Thursday, 20 September 2007

Book Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling

Potter conquers world and more in the final dose of Rowling's magical formula

It would seem criminal to let the Potter era entirely pass without mention in WhatPeterborough’s books section. Potter-mania is now inescapable after ten years of hype over Rowling’s wizarding world, this summer seeing the culmination of the carefully constructed super-plot that has spanned seven books and over 4000 pages, earning Rowling an estimated half a billion pound fortune. The final instalment is mammoth in size (are children of primary school age really expected to manage a book of such epic proportions?) and dark in character, but this should come as no surprise: the Potter series, by Rowling’s own admission, is preoccupied with death, beginning with the death of Harry’s parents, and ultimately revolving around the battle to destroy the evil Voldemort.

'The Deathly Hallows' follows Harry and friends in their final struggle against Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters, who have taken over the muggle and wizarding worlds in their quest for pureblood supremacy. Mudbloods a-plenty find themselves shipped off to concentration camps, families are ripped apart, and resistance can only be in secret until Harry can unravel the complicated mission left to him by Dumbledore and, of course, save the world. Both worlds.

Unsurprisingly considering her astronomical success, Rowling’s ability as a writer has been increasingly questioned in the decade since Potter first arrived on our bookshelves. Anthony Holden of the Observer asserted of The Prisoner of Azkaban: ‘essentially patronising, very conservative, highly derivative, dispiritingly nostalgic for a bygone Britain’. He has a point. However no critic can deny Rowling the credit she deserves for persuading millions of children to put down their Playstations and read a bible-sized series of books in this most fickle digital age. Despite the bland adverbs and repetitive cliches that saturate these novels, the generation that has grown up with Potter are unlikely to feel that same literary fervour for anything new for a long time to come.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Book Review - For Tibet, With Love by Isabel Losada

Life-changing comedy that starts in the home

If you’re looking for inspiration during these rather depressingly wet summer months, look no further. The perfect antidote to the bad weather, 'A Beginner’s Guide…' is a cheering piece of non-fiction, exploring the possibility that each of us, as individuals, have the ability to make positive changes on a global scale.

Losada becomes obsessed with the injustice of the Chinese invasion of Tibet since 1950 and this is the focus of her philanthropic crusade. The book documents her discovery of the problem through to sponsored skydives and the unfurling of a huge pro-Tibet photo of the Dalai Lama on Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar square, which raised the profile of her campaign on an international scale and resulted in Losada meeting the Dalai Lama.

Losada’s conversational and down-to-earth style makes the political issue at hand second to her argent passion for making a difference, which makes this an incredibly positive read without ever straying from the seriousness of the Tibetan’s plight for independence. You’ll find yourself transported to Tibet and back through colourful descriptions of people and places as she reaches out to the reader as a conspirator and friend.

Extreme sensitivity when conveying the experiences of innocent Tibetan torture victims at the hands of their Chinese captors makes it difficult not to feel personally affected by the problems of that forgotten territory. Ultimately where Losada succeeds is in making each of us feel just a little bit responsible for, and indeed very capable of, making a difference.

And what better way to pass a rainy afternoon than with a good-humoured book that could result in you changing the world?