Dogs in Medieval Manuscripts by Kathleen Walker-Meikle (Review)

Dogs in Medieval Manuscripts by Kathleen Walker-Meikle

Blurb

Throughout the Middle Ages, medieval manuscripts often featured dogs, from beautiful and loving depictions of man’s best friend, to bloodthirsty illustrations of savage beasts, to more whimsical and humorous interpretations. Featuring stunning illustrations from the British Library’s rich medieval collection, Dogs in Medieval Manuscripts provides—through discussion of dogs both real and imaginary—an astonishing picture of the relationship of dogs to humans in the medieval world. Now in a gift book format. 

Review

I am definitely a dog person and even though I currently live with a cat and have done for quite a few years cats are still a mystery to me and my love of dogs is still there. So when I saw this book in Topping and Company bookshop in Bath I knew I had to buy it. 

The things I love about this book is that it doesn’t bombard you with information like some history books do. Instead every two page spread has a beautiful example of a medieval manuscript and a fact on the opposite page with another smaller manuscript example. The pictures and the facts don’t always go together but that doesn’t matter because a description of what and where the manuscript comes from is always included on the page as well. 

The book contains a wide variety of facts about dogs in medieval manuscripts all the way from what names were considered best for dogs, to what medicines you could use to treat different illnesses dogs had including some very strange ones for dogs who were rabid. There was also a very interesting use of dogs for pulling up mandrake roots. 

I really enjoyed this book and will be getting Kathleen Walker-Meikle’s other books because I loved her writing style. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and will definitely be reading it again in the future even to just look at the beautiful images.  

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About the author

Kathleen Walker-Meikle completed her PhD at University College, London on late-medieval pet keeping. She researches and writes on medieval and early modern animals and medicine.

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The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon (Review)

The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon

Blurb

Sailors don’t talk much to other men, especially not to policemen. But after Captain Fallut’s body is found floating near his trawler, they all mention the Evil Eye when they speak of the Ocean’s voyage.

Review

This Maigret book was so good I could not put it down. I had no idea who the killer was or even the full extent of the crimes that had taken place but Maigret worked them all out. 

The start of the book had me giggling straight away. Maigret is about to go on holiday and Mrs Maigret is just finishing the packing and looking forward to spending her holiday with her family making jams and preserves. Maigret however has just received a letter which is asking for his help in solving a crime and obviously Maigret can’t resist so poor Mrs Maigret has to go along with the plan and go somewhere else for her holiday. She also knows that she will be spending her holiday mostly alone because Maigret will be busy investigating the crime. 

As soon as Maigret arrives he goes straight to where the sailors go to get drunk and sits there observing until he starts asking questions. Even though Maigret is not officially investigating the murder case he throws himself straight into the investigation and has no fear of mixing around the rough sailors. He also puts his wife to good use by getting her to look after a young woman who is connected to the case. 

The pieces of the puzzle that Maigret gathers looked completely random to me and one piece I hadn’t even noticed. However at the end Maigret explains everything and it all becomes clear. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would have loved it if had been a bit longer but sadly it  is typical Maigret length of approximately 150 pages. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

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Sovereign by C. J. Sansom (Review)

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom

Blurb

Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for the Archbishop Cranmer – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age…

Review

This is the first Shardlake book that I have struggled with slightly but I am glad I persevered with it as I really enjoyed the book, especially the ending. 

We find Shardlake trying to live a quiet life fighting legal cases with the help of his assistant Jack Barak. Cromwell is now dead so Shardlake has been living his life as a normal lawyer would without being sent off to do any missions for the Crown. However, that promptly changes when Shardlake is summoned before Archbishop Cranmer who then gives Shardlake a mission. 

Shardlake finds himself joining the King’s progress to the North where not only will he be assisting with the legal work of processing the petitions to the King, he will also be ensuring the welfare of an important prisoner who needs to be interrogated in London. This is the last thing that poor Shardlake wants. 

Most of the book is in York and I must admit after the discovery of the secret papers the book did drag on for me and I really did want it to move along a bit quicker because it was at times rather dull. However, once Shardlake left York and got onto the boat things moved along at a much quicker pace and the story picked back up again and then I couldn’t put the book down till I had finished it. 

I wish this book had shown more of Guy who is one of my favourite characters but sadly he was only mentioned in passing and didn’t feature at all. We did get some new characters though. Giles is the lawyer from York who helps Shardlake with the petitions. He is an old man but still upright and very sharp of mind. He also comes across as rather a cuddly character and a man who would help anyone in need. 

The character I really couldn’t stand was Tamasin and at times Shardlake felt the same way. I really didn’t like her ways and found her far too pushy and brazen. She also had rather a big chip on her shoulder. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and even when I had guessed who the suspect was I was still hooked. If the middle of the book had moved at a quicker pace I would have given this book a higher rating but sadly it was just too much of a drag for me. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

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Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins (Review)

Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins

Blurb

Since they were kids, Edie, Jake and Ryan have been the closest of friends. It’s been the three of them against the world. Edie thought the bonds between them were unbreakable. So when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan accused of the crime, her world is shattered.

Edie is alone for the first time in years, living in the remote house that she and Jake shared. She is grief-stricken and afraid – with good reason. Because someone is watching. Someone has been waiting for this moment. Now that Edie is alone, the past she tried so hard to leave behind is about to catch up with her…

Review

I do love a Quick Reads book. The series has introduced me to so many amazing authors and sometimes I just fancy a quick book that I can basically read in one sitting. 

This book centres around the character Edie. Edie is married to Jake but since she was a child she has always been best friends with Jake and Ryan. The three of them are a team, Edie believes there are no secrets between any of them but when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan is accused of the murder her world starts to unravel. 

Edie is left alone, living in a remote house that she shared with Jake. She is left with mounting bills, the debts she finds out that Jake had secretly taken out and the prospect that one day the house will fall off the cliff it is on. Edie has no job, no real friends and she is afraid. She is afraid because it soon occurs to her that someone is watching her, someone knows her every move. Edie’s past has come back to haunt her. 

I really enjoyed this story but I did find Edie very annoying. Edie was one of those people who happily ignores what is right at the end of her nose because it suits her circumstances. She is oblivious to anything other than herself or Jake and Ryan and anything outside of the trio she does not want to know. This way of thinking has been going on since childhood with damning consequences. 

I had no clue who the murderer was in this book until I got towards the end and started to have my suspicions. Considering the book was so small it kept me hooked and constantly wondering what would happen next. It was brilliantly written and I will definitely be reading more by Paula Hawkins. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragon. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Paula Hawkins (1972) is a British author best known for the novel The Girl on the Train.

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Women of Holy Week: An Easter Journey in Nine Stories by Paula Gooder (Review)

Women of Holy Week: An Easter Journey in Nine Stories by Paula Gooder

Blurb

In the style of her bestselling Phoebe, Paula Gooder uses her extensive biblical expertise to retell the events of the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension through the eyes of nine female characters she imagines accompanying Jesus during these momentous days. Accompanied by nine colour illustrations, each story brings to life the tension, drama and shock of the events of Holy Week, banishing any over-familiarity and helping readers enter into the Passion narrative in a deeper, more meaningful way. Originally given as a series of addresses at Southward Cathedral during Holy Week 2021, these nine stories are for all who long to encounter Jesus afresh through the Easter Story. 

Review

I read about this book on a Twitter account and thought it would be an interesting read on the run up to Easter and I was not disappointed. 

The women in Jesus’ life are quite often overlooked in the bible. This is partly due to the period in which the bible was written and how women were valued and treated in that time and also because certain books have been removed from the bible. However, Jesus did not underestimate the women who were in his life, he valued them. These women never left him, they were there at his death and they were there when he had risen. 

The book contains nine stories of different women, some are named in the bible and some are given names by Gooder. Through these stories we get an insight into the last week of Jesus’ life. Some of these stories are quite well documented in the bible but for some of the stories Gooder has used a bit of poetic licence but one thing is for certain all these stories are possible. 

I really enjoyed this book, I found it interesting and thought provoking and I also enjoyed the extra notes that Gooder provides at the end of the book. The notes give the bible readings that go with the stories and extra details about the history of the bible readings. I even used one of the women’s stories in a service I took before Easter and it worked really well. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and will be reading more books by Paula Gooder. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Paula Gooder is a speaker and writer on the Bible, particularly on the New Testament. She began her working life, teaching for twelve years in ministerial formation first at Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford and then at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham. Following this she spent around eight years as a speaker and writer in biblical studies travelling the country and seeking to communicate the best of biblical scholarship in as accessible a way as possible, after that she spent six years working for the Bible Society as their Theologian in Residence and then for the Birmingham Diocese as their Director of Mission Learning and Development. She is currently the Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

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The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (Review)

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Blurb

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs-a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts- five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

Review

This is the third time I have read this book because I have tried to read The Wheel of Time series on more than one occasion and sadly never finished it. However, I am determined that this time I will finish the series. 

Every time I have read this book I have loved it and this time round was no exception and I found that I had in fact forgotten a few parts of the story that made a nice surprise. As a massive Tolkien fan I realise that The Wheel of Time series is heavily influenced by Tolkien’s Middle Earth but that does not put me off. After all hasn’t all literature from as far back as Homer and Virgil done the same thing?

This book introduces us to some main characters that are clearly going to be important in future books. Five young villagers from the village of Two Rivers have to flee after a Trolloc attack on their village. By fleeing they hope to save their beloved village from any further attack and to do this they are helped by Moraine and her warder Lan. The fiver villagers are Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene and the village wisdom Nynaeve. Nynaeve is slightly older than the other four but not by much. Nynaeve is also the character that at times I find quite annoying, she is very stubborn and is always questioning and second guessing Moraine which at times just gets boring. Mat is rather a spineless character who you know is not going to be good news for the group of friends. Perrin is my favourite character out of the five as he is down to earth, caring and patient. Rand is rather bland at the moment but you can see he will develop as a character. 

As the adventure continues the group meet new people who help them on their journey but they also learn that no one can be trusted because anybody could be a dark friend. One of these new friends is the Ogier named Loial who is also one of my favourite characters. Loial is never hasty and likes to think everything through, he also loves reading and always has a pile of books with him which is just like me when I go anywhere. 

The world of Aes Sedai is fascinating and I can’t wait to learn more about it all and I also have so many questions regarding what happened in the past that made the Aes Sedai’s power start to dwindle. I really hope I get my answers in the following books. I really enjoyed the book and have already started book two. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

James Oliver Rigney Jr. (1948-2007) was an American author of epic fantasy who wrote under the pen name Robert Jordan. Jordan also wrote historical fiction under the name of Reagan O’Neal, a western as Jackson O’Reilly, and dance criticism as Chang Lung. 

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Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (Review)

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

Blurb

The novel follows the life of its eponymous heroine, Moll Flanders, through its many vicissitudes, which include her early seduction, careers in crime and prostitution, conviction for theft and transportation to the plantations of Virginia, and her ultimate redemption and prosperity in the New World. Moll Flanders was one of the first social novels to be published in English and draws heavily on Defoe’s experience of the topography and social conditions prevailing in the London of the late 17th century.

Review

This is my second classic of the year and I could not put it down. Defoe is also a new author for me and I was not disappointed. The novel is supposedly an autobiography and was first published as an autobiography rather than saying by Defoe. 

Moll was born in Newgate prison and then put into a children’s home where she honed her skill with needlework and developed her skills and character to be taken in by a wealthy family. Then things became interesting in Moll’s life but one thing that Moll knows how to do is survive. 

Moll is always striving to make money, to become a wealthy woman because this means security. To make this money Moll tries to marry well even if this means tricking men into thinking she is wealthy so she can get to their fortunes. This leads to Moll marrying five times. She also plays the role of mistress to certain wealthy men and then she becomes a master criminal but through all of this she saves whatever money she can and tries to gain that security she strives for. 

I loved the character of Moll because you never knew what she had planned next. She changed her name to hide from undesirables and knew how to stay hidden. She knew how to take advantage of situations and she definitely knew how to make a man fall head over heels in love with her. She also never let anything hold her back especially her children who she clearly did not care about. To be honest I spent a lot of time wondering where some of them had disappeared to as they just seemed to vanish from the story. It was also quite clear that the only child she showed any affection for was because she knew she had something to gain from that affection. 

This book has humour, adventure, danger, romance and much more and I couldn’t help but root for the woman who is at times very mischievous and does tend to hurt people. I absolutely loved this book and give it 5 out of 5 dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Daniel Defoe (1659/1661 [?] – 1731) was an English writer, journalist, and spy, who gained enduring fame for his novel The life and strange surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe: of York, mariner (1719). Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest practitioners of the novel and helped popularise the genre in Britain. In some texts he is even referred to as one of the founders, if not the founder, of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote more than five hundred books, pamphlets, and journals on various topics (including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology and the supernatural). He was also a pioneer of economic journalism.

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Galatea by Madeline Miller (Review)

Galatea by Madeline Miller

Blurb

In Ancient Greece, a skilled marble sculptor has been blessed by a goddess who has given his masterpiece – the most beautiful woman the town has ever seen – the gift of life. Now his wife, Galatea is expected to be obedience and humility personified, but it is not long before she learns to use her beauty as a form of manipulation. In a desperate bid by her obsessive husband to keep her under control, she is locked away under the constant supervision of doctors and nurses. But with a daughter to rescue, she is determined to break free, whatever the cost…

Review

I do love Madeline Miller so when I saw this short story I immediately preordered the book off Waterstones. I read this short story over a mug of tea one afternoon between teaching. 

I know the story of Pygmalion which was first told in the now lost Hellenistic work “De Cypro” by Philostephanus and then retold in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In Ovid’s telling, Pygmalion is a king and sculptor who carves a statue of a woman out of ivory and falls in love with the statue. Aphrodite answers Pygmalion’s prayers and turns the statue to a real life woman who he marries. The woman never actually gets a name in the original texts and the name Galatea which means “she who is milk white” was not associated with Pygmalion’s statue until approximately the early 1700’s. 

In Miller’s retelling of this tale the focus is on Galatea rather than Pygmalion which makes a nice change from the usual male perspective. In this retelling Galatea says she was made out of stone rather than ivory but this fits better with Miller’s retelling than ivory would. 

I did enjoy this little story and it was nice to hear Galatea’s voice because she doesn’t get a voice in Ovid’s version. As a reader you can’t help but feel sorry for Galatea who never had any say on her life from the moment Pygmalion carved her and you can see how she suffers. I really wish this story had been longer as I think it would have made an excellent book, as a short story I just didn’t feel like it had enough in it to really get me absorbed into the book like I have been with Miller’s full length books. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

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Christmas for Beginners by Carole Matthews (Review)

Christmas for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Blurb

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Christmas is fast approaching at the new Hope Farm. Owner Molly Baker has been convinced to organise an open day to raise some much-needed funds ahead of the New Year, but the nativity tableau is proving challenging. With anti-social sheep, awkward alpacas and a seriously sequinned Santa Claus to assemble, Molly is feeling overwhelmed, and in desperate need of some Christmas spirit…

Despite the chaos of the farm getting in the way of her event planning, Molly is looking forward to spending the holidays with boyfriend Shelby and his son, Lucas, hopeful that a happy family Christmas is exactly what they need to draw them all together. But while she is busy making plans on the farm, Shelby, it seems, has ideas of his own.

As the nativity draws near, the team are working hard to pull off a spectacular festive fete – and make sure the animals and humans remain on their best behaviour.

Will this Christmas be merry and bright… or is there more than one surprise in store for Molly and Hope Farm?

Review

I received this book as my last book from Willoughby Book Club and I was very excited when I realised it was a Christmas book. I will be honest and say that I had completely forgotten that I had read a Christmas book by Carole Matthews last year but once I realised, I knew I was in for a treat. I haven’t read the previous book in this series but I didn’t really need to as it didn’t affect my understanding of the story.

Molly runs and lives on Hope Farm with her unruly but loveable animals and Lucas who is the teenage son of her boyfriend Shelby. Shelby spends most of his time away filming as he is an actor. The farm is there for children who have problems and Molly with her business partner Bev will do anything to make these children’s a lives a little easier.

Bev has planned a big Christmas open day for the farm with a nativity and a grand light switch on by the mayor to help raise funds for the important work the farm does. Molly however is dreading it as she struggles with people and much prefers her own company and the company of her animals. Molly also panics about everything so she spend a lot of time worrying about the open day as well as what is happening in her private life.

As the open day is being planned we see how Molly and Shelby’s relationship develops and also how Molly looks after and negotiates looking after a moody teenager and helping him through his problems. I will be honest I really did not like Shelby and kept hoping that Molly would come to her senses.

My other favourite character apart from Molly was Mark the Hot Mayor as Bev likes to call him. He seemed quite different from the Mayors I have come across in the past but he was always there to help Molly with the farm no matter what the task and was an excellent role model for the children at the farm.

The real stars of the book are the dogs and the alpacas and I must be honest I felt sorry for the dogs. The dogs had very basic names like Big Dog and Little Dog, the alpacas had amazing names like Rod Stewart and Tina Turner. The antics the alpacas got up to were also hilarious.

I loved this book and read it very quickly and I really want to read the prequel in the new year. I must read more of Carole Matthews as she is such a good author and always makes me laugh. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository |Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Carole Matthews born 1960 is a British author. Matthews has published 34 novels and currently lives in Milton Keynes with her husband.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene (Review)

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene

Blurb

In a prison in Occupied France one in every ten men is to be shot. The prisoners draw lots among themselves—and for rich lawyer Louis Chavel it seems that his whole life has been leading up to an agonising and crucial failure of nerve. Graham Greene wrote The Tenth Man in 1944, when he was under a two-year contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the manuscript lay forgotten in MGM’s archives until 1983. It was published two years later. 

Review 

This book originated from a lost manuscript of Greene’s that turned up in an MGM sale. The person who purchased the manuscript returned it to Greene and he turned it into a novel which was published in 1985. 

This is a short book but one that really packs a punch. The book begins with a prison in occupied France and the news that every tenth man is to be shot. The prisoners are left to decide amongst themselves who will be shot, so they decide to draw lots. The rich lawyer Louis Chavel’s nerve leaves him and he gives up everything to the man who will take his place. 

Janvier is the man who takes Chavel’s place so he leaves all his new wealth to his sister and mother. When Chavel finally leaves the prison he has nothing to his name but he is still drawn to life he once had and so makes his way to his old home where he finds Janvier’s sister and mother. 

The book looks at the final years of the Second World War and how even the best of men can change in dire times. It is a story of cowardice, guilt, courage, romance and much more. Those who lie are trusted and those who tell the truth are not believed, everything is turned on its head in this book. 

I must admit the ending of the book was not what I expected and came as a big shock but it did show that miracles do happen. I will be honest as much as I love Greene’s books this book did not really enthral me that much as I just did not like the character of Chavel very much so I only give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Henry Graham Greene (1904-1991) was an English writer and journalist regarded as one of the leading English novelists of the20th century.

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