The Bridge of San Luis Rey – Book Review

This story won the Pulitzer Prize for Thornton Wilder in 1928.

This is a fictional story that explores the lives of five strangers who die in the collapse of a rope bridge on the road from Lima to Cuzco in Peru.

Friar Juniper attempts to find answers for why they died and what purpose it served. He writes a book outlining the reasons why he thinks these five people were chosen to perish, but The Inquisition hear of his exploits and he’s condemned to be burnt at the stake.

The backstories of the five victims of the bridge collapse are extraodinarily exact and detailed and when I was reading the book all I could think of was, why did this person die and what quirk of fate lead them to be crossing the bridge?

The book ends with a character’s observation: “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

The Black Book of Carmarthen – Book Review

This book dates from around 1250AD though many of the poems contained in it are a lot older and occur nowhere else, showing what a valuable service the unknown monk who copied them down onto a manuscript did for the world of literature.

It’s believed this monk resided at the Augustinian Priory of St Johns in Carmarthen. He was a Welsh-speaking monk amongst many Norman and English brothers and wanted to place a number of poems centred on Dyfed and Carmarthen in the same anthology.

These poems include dialogue between Myrddin (Merlin) and Taliesin who is believed to have lived between 534 and 599. Taliesin was chief bard in the courts of at least three kings of Britain. There are also verses said to have been written by Myrddin after the Battle of Arderydd, when he was in hiding.

The presence of these poems corroborates the Carmarthen link as the legend of Myrddin is said to be in part a fictional explanation of the name of the town.

Book Review – A Sentimental Journey

This is the story of Yorick, a sentimental traveller, who on a whim decides to journey from England first to France and then head towards Turin in Italy. His journey takes him via Calais, Amiens, Rennes, and Versailles to Paris.

Yorick doesn’t describe his impressions of the places he visits, the monuments, the architecture or much of the countryside. He regales the reader with stories of the people he meets along the way.

The book tells us more about the effect the journey is having on the central character than about the places the central character is visiting. There’s two journeys taking place and it’s difficult to know which is the more fascinating.

If you’re expecting a travelogue then Yorick makes it clear early on that you’re not going to get that kind of book.

Book Review – A Sentimental Journey

This is the story of Yorick, a sentimental traveller, who on a whim decides to journey from England first to France and then head towards Turin in Italy. His journey takes him via Calais, Amiens, Rennes, and Versailles to Paris.

Yorick doesn’t describe his impressions of the places he visits, the monuments, the architecture or much of the countryside. He regales the reader with stories of the people he meets along the way.

The book tells us more about the effect the journey is having on the central character than about the places the central character is visiting. There’s two journeys taking place and it’s difficult to know which is the more fascinating.

If you’re expecting a travelogue then Yorick makes it clear early on that you’re not going to get that kind of book.

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

I enjoyed this book but nowhere near as much as Guards ! Guards! , Men At Arms, and especially Feet of Clay, the three City Watch books before Jingo.

The gas-powered appearance of the island of Leshp causes an international incident between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. Both countries claim this rock that rises out of the sea on day to the surprise of everyone apart from Leonard of Quirm.

An assassination attempt on a Klatchian prince in Ankh-Morpork heightens tensions and causes anti-Klatchian feeling. The city watch head across the sea to arrest the organiser of the attempt only to find an Ankh-Morpork army is there too to fight against the Klatchians.

The seemingly deposed Lord Vetinari also heads to Klatch in a submarine designed by Leonard to inspect the underside of Leshp.

Will Commander Vimes get to the bottom of the intricate assassination plot before a massive battle takes place that will leave many people dead? Will Vetinari come out on top against the people who thought they’d deposed him? And will the name 71-hour Ahmed be explained?

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

I enjoyed this book but nowhere near as much as Guards ! Guards! , Men At Arms, and especially Feet of Clay, the three City Watch books before Jingo.

The gas-powered appearance of the island of Leshp causes an international incident between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. Both countries claim this rock that rises out of the sea on day to the surprise of everyone apart from Leonard of Quirm.

An assassination attempt on a Klatchian prince in Ankh-Morpork heightens tensions and causes anti-Klatchian feeling. The city watch head across the sea to arrest the organiser of the attempt only to find an Ankh-Morpork army is there too to fight against the Klatchians.

The seemingly deposed Lord Vetinari also heads to Klatch in a submarine designed by Leonard to inspect the underside of Leshp.

Will Commander Vimes get to the bottom of the intricate assassination plot before a massive battle takes place that will leave many people dead? Will Vetinari come out on top against the people who thought they’d deposed him? And will the name 71-hour Ahmed be explained?

A rhyming love poem to Xi Jinping and/or the Chinese Communist Party to thank them for hosting the Olympic Games.

In this Fanstory contest , I had to write a rhyming love poem to Xi Jinping and/or the Chinese Communist Party to thank them for hosting the Olympic Games.

Obviously, this is an absurd idea and so the only way for me to do this was to write in the style of William McGonagall

In the year 2022 the Olympics of the Winter took place in Beijing,

Thanks to the wonderful person Xi Jinping

The President of the People’s Republic of China

Than which no country is finer

Organised the greatest of Games

And the most beautiful and incandescent of flames

Thanks to Xi

And the Chinese Communist Party

Skiers, skaters, lugers, and bob sleighers, according to the sages,

Showed off their skills on the greatest of stages

Thanks to Xi

Who will always rank XI out of X with me

These were the best Olympics of all time

The viewing figures were sublime

Thank you to the people of China

Than which no people are finer

For putting on the greatest show

Amongst the most beautiful ice and purest snow

Pincher Martin by William Golding

William Golding won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983. His first novel, Lord of the Flies, is probably his best known work.

Pincher Martin is on a navy vessel escorting a North Atlantic convoy during WWII. His ship is torpedoed and sinks, but Martin is the sole survivor and ends up on a rock on his own in the middle of the ocean. The book is entirely set on this rock.

He is exposed and isolated surrounded by the sea, the sun, the cold and his evident isolation. He is injured, he is hungry, but it’s his thoughts that are the most terrifying as he remembers incidents from his past that he regrets and perhaps wishes he’d handled differently. He organises a pool of rainwater for drinking and eats shellfish which give him food poisoning. He gives names to features of the rock to make it homely, but there’s no escape from himself.

The Transposed Heads by Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann subtitled the novella An Indian Legend as the story is based on an old folk tale from India.

Two friends Nanda and Shridaman see the lovely Sita bathing in a local pool and each of them falls in love with her. She marries Shridaman and has a child with him, but she also loves Nanda, so there is a love triangle in operation within the story.

Six months after the wedding, the married couple set off to visit her parents accompanied by Nanda. On the way they stop at a temple to the goddess Kali where Shridaman goes to pray. In a fit of religious fervour, he commits suicide by chopping off his own head. When Nanda finds Shridaman in this state, he is bereft and does the same thing.

The goddess Kali appears to Sita and informs her what to do to bring them both back to life. The title of the book tells you what happens and the ending is traditional though still shocking.

Fantastic Fables by Ambrose Bierce

This book was written in 1898 and comprises 245 fantastic fables from Ambrose Bierce.

These tales lampoon greedy politicians, judges, holy men, poets and many others.

I would suggest the meaning in some of the stories is connected to the era in which the book was written and so might not mean too much in our present day.

The tales are satirical, acerbic, and sometimes sarcastic, but in most cases I think I saw the point Bierce was making.

The tales won’t provide belly laughs but might make you smile and will make you think.