Review: The Junior Officers’ Reading Club

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

The war without end

 

If Patrick Hennessey’s eponymous club still exists it will certainly feature his book, though presumably it will be in e-book format and not in paperback. The pages of the latter, Hennessey points out in this exhilarating and frenzied story of front-line life, simply wither and blow away in the 50-degree heat of Afghanistan, one of several reasons why reading is difficult in a war zone and why it actually forms just a fleeting part of Hennessey’s blazing narrative.
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Review: Eddy Merckx

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

The cyclist who united a nation

 

We’ve heard of life imitating art, owners imitating their pets and politics imitating satire, but what about a family name imitating a passion? There’s a fitting mechanical quality to the name ‘Merckx’; the ‘ckx’ almost resembles a bike chain, the kind that were tinkered with in their thousands by the greatest cyclist in history, Baron Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx. more “Review: Eddy Merckx”

Review: Meat: A Benign Extravagance

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

The meat in the sandwich

 

Nowadays, the phrase ‘it changed my life’ is as common in social circles as ‘changed the world’ is in the current events section of a bookshop. Laser-eye surgery? Changed my life. An interesting self-help book? Changed my life. A DIY course? Changed my living room – and with it my life. To take the first example, I have had laser-eye surgery and, successful as it was, it merely allowed me to do my normal activities without having to worry about my contact lenses drying out. Similarly, altering one’s diet can hardly be deemed ‘life-changing,’ even if, as in my case, it leads you to begin eating meat after a lifetime of vegetarianism.
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Review: Girl With a Pearl Earring

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

Wholly ignorant of Johannes Vermeer, the Dutch Golden Age and art in general, I began Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring unaware that I was lucky to have happened upon the 2000 paperback edition. Unlike the 2006 reedition and any e-reader version, the 2000 cover shows the eponymous painting in all its stark and chapped splendour, with Vermeer’s View of Delft acting as a support structure and subplot. more “Review: Girl With a Pearl Earring”

Review: Careless People

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

It gets the green light

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

‘I wanted to call it Trimalchio,‘ F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to a friend as his jazz age masterpiece was going to print, ‘but was voted down by Zelda and everybody else.’ Later still, he somewhat desperately suggested Under the Red, White and Blue, lest anyone not realise that his West Egg tragedy is about America. more “Review: Careless People”

Review: King Leopold’s Ghost

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

Le roi, la loi, l’esclavage: King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

 

Though they may not have intended it, the people who designed the course of the Brussels marathon could not have picked a more fitting finale to the race than a grueling climb up Avenue de Tervuren. more “Review: King Leopold’s Ghost”

Review: The Great War

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

The Great War: 1914-1918 by Peter Hart

 

Single-volume histories of the Great War are daunting to contemplate. The length of the conflict (four and a quarter years), the staggering toll of death (nearly 10 million soldiers and six million civilians) and the turgid horror of the battles require the historian to be thorough yet selective, erudite yet compassionate. more “Review: The Great War”

Review: The War The Infantry Knew

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

The War the Infantry Knew: 1914-1919 by Captain J. C. Dunn

 

‘[T]he War came with the suddenness of a thunderbolt,’ wrote Sergeant-Major Boreham of the Royal Welch Fusiliers in August 1914. As the drums beat louder, this veteran of the Boer War in South Africa found he was unable to share the enthusiasm of his younger comrades: ‘The first thing that came to [my mind] was the recollection of being verminous in South Africa, and the intense horror of being so again.’
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