Book Review: Memoirs of a British Agent by R.H. Bruce Lockhart

Memoirs of a British Agent by RH Bruce LockhartMemoirs of a British Agent became an instant international bestseller when it was published in 1932.  Robert Lockhart, the writer, was a British diplomat at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917.  He candidly reveals his thoughts and actions at this exciting and pivotal point in Russia’s history.

Okay, I’m probably making it sound like a boring history lesson.  But trust me, this is still a really good read all these years after publication.  Lockhart’s friendly, confiding tone gains your trust and makes you want to read on to discover what happened to him next.

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Book Review: The Mill by Mark West

The Mill by Mark WestThe Mill is, in essence, a story about grief.  Michael, the main character, has recently lost his wife and is understandably struggling to come to terms with a new way of life without her.  In this raw emotional state he is persuaded to join a support group of other widows and widowers.

This aspect of the book is straightforward enough.  The story is convincing and the writing is clear and descriptive without being gushy, which made it stand out from other, less subtle books I’ve read before which deal with pain.  It is an emotional tale, but one in which you sympathise with the characters without feeling guilt-tripped into pity.

However, there is more to this novella of just 76 pages.  Michael develops a recurring dream in which he hears his wife’s voice in a woodland clearing; he is sure he recognises the place but he cannot quite identify it.  He is unsettled by the dream, but is even more disturbed to find that he is not the only one to have dreamt of that same clearing…

Eventually he realises that the clearing is in fact somewhere he played as a child, close to a deserted house known as The Mill.  Why is he, and why are the others who have had the same dream, being drawn to The Mill?  What really happened there?

The Mill is an easy afternoon’s read, being so short.  I have to admit though that I would have preferred to find it as part of a collection of short stories, rather than a stand-alone book.  The conclusion I had suspected was in fact the correct one, but I still felt surprised because it seemed better suited to a short story than a novel.

I ended the book feeling a little disappointed, but only because I was left wanting more.  Perhaps it seemed shorter than it actually was because I’m a fast reader, I don’t know.  I thought that more could have been made of the ghost story – not possible in the space available, but maybe in a hypothetical extended version.

I did like West’s writing style, however and having found out that The Mill was previously published as part of an anthology called We Fade To Grey, I might consider buying this collection of his stories at some point.

You can find out more about The Mill here.

A tent that looks like a book. You heard me.

I wonder if you’re experiencing the same reaction I had.  A tent that looks like a book?  Wow, that sounds amazing!

Wait until you see it…

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Book Review: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch 22 by Joseph HellerThis book has quite the reputation.  It’s one which everyone says you “must” read, and the phrase “Catch-22” is instantly understood all these years after being written.  It was published in 1961 and follows the fate of a group of American soldiers based in Pianosa, an imaginary Mediterranean island, during the Second World War.

From the legend created around this book, I was led to expect a bizarre story filled with post-war satire; a clever observational comedy aided by the luxury of hindsight.  While in theory this sounded right up my street (i.e. history mixed with humour and an element of the surreal), any book which is this hyped-up always fills me with a dread of feeling let down, so I was a little reluctant to start reading it.

Luckily, this particular modern classic delivers.  The characters’ frustration at the illogical decisions and the incompetence of those in charge, plus the skilful wordplay between Yossarian and his friends, cleverly gained my sympathy and made me snigger – out loud in a couple of places.

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