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Granta 35: The Unbearable Peace
Granta 35: The Unbearable Peace
par Bill Buford
Edition : Magazine

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Uneven collection but with highlights, 26 février 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Granta 35: The Unbearable Peace (Magazine)
This spring 1991 edition highlights the curious mountain state of Switzerland, a diverse confederation with a unique form of direct democracy. Not a member of the UN, peaceful for hundreds of years, it has one of the largest standing armies in the world proportional to its population. The issue begins with John Le Carre (JLC)’s solid 66-page journalistic reconstruction of Switzerland’s biggest spy scandal, the case against Brigadier Jean-Louis Jeanmaire, accused of passing military secrets to successive Soviet military attaches posted in Bern. In 1977 he was sentenced to 18 years and served 12. After his release, aged 80, he welcomes JLC to his tiny flat to put the record straight. Despite much of the trial’s evidence shrouded in secrecy, JLC (a former GB-spy in Bern) reviewed Jeanmaire’s case anew. His conclusions and suspicions are startling and painful for the Swiss intelligence community and its judiciary.
More about the Swiss army thanks to venerable author Max Frisch, who debuted in 1940. His rhetorical dialogue with grandson Jonas was written in support of the YES vote ahead of a referendum on abolishing the Swiss army. It contains strong evidence about faulty army strategy in case of war and invasion, and startling WWII examples of the negative aspects of neutrality: hosting a miserly 9.600 refugees, selling arms to all sides, allowing goods and troops from Germany to cross by train to Italy, and worse. [A more sympathetic portrayal of the Swiss army is John McPhee’s “La Place de la Concorde Suisse” from 1983, which despite its ill-chosen French title, is remains in print in English.]
Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s speech to Vaclav Havel, John Berger’s musings on human nature in Basel’s zoo and Alex Kayser’s intriguing photo-essay on bankers and soldiers complete the Swiss section of GRANTA 35. Finally, who might buy this old issue? JLC has thousands of followers worldwide owning all or most of his novels. Many may be unaware of “The unbearable peace”. And because Max Frisch’s piece still holds relevance today.

The Little Drummer Girl
The Little Drummer Girl
par John Le Carré
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,98

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Playing in a 'fiction' in the theatre of the real, 14 février 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Little Drummer Girl (Broché)
This 1983 thriller deals with deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Europe with primitive bombs. The builder leaves his signature, an extra loop of wiring. Who is he? He is surely European-based and highly mobile. Not a loner, but supported and protected by highly professional teams.
JLC describes how Israel’s military usually responds and overrules its spies in case of a terrorist attack from across the border by simply targeting Palestinian refugee camps and buildings shielding suspects or their leaders from the air or sea. But these new bomb attacks happen in Europe, beyond the military’s reach.
Thus, a seasoned spy master and WW II survivor named Kurtz, is reluctantly given the nod to start a search on European soil for the bomb maker and his helpers. One of them is suspected to be his kid brother. How to catch a lion? By baiting him with a goat. Enters British activist actress Charlie (26). She has been observed and studied long before being recruited during a Greek holiday. But is recruitment the right word? How she is being prepared for her new role in the theater of the real is for readers to discover…
This remains JLC’s longest, most intricately-plotted, difficult and morally-challenging novel, requiring great concentration from readers, with his beautiful prose reaching lyrical levels when Charlie or Kurtz hold center stage. It is also a passionate account of the deep mutual hatred and anger of Jews and Palestinians and their histories of persecution and enforced displacement.
Finally, very rich in ideas and spy trade craft, perfectly plotted with many minor characters (Helga, Picton, Long Al, etc.) deftly portrayed, whereas the more central and truly complicated characters are drawn with great compassion. Thrilling to the last page. Highly relevant even today. Truly awesome.

House of Cards
House of Cards
par Michael Dobbs
Edition : Poche
Prix : EUR 7,91

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Entertaining book on British politics, 5 février 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : House of Cards (Poche)
US citizens’ trust in Congress (House of Representatives + Senate) has reached an all-time low. But the 2013 and 2014 series produced and broadcast by Netflix entitled “House of Cards” dealing with US politicians has won many prizes and is a great popular success. Was it because it confirmed or surpassed viewers’ worst fears and prejudices about politicians?
This review is about the book that inspired the Netflix series.
First published in the UK 1989 as a satire on Britain’s Conservative Party’s internal power politics and an anatomy of some of its parliament’s most sacred institutions and traditions. It is about the search for more power by MPs worrying about re-election. And about the strain on prime ministers to always have to outwit, dominate an unruly parliament at its weekly PM Question Time. This testosterone-laden arena guarantees plenty of intrigue and gossip, sucked up eagerly and disseminated with a vengeance by Britain’s gossipy newspapers.
This book charts Francis Urquhart’s climb to ultimate power. Being the Chief Whip, basically an enforcer of party discipline, with a staff of his own and based two doors away from No. 10 Downing Street, gave him a unique insight into the lives of his 330+ fellow MPs. With great finesse, he engineers a campaign to topple the PM, then eliminates one by one other contenders, always acting as an elderly statesman, manipulating in a sly and non-attributable way.
What makes this book a thriller is: will he succeed or will he be stopped? The author, a former member of Margaret Thatcher’s inner circle, was well placed to write this book. In 1990 the BBC serialized his book in four episodes, with a stunning performance by Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart.

The Folded Man
The Folded Man
par Matt Hill
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 12,90

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Hard to follow, 3 février 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Folded Man (Broché)
Matt Hill’s debut novel is hard to comprehend, enjoy or judge for readers from mainland Europe or elsewhere, maybe even beyond the Greater Manchester area. I struggled to make sense of its non-grammar, local idiom, street talk and too many weird sentences and dialogues without quotation marks.
It all begins in 2018 with Manchester in ruins, but why and after what? There is vague talk of past riots, bombings, anarchy. Main character Brian, the folded man of the title, is a repellent wheel-chair bound, fat and rich, much-decorated war vet (?) with one leg, now a drug addict. He still receives pay and weekly home care in a world in chaos. In Ch. 4, Brian is prepared for a spy mission in Yorkshire by his friend Noah, who runs a business empire in a bunker beneath a shoe shop. The pair survives the mission and returns safely, despite lots of mishap and violence. I gave up on p.102, when another outburst of delirious nonsense was gathering…
Describing a future world in chaos surely can justify a new way of writing. But why in a local English dialect? Am still curious what Matt Hill really wanted to say, but his excluding language use seriously limits his pool of readers and admirers.
Instead, why not read Mick Scully’s recent “The Norway Room” situated in Birmingham in 2007, another post-industrial location? A fast-moving, colourful novel about people living on the fringes of society too, much less hyped by British media, but a feast to read and enjoy and bond with (or nor) a rich cast of characters.

Stop Here: a novel
Stop Here: a novel
par Beverly Gologorsky
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 15,76

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Ingenious soap, 2 février 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Stop Here: a novel (Broché)
This ambitious novel could easily pass for a real-life account of the problems faced by countless small groups of friends and families in communities all over the US. It tackles many issues in a crowded, well-written novel that starts with a chaotic housewarming party at Murray (in his 50s)’s new grandly-decorated beachfront house. Former actress Silvie (41) is his first-ever wife (and the book’s most enigmatic character).
Murray’s busy diner on Long Island and its staff (cooks Bruce and Nick and three waitresses, Ava, Mila and Rosalyn) is the centerpiece of this mildly-depressing novel. Everyone has acute problems of some kind described in individual chapters relating to themselves or family members. There is depression, loneliness, fear and despair. In each chapter choices are made. Some relate to war: what if your 17-year old daughter is set to enlist to fight in Iraq? Or learn your son was whisked ‘like a stuffed animal’ from the National Guard to Afghanistan? Other choices concern growing old, catching cancer, living with and finally opening up about secrets.
This is a strong book written for women and with a hopeful ending. Its title is explained in its final chapter. It could have a double meaning relating to the author’s anti-war views. A rather challenging list of discussion points has been added to help reading groups.

par Elmore Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,14

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Attractive ex-nun inspires a spectacular act of retribution, 26 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Bandits (Broché)
EL (1925-2013) felt strongly about how badly illegal Hispanic farm workers were treated in the US. “Bandits”, published in 1987, well within Ronald Reagan ’s second presidential term, is perhaps his most political crime novel, with him taking sides in the conflict in Nicaragua between the Sandinistas, who ousted the Somoza regime in 1979 and the US-backed Contras, who waged a cruel, bloody guerilla war to seize power again.
War is costly, even the Contra kind, what with fighters at $ 23 a month, moving in bags of rice and beans, ammo and other supplies, paying bribes everywhere... Ex- Col. Dagoberto Rogoy is a well-placed fundraiser. armed with a personal letter from RR himself, he collects funds for the fight against communism from oil barons and other rich Republicans in Louisiana. Piece of cake, until he loses his cool about a former lover, implicating then threatening a reluctant assistant-mortician called Jack Delaney, a former hotel thief. A confrontation is inevitable. Jack enlists two buddies from Angola penitentiary, an ex-cop and a rusty bank robber (65). Why? To do what?
The less said the better for readers of this superb and totally satisfying crime story. It has a smooth-flowing, but quirky plot and believable characters, some of whose thinking EL inserts effortlessly into the narrative. Plus, as always, great dialogue, his cinematographic writing style and a completely unexpected, but laudable ending make him a superlative author once again. I rank “Bandits” in my Top Five of Elmore Leonard’s best books.

Cop Town
Cop Town
Prix : EUR 5,50

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2.0 étoiles sur 5 Liberal overkill and poor editing, 22 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Cop Town (Format Kindle)
Read only her “Martin Misunderstood”, a very funny novella indeed, before this annoying book with not a single character to sympathize or bond with.
Found the first 150+ pp of this crime novel set in 1974, truly shocking. It depicts the first working day of Kate (a young Jewish widow of a Vietnam fighter) facing the hazing and pinching, drinking on duty and racism, sexism and homophobia of Atlanta,GA’s police force. But it all really begins with a chaotic, early morning portrayal of the Lawson’s, a cop family living in a derelict house: Maggie and brother Jimmy wear uniforms; their horrible, hard-drinking uncle Sergeant Terry Lawson often intrudes on their breakfast. And uncle Terry has bad news: Jimmy’s partner Don was badly hurt during an ambush, Jimmy was unhurt and carried him twenty blocks to the nearest hospital…
Read this tale of police bigotry, planting evidence, free-loading, poorly following standard procedures and an excluding culture, with growing distaste. Midway, the quality of writing and plotting deteriorates with chatty, over-long chapters, irrelevant asides about the Lawson’s deaf neighbor, Kate’s family and her foolish falling for “Dr. Zipless”. Serious editors would have excised all of this, tempered the book’s relentless foul mouthing and improved on its messy showdown, now hard to follow or believe. And have checked if Amsterdam was really bombed to ruins in 1940. (It was Rotterdam…)
KS is a liberal after all, judging from remarks about poor women’s rights in 1974 Georgia and her closing chapters. But one with a sledgehammer touch. Am proud of myself to have read this ordeal of a book to the bitter end.
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Cat Chaser: A Novel
Cat Chaser: A Novel
par Elmore Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 14,54

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Languid, sentimantal love & murder drama, 14 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Cat Chaser: A Novel (Broché)
Elmore Leonard (EL; 1925-2013) wrote 46 crime novels, many situated in Detroit and Florida. Only a few took place (partly) abroad, in Somalia, Rwanda and now in the Dominican Republic (DR). “Cat Chaser” has a rich cast of colourful characters. Three have a military background: two were US soldiers serving in different forces during a brief invasion of DR in 1965. The third is the ex-security chief of Dominican dictator Trujillo (killed with 27 billets in 1961), general Andres La Boya, a legendary sadist. Who made good after his 1961 narrow escape to Florida and is worth 40-50m USD when the book starts around 1981, 20 years later. Despite many security measures, he remains a target for extortion or worse...
What else to say without giving away the plot? There are several more colorful major and minor characters, incl. Andres’ irresistible third wife Mary and a brilliantly-planning mob enforcer with an Irish name. All characters, incl. the losers are beautifully portrayed. Also loved the talks between ex-Marine George Moran, owner of a small seafront motel and his alcoholic paying guest, ex-Airborne Nolen Tyler. Who probably caused Moran’s being medivaced back in 1965.
As usual in EL’s books, the field of competitors for high and low rewards and outcomes, thins out to leave just two finalists, with dead bodies everywhere, but not incrementing the eventual victor too much, being this story’s underdog throughout. EL’s ending is more open than hoped for by his many fans, who must have yearned for an Epilogue. But EL does not did Epilogues, he rather kept readers guessing.
Once more, rich background, superlative plotting, stunning writing and great dialogues.

Calico Joe
Calico Joe
par John Grisham
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 7,99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Warning for European fans, 13 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Calico Joe (Broché)
John Grisham (JG) has tens of thousands of fans in Europe reading his creations in English or in translation. But this book will confuse and disturb many, esp. female readers, whilst French, German, etc. translations are unlikely to appear (unlike possible Spanish, Korean or Japanese versions). Why? Because it deals with baseball and baseball is no big deal in Europe. Only Italy and the Netherlands have a longish baseball tradition with promotion/relegation leagues and a small fan base.
So it is useful to understand the game, its rules and rich vocabulary before buying this riveting tale about the lives of (fictional) veteran pitcher Warren Tracey (34; NY Mets) and (fictional) upstart slugger Joe Castle (21; Chicago Cubs) and their fateful encounter in late August of 1973. The story is told by Warren’s son Paul more than thirty years after the event. Also, thirty years since he played or watched a game of baseball himself. He was 11 when it happened and a great fan of Joe Castle, a newcomer (‘rookie’) making an instant impression, breaking record after record. He also describes his feelings about his awful, philandering, hard-drinking and indifferent father, who adheres to old codes about pitchers’ honor.
Watching with his mother in Shea stadium the duel between his dad and his hero Calico Joe, little Paul is the only fan to see it coming, knowing his dad too well… The rest is for readers to enjoy and devour, because this is a superbly plotted- and written tale of lifelong shame for father and son. This reader expects much debate by fans about how Grisham concluded the tale. But he imagined a story and told it well.

Mr Majestyk
Mr Majestyk
par Elmore Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 9,59

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Deadly Duel, 7 janvier 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Mr Majestyk (Broché)
Two tough men escape from a prison bus. One is Frank Renda, a mob killer suspected of ten murders, but the police has never succeeded in putting him away. His associates attack the bus, and off they go, with another prisoner behind the wheel, Vincent Majestyk, a melon farmer with a Ranger instructor background. From then on there is plenty of conflict and violent action, with Renda continually underestimating the near bankrupt melon farmer.
Timing is of the essence in this fantastically written and paced crime novel. Is Renda still the cold planner and executioner? Are Mr. Majestyk’s old skills, last practiced in Laos, still intact? Speaking of time, both men are in a hurry to deal with the other terminally: Renda is driven to distraction by the quiet farmer. Mr. Majestyk has only a week left to harvest his melons, or go bust…
Adapted from his own Hollywood script, with Charles Bronson playing Vincent Majastyk. Great little book.

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