Flash Reviews (21st January 2014)

Crow by Ted Hughes ***
In December, I made my boyfriend a bookish advent calendar, where he had one book to open each morning.  It proved a roaring success, and is something which I will be doing every year from now on.  Crow was the only poetry book which I selected for him, and he read it so quickly that he was able to let me borrow it almost immediately.  I liked the idea of the central theme of the crow as a character, and of course, I always love the way in which Hughes uses words, and how he arranges them in certain ways.  The collection presents an incredibly dark series of poems, all of which deal with destruction in some way.  It is a peculiar little book in its content, and is not my favourite of his works so far, but it is certainly very memorable.

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A Brief History of the Vikings by Jonathan Clements ****
I am obsessed with Scandinavia, and when I spotted this in a fabulous little Cambridge bookshop a few weeks after my most recent visit to the Jorvik Viking Museum in York, I just had to buy it.  I loved learning about the Vikings at school, and wanted to expand my knowledge of them, something which I feel I have certainly been able to do with the aid of this volume.  A Brief History of the Vikings is absolutely fascinating.  It is coherent and very well written, but sadly it is not as well edited.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the Vikings or in Scandinavian history as a whole, and will certainly be seeking out more of the ‘A Brief History of…’ books.

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‘The Doves of Venus’ by Olivia Manning

The Doves of Venus by Olivia Manning ****
This is one of the books on the Virago Modern Classics list which I have been most looking forward to reading.  I have heard such marvellous things about Olivia Manning’s work, and thought that a novel with such a wonderful title as this would be a great one to start with.  April very kindly sent me a copy of the book, and I could not wait to begin it.

The Doves of Venus tells the story of eighteen-year-old Ellie, ‘pretty’ and ‘brave’, who has ‘come to London in search of adventure’.  From the outset, Manning describes her affair with well-to-do older man Quintin Bellot.  Her descriptions are beautiful, and she sets the scene so well from the very first page.  As a protagonist, I really liked Ellie.  Her determination to live alone in a strange city at such a young age was very admirable, really.  It was nice to see that she constantly tried to achieve all of her dreams, even if they did not quite turn out as she might have expected, or hoped.  The third person perspective worked marvellously well, and nothing of Ellie’s character was lost as a result of its having been used.  The Doves of Venus is such an absorbing, believable and well done novel, and I was sucked into the world of 1950s London immediately.

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