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Posts Tagged ‘fascinating’

 

Derren Brown is well known for his apparent mind-reading skills, and magical illusions.  However, he is always totally honest about the fact that he has no belief in psychic ability whatsover.  In this book, he explains much about how he does some of his tricks on stage, and delves into the subjects of memory, illusion (where he explains the basics of how some illusions are created), the power of suggestion and susceptibility, and how psychics and mediums carry out their work – and the truth behind their ‘skills’.

I should say that I am a huge fan of Derren Brown, and was therefore perhaps predisposed into liking this book.  However, I think that anyone who had never heard of him would also find this a very entertaining read.  

At the beginning of the book, after a brief introduction as to how Brown came to be interested in his subject, he teaches a few simple tricks with coins and cards.  

There is then a subject on memory, with some tips and exercises for improving yours).  I liked this section a lot, and have tried the ‘linking’ system myself with measurable success.  I did feel that this section got a little bit bogged down, especially when talking about the ‘peg’ system (the system seemed harder to remember than it would be to recall whatever it is that it’s supposed to help you remember!).  

The sections on hypnosis and seances were very fascinating, exposing much about how these work.  

However, most interesting to me was the part where Brown talks about psychics and mediums, and shows how they can fool an audience using intuition and cunning and confusion (but no psychic ability) to yield apparently incredible results.  I would mention that of course many people have found much needed comfort from such quarters, and may find this part of the book upsetting for this reason.  I do not believe in the abilities of those who claim to be able to contact the dead, and therefore I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it.  Brown does go on something of a mild rant, due to his belief that such people prey on their audiences’ grief and distress.  He breaks down and analyses how psychics (particularly those who have made a celebrity career out of their work) fool their audiences, cheat and use their guile.

During the whole book, Brown makes for an engaging, witty and involved narrator, with a style instantly recognisable to anybody who has ever seen any of this television or live shows.

There is also a comprehensive list of suggested further reading at the back of the book, on all of the subjects covered.

Overall, definitely recommended and not only for fans of Derren Brown.  This book is challenging, funny and insightful.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is the story of Anne Boleyn, told through the eyes of her sister Mary.  As a young girl, Mary finds herself manipulated by her avaricious family to become King Henry VIII’s lover, with an end to usurping Queen Katherine of Aragon.  The Boleyn’s believe that if Mary becomes queen, they will be vastly elevated in terms of wealth and social status.  Even after having two children by Henry, Mary finds his interest in her waning, and sees that he is turning his affections to her sister Anne.  There is no other choice for Mary than to assist Anne in dethroning Queen Katherine.  As she matures, Mary grows tired of the political games played in the royal court, and decides to make her own way in life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The Tudors have never been an exciting subject for me, but Philippa Gregory brings the era to life and makes it fascinating.  It should be remembered that this is a fictionalised account of events, and there are differences between what Mary tells and what current historians believe.  (For example, in the book Mary is portrayed as the younger sister, whereas in fact it is now widely accepted that she was older than Anne.  Also, while in the book there is no doubt that Henry is the father of Mary’s children, in truth it was never known for sure).

Each character is distinct and interesting.  Anne does not come out of this account well; she is portrayed as calculating and ruthless.  Mary is drawn more sympathetically (perhaps not surprising as the book is told from her point of view). Another major character is their brother George, whose own fate is told in this story, and who is a charming and reckless man, who serves in the royal court.  Henry himself is brought to life as a headstrong, spoilt young man, who is utterly handsome and charming in his youth, but who, during the period which the book spans, becomes bloated and unwell.

The story moves along at a steady pace, and even though I knew the ultimate outcome, I still found myself turning the pages quickly, wanting to know what new developments were around the corner.  I would recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in the Tudors (and if you have no interest, this might be a book to change your mind).  After reading it, I found myself wanting find out more about this fascinating and brutal time in England’s history.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Click here for my review of the 2008 movie adaptation.

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