Posts Tagged ‘communism’

Animal Farm is George Orwell’s famous allegorical tale; a satirical tale about communism and the Russian Revolution.

After the animals on Manor Farm revolt and chase away their tyrannical master, Jones, they decide that from  now on, they will work for themselves, and won’t serve any human master.  All animals are deemed equal, and each will work according to his capacity, for a just reward.  The animals are led by the pig Napoleon (who represents Joseph Stalin), and all are initially happy with their new lives.  However, it is not long before the power goes to Napoleon’s head, and things go awry.

It’s a classic for good reason – this book is just brilliant.  It’s funny, but carries a stark message about how power can corrupt.  It can be read simply as a story about a group of animals who try to take control of their lives, but Orwell’s intent and meaning is very clear for all to read.  It also warns of the danger of a lack of education and understanding, and the inability to perceive what is happening.

This book comes in at less than 100 pages, and only takes a couple of hours to read. And it is definitely worth a couple of hours of anyone’s life.  Just brilliant, and one of those rare books which I would recommend to everybody.


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This book is the first in a series featuring Dr Siri Paiboun.  It is set in 1976, in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which has just been taken over by the communist party.  Dr Siri would dearly love to retire, but instead he finds himself reluctantly given the post of coroner, despite having no experience in that job at all.  Along with his two assistants, the feisty and eager Dtui and the nervous Geung, who suffers from Down Syndrome, Siri has to learn the job while he’s doing it.  When the wife of a prominent party member dies suddenly, Siri suspects that there is more to it than the husband’s claim that a bad diet killed her.  Things get really complicated when three Vietnamese men turn up dead, and appearing to have been tortured.  As Siri investigates it becomes clear that some people don’t want him to discover the truth.

I have slightly mixed feelings about this book, but overall I would say I enjoyed it.  The writing is wry and amusing, and for such a macabre subject, the book is fairly light-hearted.  For me, the character made the story.  I really liked Siri, and his two assistants, and also his friend Civilai, whose connections prove useful to Siri.

However, the plot seemed to be unnecessarily complicated.  The murder of the party member’s wife, and the mystery surrounding the three Vietnamese men would both have made interesting subjects for novels in their own right, but to have them both feature in one novel, made the storyline convoluted.  There was also a third storyline wher Siri travels to the Hmong region, in order to discover the truth behind some more mysterious deaths, and here the novel takes a supernatural turn, which did not personally appeal to me.

Overall, I would say the book was enjoyable, due to the very likeable main characters; the mysteries which Siri tries to solve are of secondary importance.  I probably would read more books in this series.

(Author’s rather lovely website can be found here.)

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It is 1970s London, and Chris is bored with himself, his life and his dull marriage.  He meets Roza when he accidentally mistakes her for a prostitute, and despite this inauspicious start, the two become firm friends.  Chris finds himself regularly visiting Roza’s home to listen to her tales of her father the Partisan, her life in the former Yugoslavia, and her experiences since coming to England.  As much as Roza seems to have a need to tell her tales, so Chris has a need to listen to them, and slowly the two start to fall into an unusual kind of love.  But are Roza’s tales true – and does it even matter?

This was quite an easy read – aided by the (on the whole) short, choppy chapters. However, despite Chris and Roza being two of only three characters who we actually ‘meet’ throughout the story (rather than just being characters who Roza and Chris talk about), I found it hard to truly care about either of them.

The book is narrated by both characters, but mainly Chris, and the reader largely gets to see things from Chris’s point of view.

There were a few moments of wry humour, but this is more a story of a love which seems destined to be never entirely fulfilled, but you’ll have to read to the end to find out what does become of them.

This is not a long book – just over 200 pages – and I think it was just the right length. Much longer and I would have lost interest.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is a very interesting book, which inspires the reader into thinking about the subjects talked about. It is less a novel than a collection of essays, which use four main characters – the womanising Tomas, his devoted wife Tereza, his mistress Sabina and her lover Franz – to illustrate the points made. 

The reader is often reminded that these are not characters to believe in – more, they are devices necessary to explain the author’s writings. This may put off some readers, and it is certainly unusual; for that reason maybe I found it hard to engage with the characters.  It never felt as though they were really brought to life, due to the fact that the author reminds us that they are merely plot devices.  However, this is in keeping with the general theme of the story…

The book questions the point of life; of ‘being’, and asks such questions as, if we have this life and no other, is there any point to this life – and if we do indeed have future lives (i.e., reincarnation) where we continue to make the same mistakes and follow the same paths as we followed in our first life, again – is there any point to that life? We are also given to question the difference between love and sex, and how the two can co-exist apart from each other, yet within the same person. It also gives an interesting insight to life in the former Czechoslovakia under the Communist regime. 

All in all, an insightful and intelligent book – not always the easiest or lightest read, but worth investing the time in.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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