Sunday, May 9, 2021

To Hell and Back

To Hell And Back: The Banned Account of Gallipoli's Horror by Journalistand Soldier Sydney LochTo Hell And Back: The Banned Account of Gallipoli's Horror by Journalistand Soldier Sydney Loch by Sydney Loch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title says it all.
In November 1914, a young Australian volunteer was sent to fight in Europe in the I WW.
Firstly he landed in Egypt, after few months his contingent was transferred to Turkey. On 25th of April 1915 they disembarked on the coast in, what was later called, ANZAC Cove.
Amazingly honest and sincere report of daily life in Gallipoli trenches.
Here I have to distance myself from the book.
My point is, that I did not receive it as a book, as a story.
In my opinion, there is no story. The author reports, day after day, his small experiences, and they are small - deliver a message, find a colonel, wait, wait.
This is punctuated with observation, that someone fell and did not raise.
So, from this point of view, I can't honestly say - I liked it, or recommend to someone.
I just appreciated it very much.
As the title explains, the book was banned in Australia when authorities realized it is not a fiction.
It contains notes on the history of publishing the book and on life of Sydney Loch, which was much, much more than one military campain.
In this context I consider it as a very important reading.

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

My impression - no story about nobody.
One of the first lines characterizes him well - Asked to state his occupation, he replies, “It is not the business of a gentleman to have occupations.”
Sentenced by Soviet regime to idle life in the hotel, he lives idly and on random occasions shows his "class". End of story.
Sorry (relief for me), I put the book away after some 45 pages.

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Spy who loved

The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine GranvilleThe Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville by Clare Mulley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a hard read for me.
I classify it as a thoroughly presented biography and a number of times I wondered whether it was a proper way for presentation of such a haphazard life.
Christine Granville, real name Krystyna Skarbek, was born into Polish aristocratic family.
Her father, Jerzy Skarbek, to rescue family finances, married a daughter of Jewish bankers. It looks like he was not suitable for family life.
They had 2 children, but after the end of Great War, Jerzy realised that the times of great Polish untamed landlords ended so he spent the rest of his life in casinos all over Europe.
Krystyna looks to me like a copy of her father.
Never decided for a stable career path, tried few temporary jobs and when her finances took a bad turn followed steps of her father - married a rich Jew.
The marriage did not last long and then it looked that she met a match - Jerzy Gizycki, equally untamed Polish gentleman.
Unfortunately a breakout of the II WW did not give them a chance to try to share life. Jerzy enrolled to Polish army in France, Krystyna to British intelligence, which sent her to the post in Hungary where she could cooperate closely with Polish Resistance.
Here it came a diffilult time for Krystyna and for the author.
The nature of working as a spy close to the frontier, is not to be noticed.
So, how to wear off boiling energy?
So what to write about?
Clare Mulley chose to mention many, many, fragmented reports about Kristina's activities.
Reading them was frustrating and tiresome for me, but I appreciate honesty of the author. I appreciate also her insight into quite complicated history of Poland and of it's resistance network in the early stage of German occupation.
Long list of minor facts is punctuated with some dramatic events like crossing border to Poland, being arrested by Germans, escape from Hungary and landing in Middle East.
And there is a parallel story - contacts with men on whom Kristyna has a magic influence.
Again, Clare Mulley chose a tactfull and honest way of reporting this side of Krystyna's life.
Stay in Middle East lasted almost 3 years and it was extremely frustrating time for Krystyna who was boiling with energy and will to help her country. On the other hand it was time when world leaders had to make decisions on which life of millions peoples depended and unfortunately these decisions were devastating for Poland.
In 1944 Krystyna eventually is send on the front line - south of France, where she shines as the most effective secret agent.
And then the war ends and she becomes a troublesome person for all parties involved.
France under general de Gaulle wants to forget about years of its weakness, all British agents are requested to leave within 24 hours.
Poland, free Poland, does not exist.
England has to bring its life to normality, Krystyna with her checkered life becomes a trouble.
On the personal front it goes even worse.
Krystyna is in touch with a number of men, who dream of spending the rest of life taking care of her, but it looks like she instinctively knows, that she will not fit into regular family life.
And so her life ends abruptly.
It left me, the reader, extremely sad and disappointed.
I can imagine a book which would dramatise Krystyna; story in a way, which could satisfy the reader, but I appreciate honesty of the author, who chose the hard but true way.

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Saturday, March 13, 2021

I was Vermeer

I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest ForgerI Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Forger by Frank Wynne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had known the story of Han van Meegeren quite well, read about it on a number of web pages and from a number of perspectives, so I did not expect much of this book - just a recollection of known stories.
I was very pleasantly surprised.
Yes, it was the same story, but very nicely structured and paced.
It very smoothly covered areas of history of art, painting (and forging) techniques and private life of the main character.
I checked the information about the author.
Looks that his main profession is translation.
How right - I thought.
What is translator's job?
Making a copy of a piece of art using material of quite different kind.
Well done :)

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Putting the Boot in

Putting the Boot inPutting the Boot in by Dan Kavanagh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Story about...
Sorry, but I have not found any story.
Just some deliberations on troubles of a very average 3rd division soccer club.
There is some glimpse of a criminal affair, but generally it is no attraction for me and in this case I had not enough patience to wait for solution.
Gave up after some 110 pages.

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Thursday, February 4, 2021

The missing hours

The Missing HoursThe Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My feeling for this book changed few times.
From curiosity to being annoyed, to despair and willing to stop reading it, to finding funny side of the story and finally to some appreciation of author's effort.
What was funny?
At some stage I came to conclusion that the sister-brother team of detectives are just sloppy bureaucrats, who are spending time on reading irrelevant stories.
Actually I was wondering - what they were doing all that time?
There are numerous mentions how late it is, how tired and hungry they are, but not a hint what actually they were doing all that time?
Another point was, that I got impression that they missed few essential steps in their investigations and it looked to me that certain Olivier, who expected to be promoted to position now taken by one of main characters, woud have done the job much better.
I have to acknowledge lots of effort of the author to make the story very complicated and confusing. She succeeded - I was confused and had no will to go back and verify and cross reference facts and events.

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

TheComfort of Strangers

The Comfort of StrangersThe Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If the book has been written by some other author, probably I would have put it away after 10 pages. Because it was Ian McEwan, I put it away less than 30 pages before the end, when I realized it will become unbearable.
In the first pages I gave some credit to the author as his detailed observation of each detail in behaviour of two main characters built some tension and awoke hopes that there will be some conclusion.
But when it reached a terribly long, detailed story from the childhood of Robert, a person met accidentally in the street, I lost any hope.

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