California Literary Review

Great Britain

Book Review: Virginia Woolf by Alexandra Harris


September 30th, 2011

Woolf spent much of her life trying to free herself from the grasp of the past, specifically the Victorian milieu of her childhood. Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was the editor of the prestigious Dictionary of National Biography and a personification of the Victorian pater familias. Woolf both loved and rebelled against him. She suffered a severe nervous breakdown following his death in 1904. Yet it was not until her father died, that she was able to liberate her emotions to the point where she could begin a serious career as a writer.

The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre, London


August 18th, 2011

The fact that it can now boast of being the longest-running comedy currently in the West End suggests that it taps pretty successfully into a tradition as firmly British as Hannay himself: a need to mock the idea of hearty “Britishness”, even as we celebrate it at one remove.

Book Review: Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones


July 5th, 2011

But wherever it originated, the word conjures up an instant picture of young people in cheap sportswear, swigging alcopops, brandishing knives and selling each other drugs whilst getting their fifteen-year-old girlfriends pregnant. They are a favourite subject for the right-wing tabloids, and where the term “chav” is found, the words “feral”, “benefits” and “underclass” will often be somewhere in the vicinity, not to mention “lifestyles funded by your taxes!”

A Watchful Eye On… Winston Churchill


March 2nd, 2011

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, known best as the wartime Prime Minister, held in his distinguished career a number of other high positions, including Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. Renowned as an orator and statesman, he enjoys a permanent place in Western history. The adventure and controversy pervading his professional life seem ripe for an enterprising screenwriter to pick.

Book Review: Heartstone: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery by C.J. Sansom


January 27th, 2011

Matthew Shardlake the lawyer and his friend Dr. Guy Malton represent the arrival of the professional classes. Landless but educated, open-minded, progressive and paid by the case, they bear a striking resemblance to the heroes of many modern thrillers.

The Weekly Listicle: Ballad Of The Soldier


January 21st, 2011

This weekend, Peter Weir graces us with The Way Back, a tale of daring escape by prisoners of war. In due fashion this week’s Listicle salutes the soldier in film. From comedy to adventure to stark, sobering drama, soldiers have faced a great deal on the movie screen.

Brighton Rock Rises Again. Graham Greene Abides.


December 20th, 2010

Acclaimed screenwriter Rowan Joffé will try his hand at the directing game next year. For his debut, he has selected an auspiciously high-profile story. Brighton Rock, adapted from Graham Greene’s 1938 novel, is a captivating crime thriller and a chilling exploration of the human capacity for love, betrayal and violence. If all goes right, this will be one beautiful and scary film.

A Watchful Eye On… Sherlock Holmes


December 15th, 2010

Sherlock Holmes as a strict Victorian period piece is over and done with, but the character still has potential in a new context. The only rule is not to stray from the unique faculties that make Sherlock such a distinctive and popular hero. If the story’s focus ceases to be the detective’s brilliant deductive logic, then the magic is lost and the character wasted. If, however, due attention and respect are paid to this detail, the rest is free and open to broader interpretation.

Book Review: Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith


August 12th, 2010

The legions of admirers of Smith’s other novels, notably The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, will find a great deal to keep them happily reading Corduroy Mansions. The twist with this book, however, is that it is the print version of the author’s first online novel.

Book Review: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945 by Max Hastings


June 29th, 2010

The next two years of the war for Churchill were a harrowing march through what his wife, Clementine called the “valley of humiliation.” Defeats in Greece, in the Battle of Crete and in North Africa in 1941 were followed by the Japanese capture of Singapore in February 1942. That same month, the daring “Channel Dash” by German warships under siege in Cherbourg to their home naval bases stung British pride to its core. Great Britain, the nation of Marlborough, Churchill’s warrior ancestor, and Lord Nelson was losing the war on land and sea.

Book Review: The Art Detective by Philip Mould


June 8th, 2010

Yet another of his discoveries turns out to be a lost watercolor by one of America’s greatest 19th century artists, Winslow Homer — a painting which had literally appeared out of nowhere one day in Southern Ireland, abandoned next to a dump heap! The work had been miraculously rescued by a local fisherman.

Book Review: Wild Romance: A Victorian Story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman by Chloë Schama


April 26th, 2010

A secret affair. A scandalous sex-filled trial. A tell-all novel. If it’s any consolation to Tiger Woods and Jesse James, they’re not the first to be stripped down to their Jockeys on a worldwide scale. Welcome, William Charles Yelverton, Victorian seducer.

Small Wars by Sadie Jones


January 19th, 2010

The conflict becomes a war in which, “…there was no truth. It was a nothing, laughable Mickey Mouse conflict; it was a sinister time of terror and repression. The British were misguided and ignorant; the Cypriots were lethargic and foolish. The Cypriots loved the British; the Cypriots hated the British. The British were torturers; the British were decent and honourable. EOKA were terrorists; EOKA were heroes.”

Churchill by Paul Johnson


December 1st, 2009

And Johnson reminds us of the memorable words he spoke after France capitulated: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” Here the biographer also observes, “So the first true victory Britain won in the war was the victory of oratory and symbolism. Churchill was responsible for both.”

Love and Summer by William Trevor


November 19th, 2009

Why is it that summer can never last forever, especially when we want it to? The once long and amorous days wane too soon in circumscription. A small chill creeps down from the hills. Something is about to end. Then someone leaves town. Someone always leaves town.

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