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Book reviews

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My Animals and other Family by Clare Balding

You probably won’t believe this but just setting up to write about this I decided to put some music on; an internet radio station; Think Floyd, and immediately, now playing, is Dogs, from their (Pink Floyd) Animals album, this recording apparently ‘Live in Oakland, 1977’. Weird coincidence.

So this is exactly what it says on the tin – a book about animals, and family. Clare grew up at a horse training stables, and tells of her life through relationships with her animals, and what was going on for her at the time those animals were in her life. For those perhaps outside the UK who do not know her, Clare is a TV sports presenter. Her fame rose rapidly during the BBC coverage of the 2012 Olympics, and then really entered the hearts of many when she co-presented the subsequent Paralympics for Channel 4 with Ade Adepitan, the wheelchair basketball player. It seems that as the 2 weeks of the Paralympics unfolded, she was profoundly moved, touched and inspired by what she saw and who she met. We were in the main stadium on the final Saturday and Clare had been invited from the TV studios to the stadium give out a medal – 80,000 people, many of whom you felt had a personal connection to disability as well as sport, rose as one. She had become ‘one of us’ and we welcomed her proudly. You could see she was very moved. And so were we. Good on her!

Anyway back to the book. It was an extraordinary life – with parents and grandparents seemingly having greater connection and understanding with their animals than with their children. And Clare in turn finding succour and safety in the […]

By |March 15th, 2013|Book reviews|Comments Off on My Animals and other Family by Clare Balding

The Railway Man by Eric Lomax

This is a true story. Eric grows up in Scotland with a love of railways. By a series of seemingly chance events and decisions he is Singapore at the time of the British military’s most embarrassing failure. And so he becomes a prisoner of war – building a railway for the Japanese in Burma/Siam. Life under the Japanese was harsh in the extreme. It’s estimated 1 person died for every meter of track laid. Being caught doing something you shouldn’t (in the eyes of the captors, at least) turns events even worse.

The memories of beatings and torture are told without flinching. Life in prison, and what people do to survive, is something that perhaps from my upbringing my imagination probably can’t fully comprehend. Though I totally get what it’s like to come back and not being able to tell of what you have witnessed – some years ago I was a production manager when one of the people on site made a mistake and an explosion followed. The way I locked up on saying anything when I got home in the evenings for weeks after was unassailable. ‘Unable to speak’ was exactly that. Not a choice. Unable. So Eric’s cold distance on returning to Britain, and his hatred for the Japanese, and in particular the interpreter during torture interrogation interviews, is very understandable.

This is a book in 4 parts; growing up, the war years, returning, and…reconciliation. An incredible story. Not simply keeping the wit and will to live during extraordinary deprivations, but how Eric moves from years of festering desire to kill the interpreter, to a deeply moving relationship with him.

If you ever doubted man’s ability to commit unspeakable evil, and also to forgive, repent, […]

By |March 15th, 2013|Book reviews|Comments Off on The Railway Man by Eric Lomax