Book Reviews

The Covent Garden Ladies
Hallie Rubenhold
Last edited on: 04/03/2012 - 12:42

London in the eighteenth century is much chronicled and a spate of new books have depicted this country's capital at the time as a cesspool mired in vice, crime and violence. One such tome, authored by Hallie Rubenhold, concentrates upon the sex industry, the epicentre of which was Covent Garden. This was in close proximity with London's theatre-land and renowned lawless and bawdy drinking houses around the piazza.

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The Pornographer of Vienna
Lewis Crofts
Last edited on: 04/02/2012 - 13:20

Lewis Crofts' fictionalised narrative biography of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele provides a detailed account of the life of the tortured painter, misunderstood for large parts of his life, yet ultimately successful only to succumb to Spanish Flu at an early age. The soubriquet The Pornographer of Vienna was attached to Schiele by a Viennese judge during an obscenity trial since many of his works, provocative and clearly showing female genitals, outraged society and caused Schiele to be incarcerated.

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Stephen King
Last edited on: 15/01/2012 - 12:13

Being the dreadful literary snob that I am, I have never felt moved to read any of populist author's Stephen King's work. When I saw a synopsis for his most recent publication, 11.22.63, I realised it was high time to bury that irrational prejudice. However, the book is daunting – a very hefty 730 pages - which needs to be factored into the decision-making process. I only have time to read during my daily commute which of course meant I would be lugging around the tome for a protracted period of time.

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The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Last edited on: 03/12/2011 - 12:38

Erin Morgenstern's debut novel "The Night Circus" has been somewhat unfairly called the natural successor to the Harry Potter series of books. There will certainly be some overlap of the target readership, but with a fleeting sex scene (more of this later) Morgenstern has deliberately narrowed the demographic so it is unlikely it could be considered ideal toddler bedtime reading.

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The Map and the Territory
Michel Houellebecq
Last edited on: 15/10/2011 - 10:05

Michel Houellebecq is the enfant terrible of French fiction despite this sounding vaguely ridiculous for a man firmly entrenched in his fifth decade. His award-winning and hard-hitting novels tend to polarise opinion; there are familiar themes that span his oeurve - graphic sex and prostitution, ageing, genetics and cryogenics, tourism and consumerism.

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The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex
Mark Kermode
Last edited on: 01/10/2011 - 10:35

Ask the general public to name a film critic and they would struggle. If they did however manage to dredge one name from the recesses of their collective minds, it would undoubtedly be Mark Kermode. Kermode and Simon Mayo review the latest UK movie releases on a weekly BBC Radio 1 show. Kermode browbeats the submissive and unsure Mayo, and his hectoring rhetoric leaves the listeners in no doubt as to his opinions, opinions which are usually told as irrefutable facts.

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The Damnation of John Donellan: A mysterious case of death and scandal in Georgian England
Elizabeth Cooke
Last edited on: 25/09/2011 - 23:23

The flavour of the month in literary circles is the publication of books raking over the evidence of long forgotten murder cases, often hundreds of years in the past. Having enjoyed Mr Brigg's Hat from the Victorian age, I felt a return trip to the genre, a foray further into the dim and distant past, was in order with Elizabeth Cooke's The Damnation of John Donellan.

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The Life and Times of Moll Flanders
Sian Rees
Last edited on: 04/09/2011 - 20:47

Over the years Daniel Defoe's creation Moll Flanders has had bad press. Film and television adaptations have sensationalised and romanticised her exploits. The BBC's 1995 version starring Alex Kingston had Moll as an amoral prostitute with heaving bosoms and lesbian tendencies. Such broadcasts have skewed the public's perception. Whilst Moll may be imbued in the public's psyche, very few will have picked up the book and actually read it and formed their own judgement.

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Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars
Sonia Faleiro
Last edited on: 31/08/2011 - 21:47

The brothels of Bombay are frequently depicted in the photojournalism features of The Sunday Times Magazine and other lifestyle colour supplements. These pictures paint a vivid picture of the abject poverty and depravity of the sex workers' lives, yet they fail to tell the entire story and in reality such scenes merely scrape the surface of an industry of jaw-dropping dimensions. Sonia Faleiro's Beautiful Things – Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars explains the hierarchy of these workers.

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Sex on the Moon
Ben Mezrich
Last edited on: 21/08/2011 - 09:59

Thad Roberts will go down in history as the NASA intern who threw away the prospects of a glittering career potentially leading to becoming an astronaut when he stole 100 grams of moon rock from his employers. Roberts was a straight-A student from Utah of Mormon upbringing, talented yet lacking direction and living in the shadows of his elder siblings. He harboured a dream of becoming a placement student at NASA, yet despite his scholastic endeavours he had neither the vocational nor the interpersonal skills to make the grade.

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