Do not read these famous books

book cover

I know this is going to open a can of worms, or perhaps a barrel of rattle-snakes, but it needs to be said: do not read these famous books. One thing all these books have in common is that they are too long. If they were excellent, fascinating, educational, absorbing on every page they would not have a problem. But most readers find they are not any of those things. I have read all but one of these books, and while they are talked about in literary circles, and are on lists of Must Read Books, few people ever finish reading them. Some people would hint that you are “artistically impoverished” if you have not read these books. Do not believe them. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy This is one of the longest novels ever written. The version I read contained 1500 pages of tiny print. The story: Napoleon Invades Russia, Napoleon retreats in disarray. It is not a difficult book to read, and it is mildly interesting. But it is going to take months of reading, and probably you will feel it was not worth the journey. If it was a shorter book, it might be worth the time… Continue reading

Sheba’s Vow

Sheba's Vow, book cover

SHEBA’S VOW is a novel about the struggle for democracy on a “South American” island. South Chale is ruled by a military dictatorship that has divided the country into four different racial groups, each strictly segregated. On South Chale, Asians rule the nation, while whites and blacks are treated as a subservient subclass. Sheba is born into the most despised class of all, the mongrels, for the mongrels blur the differences between the races. After seeing her father persecuted by the State Security Police, Sheba vows to work for the overthrow of the dictatorship Their neighbouring island (Suntos) has become communist, but here things are reversed—it is the blacks who rule over the whites and Asians. When Sheba visits Suntos to investigated whether they should seek the assistance of Soviet advisors, she finds a horror that is beyond anything she could have imagined. Sheba travels to Los Angles to try and gain American support against the dictatorship, but quite suddenly the dictator dies and there is a power struggle among the generals to appoint themselves President-for-life. Sheba returns home and becomes involved with the Democracy Movement. During the desperate fight for the presidency between the State Security Police and the… Continue reading

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch, book review

A severed head book cover

This novel, published in 1961, is largely about relationships between English academics in London. There is a mix of people, an American psychotherapist, a wealthy wine producer, Martin, who relates the story, his artistic brother, a London School of Economics lecturer, and the mysterious Honor Klein, half German and not to be trifled with. Before long we find the characters in a turmoil of adultery, deception, and infidelity, which gets messier with every page. A Severed Head, is interesting and worthwhile to read. Don’t be dissuaded by the title: the severed head in question is a metaphor, not real. The novel is basically about confused adultery between the seven characters, none of whom are truthful to anyone, least of all themselves. The protagonist, Martin, years into his affair with a much younger LSE lecturer, is shocked and disgusted to discover his wife has been having an affair with her psychiatrist for months. Martin does not even confess his affair after his wife tells him about her affair. He hides it, to make sure she feels guilt, and this allows him to hold onto hope that she might not leave him, which after all could be inconvenient. He doesn’t seem to… Continue reading

Best Australian books

A_Fortunate_Life

 A FORTUNATE LIFE,  A.B. Facey A Fortunate Life is an autobiography by Albert Facey, published in 1981, nine months before his death. It chronicles his early life in Western Australia, his experiences as a private during the Gallipoli campaign of World War I, and his return to civilian life after the war. It also documents his extraordinary life of hardship, loss, friendship and love. During the initial days of its publication, Albert Facey became a nationwide celebrity. Despite his renowned life, Facey considered his life to be simple and “had no idea what all the fuss was about”. When asked on an interview, where the name of the book originated. He replied, “I called it ‘A Fortunate Life’ because I truly believe that is what I had”. After its great reception it has become a classic piece of Australian literature and is one of Australia’s most beloved books. Since its publication in 1981 it has become a primary account of the Australian experience during World War I. Buy paperback from Penguin books ISBN-13: 978-0140081671   GALLIPOLI,  Alan Moorehead When Turkey unexpectedly sided with Germany in World War I, Winston Churchill, as Sea Lord for the British, conceived a plan: smash… Continue reading