These brief reviews never seem to happen as often as they could. But then along comes a stand-out like Mich Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrieis one of those books. I must admit that I approached the novel with some trepidation as I had seen and enjoyed the movie quite some time ago, and was not sure if this could match that experience.
As it happens, I should not have worried. This could easily have been a depressing downward spiral as Morrie gradually loses control of his body to Lou Gehrig’s disease[^], a form of motor neurone disease. Instead this is a celebration of a life and if anything a tale of defiant survival. This comes through a series of lessons taught by Morrie and reminiscences by Mitch that we can all learn from, told against a background of the OJ Simpson murder trial.
“In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right? … But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.”
Thankfully the novel more than lived-up to my expectations, and it will stay in my book collection. There are so many pearls of wisdom packed into such a small volume, and it is so easy to just pick-up and read.
Maurice Gee’s “Going West” is the basis for this animated commercial commissioned by the New Zealand Book Council. The advertisement quite literally shows the book coming alive. What a fantastic way of using of a book; it leaves me wanting more.
It has been said that Time heals all wound. With that in mind, it is easy to look back on the events of past with a certain degree of nostalgia or romanticism. The Great Western Railway (GWR) was an organisation that demanded staff loyalty, and for the most part earned the grudging respect of their servants.
Tim Bryan manages to avoid romanticism in this survey of some the jobs people were employed in by the company. The diversity of the roles in the various operational areas of the Great Western are truly amazing – from manufacturing to clearance diving. These were the days when occupational health and safety were in their infancy; death or permanent disability at work was a very real possibility. It wasn’t without reason that the Railway’s Workshops at Swindon was one of the best prosthetic makers in the country.
"All in a Day’s Work" doesn’t just concentrate on the glamour of the footplate, the place that every young boy wanted to work, and possibly the highest status blue collar job of the time. Being an engine driver may have been a top job, but it came after a hell of an apprenticeship – at least five years as an cleaner and a minimum of ten years working as a fireman. Once a fireman had made it on the "Top Link" it was back to the shunting links as driver.
I can’t say that this is no-hold’s barred view, but it does give us some idea of the day-to-day pressures of life on the GWR.
I must admit that I started reading this with very fond reminiscences of Neil’s co-authored “Good Omens” (Terry Pratchett being the other author). In Stardust we have a reasonably fast-paced, vividly realised fairy tale centred around Tristran Thorn – and as a fairy tale it is a good work. Tristran, in an attempt to gain the love of the most beautiful girl in the village, goes through to the Faerie lands beyond The Wall in search of a fallen star. Passing through The Wall is not something to be done lightly, in fact the Villagers guard the gap to ensure that no-one passes.
After a diet of fully-fleshed out, sometimes flabby fantasy, this brief work comes as a pleasant surprise. “Stardust” is a real page-turner, the disappointing thing is that Neil telegraphs the coming events, leaving us few if any surprises. That said I am looking forward to reading more of Neil’s work, I just don’t know that Stardust will be a “keeper”.