Incredible true tale of World War II double agent

From 'The Times'
From ‘The Times’

It was Mark Twain who said that “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t”. Never has this held true more than in the case of Eddie Chapman, a figure whose story is so impossible, that MI5 stated that his tale was “different. In fiction it would be rejected as improbable”. In Agent Zigzag, Ben Macintyre has woven together the threads of a story which brings an entirely new level to the word ‘unbelievable’. It could be a blockbuster Hollywood spy film, complete with near constant explosions. But it’s not-because it’s all true, Chapman was probably the most successful British double agent in the war, and one of the best in history.

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In a post-apocalypse dystopian world…

Copyright belongs to Penguin books
Copyright belongs to Penguin books

Reading modern dystopian thrillers, it is all too easy to forget one of the defining novels of the genre-John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. It is in many ways the perfect example of an overcontrolled world, one in which any ‘deviation’ from what is perceived to be the true image results in expulsion to the ‘Bad Lands’. It is not only a gripping read, but can be read as a criticism of overly controlling religions, a big current issue.  It’s a story of many things-of family feuds, of a world which has survived an apocalypse, and most importantly, a story of attempts to survive in a land where regulations stifle difference and diversity.

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A curious bear with a hard stare

From Wikimedia Commons
From Wikimedia Commons

Michael Bond’s immortal classic character Paddington has brightened the childhoods of thousands of children. I’m not sure how well known he is abroad from the UK, but if he isn’t that well known elsewhere, he should be. This lovable character was introduced to us in A Bear Called Paddington in 1958. I hadn’t read the books in years, but I recently saw the film (an excellent supplement to his legacy), and was spurred to pick up the first book. If someone who has not heard of Paddington wants to know who he is, let me say this: he was the subject of twenty-four books. Three television shows. A music album (?). And now an excellent film. He has entertained generations of school children, and is as iconic a figure as Harry Potter. There are few books that can raise a chuckle in me, but Paddington is one. If you’ve never read it, it doesn’t matter what age you are, it’s a quirky piece that everyone will love. 

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Review of ‘The Hollow’ (Agatha Christie)

From CommonsIn keeping with last week’s review of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles I this week reviewed another detective novel. One murder with a seemingly obvious criminal, yet deeper examination shows discrepancies. Christie stated in her autobiography that she had had second thoughts about Poirot’s involvement. I enjoyed the book a great deal, and disagree with Christie’s view (though Poirot is absent from most of the story)-there are several suspects, motives for everyone, everyone seems to be trying to throw off the police-just how I like a detective fiction.

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Review of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (Arthur Conan Doyle)

From CommonsSometimes there’s a novel that you just know is a classic, regardless of reviews or era, the quality of the text, the story, and the development of the plot makes a book an instant hit, either with an individual or a group. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is such a story. One of Doyle’s best, with vivid imagery, tense drama, and lively action, The Hound of the Baskervilles has something for everyone, and as such, is one of the most recognised book titles ever-behind perhaps The Bible in scale. 

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Review of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ (Douglas Adams)

From Wikimedia CommonsEverybody knows what the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything” is. Everybody, that is, who has been blessed with reading the gem that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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Review of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (Robert Louis Stevenson)

From CommonsRobert Louis Stevenson’s 1885 classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the first book I’ve (re)read in my 100 to read challenge. After a somewhat dull start, this really got going, with a brief deceleration towards the end.

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Review of ‘English Proverbs Explained’ (Ronald Ridout and Clifford Witting)

John Bull
Apologies, original image source unknown

This dip-in dip-out dictionary (which is what, in all essentials, it is) is a surprisingly interesting read. I know you aren’t meant to read the dictionary (as far as I’m aware), this one made for surprisingly manageable and enjoyable reading.

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