Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My holiday reading books

As it's still the peak holiday period (just), thought I'd share my holiday reading from this summer. As a child and a young adult I used to read prodigiously but now I'm older (ahh) and seemingly working more hours, it's all I can do to keep up with the post each day and a couple of computer magazines - I'm usually way behind on reading my emails for instance.

Holiday time is just about the only opportunity I get to actually sit down and read a book.

This year I read two books on holiday, The Midden by Tom Sharpe and The Bear and the Dragon by Tom Clancy.

I read The Midden first and like Amazon's review of The Midden, I wasn't overly impressed by it. I quite like Tom Sharpe and his early books are an absolute scream that you just can't stop laughing when reading (e.g. Rioutous Assembly, Ancestral Vices or Wilt). This one has the same madcap characters and farcical situations but I found most of it was fairly predictable and there was only a few momments where I smirked at the humour. Not Mr Sharpe's best IMHO, but still overall a fairly enjoyable read.

Next up was (or should I say IS?, because at 1136 pages I'm still reading it - up to page 783 so far) The Bear and The Dragon.
Tom Clancy's also written some excellent books (The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, Red Storm Rising, etc) and I've always been impressed by the way he weaves together a complex story and brings in loads of insights as to modern warface and chain of command.

In some respects TBATD is similar, there are several different threads of the story (plot to kill the chairman of the GRU, Jack Ryan as US President, mineral discoveries in Russia, Political issues in China, etc) and they way they're weaved together is as usual very clever with dipping between the different story lines. However the book is way way way too long (I liked one review on Amazon that advised "If you must read this book then only start on page 773 as that's where the action starts" and it feels like it could have done with a bit of an editor's cut.

As usual (for Clancy) the American's are portrayed as the Hero's and everyone else gets relegated (the Chinese are portrayed as dumb and sexist and the Russians as being wannabe capitalists).

Don't get me wrong, I do like the book, it's got a good story line, it feels comfortable as Clancy has built the story around many of his characters from previous stories (although it does feel at times like a bit of a contrived reunion), and the way that parts of the story are built together is excellent (e.g. a CNN news reporter ends up filming a Papal envoy getting shot by the Chinese police causing US citizens to abandon buying Chinese products and thus tipping them towards war with Russia).

Amazon's reviews of The Bear and The Dragon on Amazon are mixed. Some people liked it but equally some people that have given it a poor review.

Me ? I'll keep on to the end now, only 300ish more pages to go and the story is supposed to improve towards the end.

Once I've finished with the books I'll leave them on the bookshelf in our Brittany Holiday Gite so guests can read them whilst they're staying. If you want to form your own opinion then you're welcome to come and stay and read them yourself!

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