Tag: British

Tony Hawks – A Piano in the Pyrenees | Review

Title: A Piano in the Pyrenees

Author: Tony Hawks

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count: 312

Rating: 4/5

This non-fiction book tells the story of what happened when a middle-aged British comedian called Tony Hawks decided to buy a house in France, almost on a whim. He also decided to take his piano over there so that he could finally learn to play the thing.

It was a fun little book, and overall I found it to be a pleasure to work my way through it. My only real complaint would be that the pacing was a little off, in that it felt as though the whole book covered a period of just a couple of months or so.

Other than that though, there were some great little insights into French culture here, as well as a few smatterings of French dialogue that were enjoyable for me as someone who’s slowly but surely trying to learn the language. There were also some great little examples of culture shock or of misunderstandings, particularly when Hawks was trying to navigate the complicated French legal landscape to purchase properties and to build swimming pools, despite being utterly useless at assembling basic flat packs.

I’ve read a couple of Hawks’ other books at this point, and tonality and sense of humour wise, it’s pretty similar to those. That means that if you enjoyed Round Ireland with a Fridge, for example, then you’re probably going to enjoy this one too. Sure, his sense of humour might not be quite right for everyone, but Hawks has always made me laugh and he did so here, too.

There were occasional borderline sexist comments in it here and there, but then I suppose that gave it a certain sense of realness. He was a single bloke surrounded by Frenchwomen, after all. But overall, yeah.

Learn more about A Piano in the Pyrenees.

 


Ralph Ellison – Invisible Man | Review

Title: Invisible Man

Author: Ralph Ellison

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 478

Rating: 3/5

Okay, first thing’s first – don’t get this confused with the H. G. Wells novel, as apparently some people do. There was no chance of that here because I’ve already read the Wells novel and I’ve also already come across Ralph Ellison, and so I’d been looking forward to getting to this one.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t really engage with it. It’s not as though there’s anything wrong with it, although it’s perhaps a tad overwritten here and there and it’s definitely way longer than it really needed to be. It gets its point across, but it gets its point across pretty early and then just keeps on reinforcing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate this book for what it is, and it was definitely an important milestone in modern literature, especially in America. It does a great job of portraying the African American experience and shining a light on it from a different angle. It’s just that it isn’t particularly accessible, especially to a modern reader. Or maybe that’s just because I’m a white British dude.

I suppose I was just hoping for something like To Kill a Mockingbird, and while this does cover a lot of similar societal issues, this leans too heavily on the message and doesn’t leave the reader any room to arrive at their own interpretation. It’s sort of clunkily done, and it doesn’t have the engaging core story line that Harper Lee had.

And here we arrive at my biggest problem with this book, and that’s that I just don’t have anything else to say about it. This poses a challenge, because each of my reviews has the same word count as the book has pages, and so I’m going to have to bulk this one out a bit. Sorry about that – but on the plus side, we only have 150 words to go.

I think what it all comes down to is that I had high expectations for this one and then it just didn’t quite deliver. It’s one of those contemporary modern classics that I’ve heard a lot about, and I’d been feeling bad because I hadn’t got to it. Then I picked it up and felt glad that I’d left it as long as I did.

So it’s not that it isn’t worth reading, it’s just that it’s definitely not for everyone and it also feels like a product of its time. If you can get over that then I’m sure that you’re in for a lovely old time, but it just wasn’t for me. It failed to grab my attention from the outset, and even if it had managed to redeem itself, I would have got bored again anyway. So maybe skip this one unless you have to study it.

Learn more about Invisible Man.

 


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