trade and the cholera epidemic. Once again, just as she did in Shadow of the Moon, M.M. Kaye shows us how different the west and east are. How they both have completely different cultures and traditions and will probably never see things the same way. Trade Wind is a beautiful tale that will get you hooked from the first page. I would recommend to any historical fiction lovers, any M.M. Kaye lovers or to anyone who wants to try something new.

A Study in Scarlet- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Review]

”Truly you are brilliant Holmes!” -Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes series

I have always been intrigued about the Sherlock Holmes books. Part of me knew I would enjoy them but did not realise how much I would. I came across A-Study-in-Scarlet-by-Arthur-Conan-DoyleA Study in Scarlet on my bookshelf and thought it was about time I tried reading it. I was hooked from the first page. I did not put it down until it was finished. I think I even ignored my housemates for the day.  😛

A Study in Scarlet is the first book in the Sherlock Holmes series. It introduces readers to Dr. Watson, the intrepid chronicler, who is newly returned to London from the Afghanistan War after being shot in the leg. He is in search of a place to stay and through a mutual friend he meets the eccentric, nebulous Sherlock Holmes. Soon they both rent a room at 221B Baker Street. Watson learns who Sherlock really is and that he works as a consulting detective. A mystery case comes up and Sherlock Holmes is on the case with Dr. Watson by his side. A dead man is found in an abandoned house, no mark upon him, and no clues save for the word ‘RACHE’ written with blood on the wall.

Trivia for you: A Study in Scarlet was the first detective work of fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Trivia: A Study in Scarlet was the first detective work of fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Sherlock Holmes is a genius when it comes to clues and mystery, he plays the violin beautifully, but he is completely ignorant of other things- such as the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. “His Ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge.” Dr Watson once remarked.  In addition, Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric , sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. You cannot help but fall in love with his character and love him despite his many flaws. Watson’s witty and snarky (sometimes) comments about Sherlock Holmes are hilarious. You cannot help but laugh at his various observations for his fellow flatmate. He even writes a summary list of Sherlock Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses:

“1. Knowledge of Literature: Nil.
2. Knowledge of Philosophy: Nil.
3. Knowledge of Astronomy: Nil.
4. Knowledge of Politics: Feeble.
5. Knowledge of Botany: Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Knowledge of Geology: Practical but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
7. Knowledge of Chemistry: Profound.
8. Knowledge of Anatomy: Accurate but unsystematic.
9. Knowledge of Sensational Literature: Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.”

The mystery itself is great and very well done. Clues were presented at a regular pace and you found yourself turning one page after another until you discovered who the murderer was and how the crime was done. A good crime mystery is that there are a number of suspects, each have their own agenda and you don’t know who the real guilty person is until the very end. You won’t see the ending come, which is why I love this book so much. If you happen to have watched the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch I will say this; the first episode of the first series, A Study in Pink, is quite faithful to this book and maybe you won’t be surprised with who the murderer is  but the back stories are slightly changed so it is not as predictable as you might think.

After Sherlock Holmes apprehends the murderer, the entire narrative changes from Watson’s first person account to a third person omniscient. Conan Doyle does this in order to tell us the history of the murderer, his motives and his reasons. I have to say that I did not expect this and I did not know what to make of it, but I did enjoy this change of narration. I don’t think I have come across this in a novel (as far as I remember). I have read that some readers did not like this change and were struggling to get through the book as they missed Dr. Watson’s witty comments. However, I came to enjoy it and as wrong as this sounds I even felt sorry for the murderer. You get to hear both sides of the story as well as the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime. I liked that you got to read [in this book] about different cultures, different traditions in a different country in a completely different time; in this particular case it was about early Mormon settlements near Salt Lake City in 1847. There are some who believe that Conan Doyle was wrong to write this section of the books as he pictures Mormons in a very negative light. I will agree on that argument, when reading about the Mormons I did think that Arthur Conan Doyle was being harsh and maybe he had something against them? But then again this story was written and published in 1887. I did read somewhere that Doyle did state ” All I said about the Danite Band and the murders is historical so I cannot withdraw that”. Later on, his daughter added  “You know, father would be the first to admit that his first Sherlock Holmes novel was full of errors about the Mormons.” So whichever the case might be I am just going to focus on the fiction itself and not on the historical accuracy [which is surprising considering I am a Ancient Historian graduate and History fanatic!]

Overall, It is an incredible and good solid story with witty dialogue and fascinating character development.  Arthur Conan Doyle offers a story full of action, intrigue, and eerie suspense for any mystery-lover. Even Holmes’ arrogance and egotism is amusing and entertaining. A Study in Scarlet introduces us to Doyle’s most enduring character figure and one of the most iconic, strongest pairings in all literature. I thoroughly enjoyed A Study in Scarlet and I cannot wait until the next book in the series.

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“To a great mind, nothing is little.”

Lost Horizon- James Hilton [Review]

What a fantastic little story. The first time I ever came across ‘Lost Horizon’ was when I 71lMxC8oPCLwas looking at my mother’s books. This wee book caught my attention and I asked her about it. She told me that it is a lovely wee story set in Shangri-La and it involves a small group of people who after a plane crash find themselves in Shangri-La. She then stopped and just told me that I should read it and I will love it. Of course she was right. I am going to be honest, that it took me awhile before I could pick up ‘Lost Horizon’, I think I needed to be in a certain mood. I am glad that I finally picked it up. After finishing it I wondered why it took me so long to read it! Now that I have, I am happy.

It’s a magical story and a well-loved classic. Following a plane crash, Conway, a British consul; Millison,  his deputy;  Miss Brinklow, a missionary; and Bernard, an American financier find themselves in the enigmatic snow-capped mountains of uncharted Tibet. They soon discover a seemingly perfect hidden community where they are welcome with gracious hospitality. Soon though, our travellers set out to discover the secret which seems to be hidden in the heart of Shangri-La.

The book opens with our lead character, Conway, who is found in a hospital by a friend and has no memory of anything before he came to be there. His friend takes him out and puts him on a boat back to England. During their voyage, Conway happens to listen a man playing Chopin on a piano and after playing himself an unknown piece of music (which is clearly Chopin’s), remembers what happens to him. He then tells his friend and soon after we, the readers, get to hear Conway’s story through his own written manuscript.

Conway’s story is a wondrous tale, a tale that goes past any reason and it’s up to you whether you believe him or not. The story of what happened to Conway and his fellow companions is an extraordinary one. James HIlton’s ability to transport the reader into the magical world of Shangri-La is nothing less than beautiful.  Throughout this adventure we are introduced to interesting and well-crafted characters such as Chang; a postulant at the lamasery, who welcomes our travellers to Shangri-La, and the ‘all-mighty’ High Lama who Conway eventually meets (an un-heard honour) and is told the history of Shangri-La.

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley. Janelle uses this because Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, it’s seen as a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. This is the refuge that Cindi Mayweather needs to escape from Metropolis

A beautiful story set deep within the Himalayans, sits a mysterious place known only to a few as Shangri-La.

‘Lost Horizon’ is a story well written, thought-provoking and a pleasure to read. An enchanting little book that I think everyone should read if they get the chance. I have read various different reviews concerning this book and one statement has stuck with me. It was remarked that ‘Lost Horizon’ is ”the type of book written to make the reader to think”. I have to agree; even after finishing this book James Hilton made me wonder about this ‘lost’ world.  The ending is left open (in my view) letting the reader decide whether Conway’s memories were real or not, and what happened to him after the end of the book.

It is a lovely wee story and I will end this post but saying this; James Hilton put a smile on my face with ‘Lost Horizon’ and I was still smiling even after finishing the last page.

”We rule with moderate strictness and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste and moderately honest.” – Chang from Lost Horizon

A Tale of Two Cities- Charles Dickens [Review]

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

a tale of two cities2A classic, a very challenging one, but still a classic nonetheless. Charles Dickens sends us to France during the early days leading up to the French Revolution. I know some have tried to read and cannot get past the first 30 pages, but trust me it is worth it. Just power through and you will not regret it.

Charles Dickens once said that ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was his best story. I agree. It is artfully written and introduces a cast of characters, extended across two nations and spanning varied social classes and political associations. He then manages to weave their stories and secrets together beautifully in a masterful way –many readers seem to agree with this.  The ending of this novel wraps everything up magnificently with no  loose ends and all the mysteries are solved. It is a beautiful story and read.

The novel is broken into three books. The first book was short and covers the time when Lucie’s long lost father is released from Bastille prison after 18 years and does not know who he is but manages to reunite himself with his long lost daughter. The second book is the longest of the three and covers a good few years leading up to the French Revolution. The third book and final book is just fantastic. You get to read and feel the poverty that has risen , as well as the danger for the aristocracy. The dreadful Madame La Guilotine is introduced which is just an image of horror for everyone. ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is a brutal and insightful look at the French Revolution with all its heroes and villains and a clever twist at the end which will draw all the main characters together. It can be argued that it is one of the best novels on the French Revolution. It is a large work of imagination, giving a fictional account of the events and causes leading up to that dreadful summer of 1789.

You feel for many of the characters in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and each one is unique and different. Lucie Manette, the female protagonist, seems to connect every character together and inspire love from every direction. She is a likeable character and cannot help but sympathise with her. In a way, she is a heroine herself, at least she would be viewed as one back in 1859. I found Lucie engaging despite some people views about her. She was a strong character for the time and became the sole support for her poor father. Lucie Manette attracted two suitors who coincidentally looked quite alike; Charles Darnay , a French aristocratic who abandons his family name, and Sydney Carton, an English lawyer.  Charles Darnay is a likeable character. I have to admit I was set against him because he was Sydney’s competition when it came to Lucie’s heart but in the end I did sympathise with him. Disgusted with his family’s dealings and the way they treated the poor in France, he leaves for England and takes his mother’s maiden name and changing it a bit. He is well- meaning towards the end, trying to do the right thing and go back to France at a time when it was better to stay away and save a fellow family servant/friend. He is thus arrested and imprisoned in the Bastille. He does not have a hoped-for heroic moment, but a moment of quiet dignity that is most moving for his humility.

As far as Doctor Manette, Lucie’s long lost father, goes he is first introduced in the first 0bd1d2129b06ecd9199dbccdf5d8e4c0book of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. He was a prisoner in the Bastille prison for 18 years and throughout the book he battles his way from madness under the gentle protection of Lucie.  Doctor Manette is a character that you cannot help but sympathise with. His character is written wonderfully as a man whose understandable anger whilst in the Bastille prison comes back horrifically to haunt him and his new found peace. When the reader discovers the reason why Doctor Manette  was imprisoned in the first place, you instantly empathize with him and want to seek revenge for him.

The villain of the story — Madame Defarge. A very surprising character. At the start of the book you just think she is the wife of Monsieur Defarge, the owner of a French wine shop. You always see her knitting quietly in the corner and you soon come to suspect that she knows more than it seems and that she will become a big part of the story. How right your assumption turns out to be. We soon find out that she is part of the revolution against the aristocracy and a very vengeful woman. The big revelation of who she really is, is revealed in the third book of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and all of a sudden everything clicks into place. Madame Defarge is seen as the antithesis of Lucie Manette. She is the villain of the story as already stated, consumed with revenge and in a way not even human towards the end of the book as she is consumed by her hatred. She is one of the characters that sticks to you after reading ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

Before I begin to talk about Sydney Carton let me make a small mention of another character, that of the name Jarvis Lorry. Jarvis Lorry is a banker and a dear friend to the Manette family. Throughout the book, his love and concern for Doctor Manette is touching and his protectiveness over Lucie is just wonderful. He can be seen as a somewhat of a hero when Dickens puts him in charge of the carriage that will help an entire family escape from the guillotine.

'A Tale of Two Cities' book cover poster

‘A Tale of Two Cities’ book cover poster

Now as regards to Sydney Carton. Oh Sydney Carton! Safe to say that I fell in love with Sydney Carton immediately, and this book is so cruel for anyone who loves him as much as I do. Brilliant, bohemian and indifferent.  He is the ultimate hero of the book with his selflessness at the end. Half way through the book he confesses his love to Lucie even though he knows it will not be returned. He tells her to forget their conversation for now and never to speak of it and that he will ever be in her service if he is ever needed. When Sydney tells Lucie that ‘there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you” you know that you will break down in tears at the end of the book. Dickens is preparing you of what is about to happen in the next chapters. You have a feeling of what is coming.  His genius, his agony, his selflessness  and his ultimate noble sacrifice make his stand out from the rest of the characters.  The ending is so heartbreaking and I don’t think I am recovered yet after reading this. If you have not read the book or do not know how it ends stop here as a major SPOILER will be discussed. Sydney’s final thoughts and vision of Paris is fantastic; ‘fair to be look upon, with not a trace of this day’s disfigurement‘. His vision of Lucie with Charles now safe and would live happily and safe is heartbreaking and emotional. He knows that Lucie would remember that promise he made her back when he first confessed his love to her and thank him for what he is about to do. His sacrifice to save Lucie Manette’s love is just perfect. I believe that the ending is what makes the book. As sad as the ending is- trust me, it is devastating- it is a perfect ending to a book with the infamous words from Sydney Carton as well as one of the most well know phrases today. By the time I finished the book, I was in tears and did not recover for a good few hours.

A book full of love, sacrifice, and revenge. A story well written and worth a read. As I said at the beginning of this post, I know it can be slow to start with but it is worth reading all the way through. I know that Dickens is not for everyone; however, I would say to have a go and see what you think. He might surprise you as a writer. The unjust imprisonment of Charles Darnay makes up for the ironic justice dealt out to Madame Defarge in the end. And of course, Sydney Carton is one of the most beautiful characters in all literature I find and will always have a place in my heart.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

— K.J. Koukas

Timeline – Michael Crichton [Review]

The purpose of history is to explain the present–to say why the world around us is the way it is. History tells us what is important in our world, and how it came to be.
— Michael Crichton, Timeline

Michael Crichton was a brilliant man. He was a writer and a filmmaker, best known as the author of Jurassic Park and the creator of ER, which became the best-rated programme on US television.  I have to admit that I never realised that the creator of ER was the same person who wrote Jurassic Park, The Great Train Robbery, the 13th Warrior and Timeline. The day I realised he was the same person I loved him even more.  I love ER and re-watch it all the time. I love his books as well.

I recently finished ‘Timeline’ and I loved it. I had seen awhile ago a film adaptation of thistimeline1 book and it was an alright film. If I remember correct it starred Gerald Butler, Billy Connolly and Paul Walker. A watchable film but nothing special. When I started the book I could not put it down. I loved it and it was a million times better than the film as it is often the case with books and film adaptations. This can be one of the many examples to prove the long-time argument of what is better, books or films? BOOKS is always the correct answer!

Timeline tells the story of a group of historians in 1999 who are employed by a tech billionaire genius. His plan is to build a theme park featuring artefacts from a lost world revived via cutting- edge science.  Whenan old man wearing a brown robe is found wandering disoriented in the Arizona desert. He is miles from any human habitation and has no memory of how he got to be there, or who he is. The only clue to his identity is the plan of a medieval monastery in his pocket. So begins the mystery of Timeline, a story that will catapult a group of young scientists back to the Middle Ages and into the heart of the Hundred Years’ War.”

His writing is inviting, enticing, tempting, addictive and just brilliant. I was captured from the first page of ‘Timeline’. Michael Crichton is a great storyteller and manages to explain the science behind the story. This helps anyone who does not understand or gets physics and manages to grasp a basic idea behind the science of the whole scheme of the book.  ‘Timeline’  is not your average time-travel story. It’s very detail-oriented, and you find out soon enough that some of the characters have an agenda deeper than just wanting to go back and visit the medieval times.

The characters are rock solid and believable.  The good guys were likeable and the bad guys were really bad — and I know how that sounds but it is true. You don’t know who to trust once you’ve travelled back in the 14th century. You are hoping that you manage to find Professor Johnson before time is up. I cannot choose a character that stood out for me, as all of them have their little quirks, from Andre Marek with his love of archaeology and the 14th century to Chris Hughes who started out as the ‘weak bookish graduate student’ and turned into the robust, confident hero who comes in to save the day.

You know that Michael Crichton had done lots of research before writing ‘Timeline’ as his brilliant account of the world of 1357 takes you back to a ”time which seems thousands of years in regression of civilisation. ‘The suspense throughout the book is unpredictable, well-narrated and interesting”. You are always on your toes for the next disaster or mishap. From the in-depth descriptions of the ”war lords, the customs, the castles, the fortresses, the soldiers, the knights, the languages (from Occitan to Latin to old English and very old French)”, and the endless adventures which came upon our time travellers, you felt as though you were part of that world.

The premise was appealing, the action was gripping, the plot thickens as you read and the ending was dramatically satisfying. I loved ‘Timeline’ from start to finish. I would recommend the book to any science-fiction lovers as well as historical fiction fans. It is worth a read and you never know, you might even like Michael Crichton’s style of writing and get hooked with his writing like I did.

When I started reading this book I knew a little bit about physics, and the history of 14th century France. After ‘Timeline’ I am confident in telling you more about quantum foam, particles and various historical trivia about 14th century France. Crichton combines history(medieval) and science(quantum technology) in a heart-stopping adventure that you will never forget.

“If you [don’t] know history, then [you don’t] know anything. You [are] a leaf that [doesn’t] know it [is] part of a tree.”
― Michael Crichton, Timeline

Have also a look at : Michael Crichton: “Timeline”

— K.J. Koukas