Monday, 29 April 2013

"D-Day" Critique by Mr. Gray

The book "D-day" by Antony Beevor is available in the library.

The eminent historian Antony Beevor has written graphic descriptions of the siege of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin, but this most recent documentation of the Battle for Normandy in 1944 and the relief of Paris, is, for me, his most successful work.  It lacks nothing of the narrative power of “Berlin”, of strategic vision and folly, of acts of heroism and of cowardice, of conflict amongst allied Generals, of the singleminded professionalism of the German army, and of the insanity of their interfering leader, Adolf Hitler, but this is more than a pacy read; it is a detailed analysis of the strategies of the allied government, of the responses of the occupying forces and of the impossibility of fighting a war on two fronts as Napoleon had also found.  The success of the allied offensive was largely due to superiority in the air since the Luftwaffe were otherwise engaged on the eastern front and, initially, to astonishing naval barrages which could bring about enormous destruction at a distance of twenty miles.  In the end, sheer force and weight of numbers demoralised the German army, but one is struck in reading the book, by the enormous waste of life caused by poor decision making or by the petty egos of Commanders and Generals.  The role of the French in 1944 is presented with some ambivalence.  The French resistance, fanatical and effective, take much credit for breaking the German supply lines; French civilians (150,000 lost their lives in six months) were surprisingly understanding of loss of their loved ones and of the places in which they lived that were razed to the ground.  Yet their numbers were sown with collaborators, traitors and cowards, who were treated, once towns and villages were relieved by the allies, with singular brutality and a form of anarchic law which often goes with war.  The French leaders, De Gaulle and LeClerc, are presented as shrewd operators, desperate to take Paris in advance of the communist wing of the Resistance, but they are also seen to be egocentric, dismissive of the allies, the peacocks of wounded pride, as much as visionary or responsible leaders.  At times the enmity between Montgomery, who is shown to be scarcely competent, and the American General Bradley, equally cautious, makes the reader wonder if the allies were as much at war with themselves as they were with Germany.  General Patton is seen as the leader of the American Forces whose dynamic approach and trenchant directness of purpose ensured victory.

Overall the book reflects the tragedy of war, the displacement of citizens, the indiscriminate death of men, women and children and the ugliness as well as the nobility of human nature.  It provides a piercing insight into the human condition and brings glib statements about an era, not much beyond our own lifetimes, into sharp focus through its grasp of the big picture as well as of its tiniest detail.

For anyone who has an interest in history, politics or people, this is a work which must be read. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Critique of "London Under" by Mr. Gray

The book "London Under" is available in the library.

This book is a short but fascinating study of the evolution of London from Roman times until the present day by an examination of the world beneath a Londoner’s feet.  By examining the layers of earth which uphold London, Peter Ackroyd is able to uncover the changing role, status and activities of the UK’s capital city over many centuries and reflect the country’s status, initially as a vassal state until the early twentieth century as a hugely influential imperial power.  Later we see Britain under attack during the Second World War and more recently as a modern first world country embracing new technologies which govern our everyday lives.

Ackroyd looks at archaeological remains; underground rivers which have been suppressed or diverted into drainage systems, such as the Fleet; at the sewage system; early attempts to cross the Thames by tunnelling; the establishment of the tube (the London underground) the 150th anniversary of which inception is this year, 2013, and cabling and pipework systems.  He looks at how names of places, monuments and churches are  influenced by the life underground, by wells and sources and by spiritual qualities associated with them and points out that the names of many tube and railway stations have religious or other spiritual connotations in consequence: King’s Cross, Temple, Charing Cross, St Pancras, Marylebone, Shadwell, Bayswater.

This book is a fascinating, entertaining and informative work of history and I can recommend it to anyone from S3-S6 with an interest in British history, in London, in Geography or in Social Anthropology.  You will not be disappointed. 

Mr. Gray.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Foul Play

Foul Play is available in the library. This review was written by Euan Watson
Lately, I have been reading a book called Foul Play. The novel is about a boy called Danny who wants to become a detective and he is obsessed with crime books and detective movies. Danny is also a very big fan of his local football team City, especially the star player Sam Roberts, City and England’s top goal scorer.
At the start of the novel Danny was onto a case involving a number of burglaries in the area. He was trying to film two men burgling a warehouse but as he was filming, they caught sight of him. Luckily he got away by the skin of his teeth but will they come back to haunt him?    
When Danny finds out his legendary hero is kidnapped, he is on the case straight away and using the skills of all the movies he has seen. Will he be able to save Roberts in time for the World Cup so he can use his magic for England? Is the “Sam Roberts” dilemma and burglars connected? You will have to read to find out!
I think the novel is a very exciting, extremely gripping and fast paced.  I would recommend it for any age but especially for early teens.
The novel was shortlisted for “the book I couldn’t put down” award, which isn’t very hard to believe because I just couldn’t stop reading it!
Foul Play is a very good story and an extremely clever novel and I hope if you read it you will feel the same way about it as I do.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Rule of Four

The Rule of Four is available in the library. This review was written by Tom Dean in second year.

The Rule of Four is an engrossing novel that describes fictitious events, but is based upon a real piece of renaissance literature. It follows four students at Princeton University as they attempt to solve the riddles of the Hypnertomachia Poliphili, a cryptic text that has remained unsolved for over 500 years, and describes the hidden tale that they uncover as they delve deep into a dark renaissance secret. It also focuses upon the difficulty of balancing friendships and the struggle to discover priorities.
Having also read the Da Vinci Code I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the two books, as both of them are built around shocking claims and historic conspiracies. Yet I felt that although The Rule of Four is without doubt a much slower paced novel than the Da Vinci Code it has a much deeper plot and is captivating in a different sense, but still if you enjoyed the Da Vinci Code you will definitely enjoy this!

“The Da Vinci Code for people with brains.”
 The Independent.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tunnels Review

This review is by Moses Stubbs in Second Year. The book and series is available in the library!

The book “Tunnels”, written by joint authors Roderick Gordons and Brian Williams, was first self-published in 2005 under the title “The Highfield Mole, Circle in the Spire” but was renamed “Tunnels” to represent the editing in the book in 2007. It is the first in a series of five, the last being not yet published.

The main character is a fourteen year old boy, Will Burrows. He lives in Highfield in the south of England with his father, the Curator of the local museum, his mother, a screen addict who spends all day in front of the telly and his twelve year old sister Rebecca, who runs the home. Will’s father, Dr Burrows, often goes out on digging trips, archaeological digs for underground long-since buried train stations and such like. Will enjoys accompanying him on these trips and together they have a large collection of old antiques like show tickets from 1932 and ration billets from the Second World War. It is a fairly dull life for Will and the book has had a few complaints for its slow and lengthy start. And then Dr Burrows begins to notice a few things out of place in Highfield. Strange “men in hats” appear and he finds that some of the building structures are not quite right. Then a strange glowing artefact finds its way to Dr Burrow’s museum desk and there is the suggestion of something deeper. Suddenly Dr Burrows goes missing and as Will and his school friend Chester Rawls attempt to find him, they find that they too are dragged down into a huge secret that extends right to the deepest levels of the earth.
An exciting novel. It is well written and is very hard to put down. It is also very surprising and the end is quite unexpected. “Tunnels” is a great book and is aimed at boys from 12-17. It will make you desperate to pick up the next in the series!