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Tuesday 2 September 2014

The even bigger read

The Winding Road

by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Sphere 2012 €12.99 *****

This is the 34th in the series, subtitled The Morland Dynasty. The tomes follow said family as the drama unfolds from the War of the Roses onwards.

So much drama! Set between the two World Wars, we follow the fortunes of Polly, who fled the family estate for the life of a Bright Young Thing in Manhattan; of her thwarted lover Lennie, who turns his unrequited love into cold hard cash by burying his energy in work; of Molly, who is fab and who we wish so much would fall in love, and then when she does, oh! We hope it works out.

There's the English folks back home in Jolly Old, the old guard dropping like flies and the young ones all existentially tortured. And then the stock market crashes, and everybody's got even more problems. Bliss! There is nothing like a big read over Christmas and big reads often are composed of multiple volumes.

Song of Ice and Fire

by George RR Martin

Harper Voyager (first in series published 1996) €9.89 *****

Despite the fact that the most recent book in the Game of Thrones series -- A Dance with Dragons 1: Dreams and Dust -- does not feature enough of my, I mean, 'everyone's' favourite characters, this is as good as it gets. Song of Fire and Ice is the name of the series of books, made famous by the first one, A Game of Thrones. Even if you are not a fan of fantasy fiction, of dungeons and dragons and swords and plots and evil spells, the quality of Martin's writing transcends the genre. This is not about awkward makey-uppy names and implausible occurrences. It is good old-fashioned storytelling, and is utterly superb.

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

Scholastic (first in series published in 2008)

€8.09 ***

What a concept: a reality TV show set in the post-apocalyptic future in which children are set up as sacrifices for their sectors. The populace watch the live proceedings, a survival of the fittest with sponsors. What a thrill: a teenage girl as the main protagonist. What a shame: as the series moves through Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the fire and energy drains out of it. Still: if you are an old adult who is into young adult literature, you'll enjoy these.

delusion In Death

by JD Robb

Piatkus (first in series published in 1995)

€11-20 ****

Okay, maybe Harrod-Eagle isn't the only author telling a long, long story. Robb is the pseudonym for best-selling romance novel powerhouse Nora Roberts.

Delusion in Death, published this year, is the 44th in the police procedural/romantic suspense/ futuristic series.

The character development is terrific, the sameness of the themes not so much. Still, they are addictive, and I'm already looking forward to February when the next one comes out.

The Lord of the Rings

by JRR Tolkien

HarperCollins (first published 1954)

box set €22RRP

**

Ah, the JRR thing is perhaps the inspiration behind the RR in Martin's name? Well, brace yourselves for blasphemy, Middle-earthians -- Martin's work is better.

The movies are better too: they cut out all that tedious tramping about and, even better, those irritating songs. I can't think of anything more annoying than reading a song, can you? Gollum is unforgettable, though, so I'll give the books that much.

The Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World)

by Neal Stephenson

Arrow 2004

€8.99 ****

Taken together the three books add up to 2,688 pages. It is dark and impenetrable to start, and then, suddenly, you cannot put the thing -- or things, in this case -- down.

The books go back to the future, via which Stephenson is basically laying out the history of the development of computers and the internet.

His cast of characters includes Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibnitz, Ben Franklin, and kings and queens, as well as thieves and priests and God knows.

Is it historical science fiction? I don't know what to call this, except it is completely absorbing, witty, dense, and deeply entertaining.

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