Reporting on Middlesex

Thanks in advance for the three reviews from away. Much appreciated and very thorough and well expressed.

I speak to the additional comments rendered tonight by a solid 5 members.
The overwhelming impression in both advance and at the meet was to the length of Middlesex. This is not a novella nor a short read. It’s full of deep description and a thick narrative streams. Two members shared that they had not yet completed the novel and so rendered incomplete evaluations – challenged by the length. Continue reading

Report on the Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker

Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker received a somewhat lukewarm response from the group. It promised much and was received with great promise when chosen in December. As timing would have it, all seemed to have taken advantage of the extra time afforded to make it through the book and it benefited from being over Christmas where such a luxury was possible.
One of the overarching observations related to the general structure of the book, which appeared tightly written for the first few chapters (largely around Rickman and some of the other personages involved in census affairs) was that it lost track of structure over the run of the book and was all over the map as it went on.

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Theo Aronson’s Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes

Theo Aronson’s latest work, Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes, explores the personal relationships between Queen Victoria, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France. It opens a wide window on a colourful and somewhat surprising series of encounters between monarchs that influenced relations and perceptions of each other in the eyes of the public. The Second Empire re-established Napoleonic aspirations in France and rekindled a sense of glory and elan superbly captured by Aronson. The revanchist ideals of the Bonapartist dynasty represented all that the British royal family should have been threatened by, yet a lasting (although sometimes fraught) personal relationship was established that influenced Anglo-French political relationships.

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Report on Love of Country

A small but cosy crew enjoyed a discussion around Madeleine Bunting’s offering at the Waterloo Bar last week. The book on the table was Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey.
Thanks in advance for advance reviews from Brian and Declan. The general view was in line with your fine observations.
Much appreciated were the parallels (language, culture) between the Hebrides and Ireland and for providing an entrée into unexplored aspects of Scottish/Highland/Hebridean history and culture. Most felt that Bunting did a very good job of weaving together tales from a journey with a rich background of cultural, historical and geographical points of interest.

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Random Report on Sourdough

It’s almost a year to the day since I happened to stumble upon Annabel Scheme and spent the day engaged and enthralled.
I was already a huge fan of Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore/Ajax Penumbra 19691 and – if it’s any mark of appreciation for this superb author’s capabilities – I accidentally read Sourdough straight through today after it magically appeared on my Kindle this morning (I pre-ordered it a few weeks back). This is becoming a bit of a habit now. Continue reading

Report on the Lost Book of the Grail

Thanks for tonight. A stalwart crew and I wanted to get this back to you so we can plan for the busy next two months. Thanks in advance to Joe of his comments.
The Lost Book of the Grail was generally well received and as Joe noted ‘good but but great’ seems to have really summed up the wider club’s appreciation of the tome. I do think (and hope) that it was widely enjoyed and that the skilful weaving of time back and forth over 1000+ years of history was notable.

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Report on the Descent of Man

Thank you for what was again an engaged and free flowing discussion around The Descent of Man. Thanks Brian in advance for sending along your own evaluation.  Your thoughts well expressed and seemingly consistent with much of the discussion on Thursday.
There was general appreciation of the book and I am in a bit of an awkward posiion her as the low score outlier attempting to present a balanced report. It was a fine choice of a read if only for engendering engaged and lively discussion .

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Embracing Complexity. Craving Simplicity

More a caution than a critique, I was fascinated and left to ponder Peter Liu’s time-based spatially informed map presented in the MapBox Blog this week. I think that the concept is absolutely sound and the implementation is skilful, thoughtful and very efficient. It’s an impressive conceptualisation of how to rethink data representation for a particular decision-making process. That being said, it is probably important to realise that it calls for considered appreciation of the thought behind it and how we can take advantage of interactive way finding technology and not lose sight of the varied ways we get from A to B. Liu’s blog post is a very well articulated explanation of the thinking behind the reconnection and we need more of this sort of thing. But it raises some serious questions about technological dependence and critical engagement with the data we rely on today. Continue reading