by Robert Earle
Robert Earle's new Kindle volume, Tuppence Reviews, compiles over ninety book reviews he has written in recent years. Half of the books reviewed are contemporary and classic fiction; the other half range through literary criticism, history, and public affairs. These quick-moving reviews highlight a book's main themes, draw comparisons to similar books by the same or different authors, and reflect Earle's wide-ranging taste and interests.
Alice Munro's short stories and Wallace Stegner's novels are present, so is Atul Gawande's writing on medical issues, David Halberstam's on the Korean War, and Peter Ackroyd's on the city of London.
Drawing on his own experiences as a writer who has published more than forty short stories, two novellas, two novels and two books of nonfiction, Earle is fair-minded but candid.
On Wallace Stegner: "Stegner may be a little bit less gifted than Willa Cather in describing the physical beauty of the American West, but not by much. Angle of Repose is a tour de force of setting, including rivers, cliffs, mesas, sage flats, clouds, storms, winds, canyons, and the way the weather works its way into the human face."
On Mario Vargas Llosa's The Bad Girl: "So what we have here is the history of a passion and a perversion, a reinterpretation of a love story that not even Shakespeare would dare. Only the "Lesbia" of Catullus approaches the levels of degradation and torment the bad girl forces on Ricardo. Odi et amo, Catullus wrote: I hate you and I love you. Something of the same goes on here. The bad girl is Ricardo's Lesbia. He sees this clearly...he swears her off...but when finally she is about to die, do you think he takes her back?
On Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending: "My sense of Julian Barnes' novella, The Sense of an Ending, is that it's too bad it had to have an ending. This is a book of nostalgia, reflection, and mood that would be better off without any plot at all."
On John Dower's Embracing Defeat: "John Dower's comprehensive study of the years during which the Japanese lived under American-led occupation is undoubtedly the masterwork from which many PhD studies have derived. It's a fascinating account of a devastated people wrestling with Japan's responsibility for the horrors that occurred before and during WWII's conflicts in the Pacific."