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review 2016-09-16 08:59
The Lives and the Times- Amit Verma

   First, please don’t be put off by some rather dubious reviews. Authors have no say over who reviews their work, whether they wish to flatter with stars or trash with their absence. I took the trouble to make contact and ask the author about what had happened. He had a book signing event on his own academic institutions campus. We can’t control our popularity. I admire Verma’s honesty, especially in this world where the honest authors have to compete against an overwhelming pile of deceit in the book marketing business. Some or all of these over egging reviews may not be on other popular reviewing sites, in which case this opening paragraph is of only obscure relevance. (I read on Amazon.com)
   This book is written with a very Indian voice, with a common rhythm of English spoken on the sub-continent. That style is exactly right for the book, however, a good edit to internationalise the sentence structure, and improve some word choices, is needed. There are also grammatical errors that distract from the flow.
   I would have preferred a title along the lines of ‘June’s Dream’. The prologue to the book seems to be misplaced. In my opinion, it adds nothing to the later folds of the story.
   I actually loved reading this book, feeling drawn to look at a class-based mind-set, a detachment from the less fortunate masses that pervades on the Indian sub-continent. I felt the harshness, the magic, the dust, the rural backwardness and the strange mix of modern and ancient that I associate with India. The bizarre dream of June allows for the development of so many elements of life, for some penetration satire, and for the surrealism that invades some many of our dreams. I sensed the deep frustrations that pervades those attempting to turn India into the truly modern country it should already be, but for the failures to unlock its potential. The story, the dream, breaths the rhythms of a billion people from a host of interlocking, connected but independently acting cultures, that generally put their own needs before those of the greater society. The biggest democracy in the world needs to be what on paper it should have rapidly become after 1947, a date which is already a long-lifetime in the past. Verma is an accomplished writer with a great story, but one rather let down by poor execution. I don’t know who edited the book, but I do know that they’ve done the author less than justice. Verma’s satirical humour is deserving of much better presentation.


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review 2013-07-21 20:58
Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives
Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives - KATIE HICKMAN A survey of the live and times of diplomatic wives within the British Foreign Office over the past few centuries. THe last chapters include some of that rare breed, the husband of a diplomat but it's interesting to see how some women coped and didn't. From famous to infamous; from solid rock of support to rebel this is a facinating account from the daughter of a diplomat who was in Ireland when the British ambassador was murdered by the IRA
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review 2013-06-13 00:00
Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France - Lucy Moore
More like 4.5 stars.

Women's roles in revolution has interested me ever since I studied Modern European history at uni so I was very excited when I found this book. I was even more excited when I discovered it covered some territory I wasn't all that familiar with.

This accessible bio covers the lives of six women (from all classes) who lived and were politically active (or as active as women were allowed to be) during the French Revolution and Napoleonic era. It refreshingly tells the 'other' side of the story, essentially how the various political ideologies and stages of this tumultuous time in France changed women's influence and positions in society. And while that may sound somewhat dry it wasn't at all. I found it very readable and at times almost gossipy (my favourite type of bio) although that's not to say it wasn't well researched with lots of notes, references, glossaries and gorgeous colour plates. Be warned though, it probably pays to know your French Rev. basics before reading as what the men did is mainly covered in reference to the women.

Most enjoyable, as was reading it with my good friend Kim :-).
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review 2013-06-12 00:00
Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France - Lucy Moore
I have Hilary Mantel to thank for my fascination with the French Revolution. Before I read [b:A Place of Greater Safety|101921|A Place of Greater Safety|Hilary Mantel|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1363435037s/101921.jpg|1168385], I had only the sketchiest knowledge of this period in French history. I’m much better informed now, and even more so thanks to Lucy Moore’s account of the lives of six women who were intimately involved in the Revolution and its aftermath.

Some of these women I knew a little about already: in particular, the formidable Manon Roland, who was one of the first victims of the Terror, the sans culottes women’s group organizer Pauline Léon and the courtesan turned revolutionary Théroigne de Méricourt. I was familiar with the name of another, Germaine de Staël, although I knew nothing about her other than that she was a writer. The aristocratic Thérésia de Fontenay - who was responsible for saving the lives of countless people who would have otherwise been executed during the terror – I knew nothing about at all. And I thought that I knew nothing about the beautiful society leader Juliette Récamier, until I realised that I’ve seen her portrait by Jacques-Louis David in the Louvre Museum.


Moore’s account of the lives of these women is fascinating. It is written in excellent, accessible prose and includes detailed notes, a comprehensive bibliography, a glossary of terms, information about persons mentioned in the book other than the six central figures and suggestions for further reading. It’s highly recommended for readers with an interest in the French Revolution. However, readers who don’t already have some knowledge about key figures and events of the period will probably find it less interesting than I did. I’m glad to have read the book with my good friend Jemidar, who shares my interest in this fascinating period.

Mentioned frequently in this book is the song of the French Revolution, Ça Ira. Here it is, sung by Edith Piaf. For a translation, here's a link to Wikipedia.

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review 2012-07-17 00:00
The Worldly Philosophers - Robert L. Heilbroner Now I find another must-own. This is truly a model for non-fiction [of my taste]. This is the quality that I expect to find in every non-fic.

The Worldly Philosophers first of all is educational, very illuminating. I am not yet an expert to evaluate the author's interpretation of great men's ideas, and I am not at all certain whether his choice of economists to present is appropriate. Nevertheless, for every single philosopher, especially after reading the disappointing "Grand Pursuit," I find Heilbroner's argument amazingly convincing, clear and straightforward. He was able to get all those complex thoughts simple, but not overly so. He kept a perfect balance between each economist's thought and his personal life, between seriousness and wittiness. For his audience of purpose, which is newbie to the field, I guess I could not find a better book on economic doctrines.

I could not praise the main text more, but there is something else I want to mention, which is the very last chapter of the book. I am interested in the way Heilbroner call Economics as a type of philosophy. He points out the very thing that has been troubling my mind all this time as a Econs major: sometimes I dislike so much the mechanical math prevailing in the field. That's why the more I dig into it, the more frustrated I feel. No matter how much math is employed, Econs in my mind can never predict with definite like the speed of a ball falling in Physics. After all economics is about human behavior, and so far I could not even predict my own spending accurately. Why bothering to find laws when they are not laws at all? They are just "law-like," as the author said. What's the point? (Now, for some who wants simply to make money in financial market, or to run a business, they may never care for this question. But I do. Since there are times I hate the field dearly, and other times I am so fascinated by these men's beliefs)

The point is that Economics before 1950s was about the explanation, the vision of the society (capitalism & socialism alike). Economics could be considered an effort to make sense the world we live in (in realm of worldly matter - wealth), and then to guide us, to find our place in that world. Unfortunately, for now, the field tries to become a science. Still, I believe at heart (and hope) and Economics would stay to be the "worldly philosophy".

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