Not making much progress with reading War and Peace

Tolstoy

I’m not making much progress with attempting to read War and Peace for the umpteenth time.

This is for two reasons.

First,

I keep finding other books I’d prefer to read, notably Citizen Clem by John Bew which is absolutely brilliant and deserves all the accolades that have been heaped on it.

I keep going off at tangents to find out more about things that come up in the book. Yesterday I was looking up the WW1 Gallipolli campaign in which Attlee was a serving officer; Edward Bellamy’s 1887 novel “Looking Backwards” which appears to have influenced Attlee’s political thinking; and some of the WW1 poets as Attlee tried his hand at writing poetry in his early years and during his war service. I was reminded of studying the poems of Wilfred Owen for A level English Literature in the late 1960s and took a few minutes to visit some of them again. I learned Anthem for Doomed Youth off-by-heart and have never forgotten the opening lines:

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.

I’m about halfway through Citizen Clem now and enjoying every page of the biography.

In recent months I’ve developed a taste for dystopian fiction especially Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Terry Tyler’s Project Renova series.  I love Terry Tyler novels and have read them all but was surprised when she moved into dystopian fiction for her new trilogy. What an achievement! She’s made a brilliant genre transition whilst retaining her distinctive author voice. The next book in the Project Renova series is to be published later in the year so, while waiting patiently for publication day of Book Three, I’ve been reading Active: Before joining the resistance you must first become active by Dan Hastings. The novel takes a number of present day issues and develops them further into a plausible, dystopian future set in 2030. The novel has many qualities of a thriller and the juxtaposition of the two genres makes for an interesting read.

I like Lynn Gerrard’s poetry and her third collection  Whisperings and Wonderings: The Grumblings of a Gargoyle is excellent. Many of the poems are dark and occasionally disturbing as the writer explores Death, Relationships and a little Philosophy. The collection is cleverly balanced with some lighter, humorous poems strategically placed to prevent the collection becoming depressing. I re-read the book earlier this week, dipping into the collection a few poems at a time and enjoying them  just as much in the second helping. I really liked both earlier collections of poems from Lynn Gerrard and this book is just as good. I understand a fourth collection is in the pipeline and I’m looking forward to reading it.

So, not much reading time for War and Peace! As the late, great Frank Zappa is reputed to have said: Too many books; not  enough time…..

….which leads me on to my

second

reason for not reading War and Peace.

I’ve watched the BBC adaptation of War and Peace on DVD. The fantastic James Norton, currently starring in the Sunday night drama, McMafia, plays Andrei Bolkonsky and he and the rest of the cast create excellent portrayals of the richly, complex characters. The settings and costumes are lavish and there are some graphic battle reconstructions. The series cracks along at a great pace packing all those thousands of words into just six episodes. It’s a real TV drama treat. Watching the TV version has helped with my struggle to remember the names of all the characters. Whether or not I’ll ever get into reading the novel in its entirety, I really can’t say. War and Peace remains open on my Kindle but I’ve a queue of other books to read after I’ve finished with Citizen Clem.

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Clement Attlee was born #OnThisDay in 1883

Clem Attlee

I know a lot more about the achievements of the 1945 Labour government than I do about Prime Minister Clem Attlee who was born on this day in 1883.

So I’ve downloaded the award winning biography “Citizen Clem” by John Bew.

I’ve heard Attlee described as “a sheep in sheep’s clothing” and thought this was attributed to Churchill but apparently it was Malcolm Muggeridge who coined the insult.

“Citizen Clem” was awarded the 2017 Orwell Prize for Political Writing and the 2017   Elizabeth Longford Prize for Political Biography. John Bew’s revelatory biography “shows Attlee not only as a hero of his age, but an emblem of it; and his life tells the story of how Britain changed over the twentieth century.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

In this 1946 Pathe News clip, Attlee shares with the nation his vision of “We’re all in it together”.

I liked these Clem Attlee quotes from AZ Quotes

No social system will bring us happiness, health and prosperity unless it is inspired by something greater than materialism.

Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.

And there are lots more quotes here.

Clem Attlee retired as Labour leader and from the House of Commons in 1955. He was elevated to the peerage and took his seat in the House of Lords as Earl Attlee and Viscount Prestwood on 16 December 1955. Attlee died in 1967 and the title passed to his son, Martin Attlee. On Martin’s death in 1991, the title passed to his son, John Attlee. John took up his seat in the House of Lords in 1992 initially as a cross-bencher. Shortly before the general election of 1997 John Attlee joined the Conservative Party. He is one of the ninety elected hereditary peers that remain in the House of Lords after the passing of the House of Lords Act 1999.

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