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review 2019-10-21 00:31
My Life: J.G. Bennett and G.I. Gurdjieff: The Memoirs of Elizabeth Bennett - Elizabeth Bennett

"My Life: J.G. Bennett and G.I. Gurdjieff: The Memoirs of Elizabeth Bennett" is an incomplete memoir by the author. It spans from her formative years as the daughter of a house master at Eton College, the health challenges she faced as a little girl and adolescent, the 5 years she spent in service with the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) during the Second World War, to her meeting with J.G. Bennett near the end of the war --- a man 20 years her senior best described as far-seeing in thought, attitude, and action, with whom she would later share her life and bear him 4 children -- and the charismatic mystic and teacher G.I. Gurdjieff.

The memoir is focused more on relating the experiences Elizabeth Bennett had with Gurdjieff in France in the late 1940s (til his death in 1949), as well as with Bennett (whom she referred to as 'Mr. B') through the mid-1950s. There are also numerous color drawings made by Elizabeth Bennett herself during various phases of her life (she passed away in August 1991 from cancer; she was 72) and what loose ends there are in the memoir are filled in by her 2 sons. On the whole, this is a very readable book, written in a very honest, straightforward manner.

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review 2019-08-21 20:32
Thomas Cromwell: A Life - Diarmaid MacCulloch
Thomas Cromwell: A Life - David Rintoul,Diarmaid MacCulloch

Expansion into a full review to come (if I find the time), but for the moment:


If you even have the slightest interest in Tudor history and politics, run, don't walk to get this book.  And for a special treat, also get the audio version narrated by David Rintoul.  This is an intense, fact-packed read and (in either the print or audio version) not a book to rush through; but it is SO worth taking the time.  What a fascinating personality -- and what an amazing biography.

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review 2019-08-09 17:09
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Days in the Caucasus - Banine
Days in the Caucasus - Banine,Anoushka Rava

Well, looks like I was tempting fate after all.  As it turns out, not every memoir set in the former USSR in the years before and during the Russian Revolution was really shouting out to be written.  This is definitely one such -- which is particularly disappointing as the writer's father was a leading Azerbaijani (oil) industrialist and a minister in the short-lived 1918-19 Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.  I realize that Banine was a child during the years that she describes in this book (up to her emigration to Paris in 1923 at age 18), but she was an adult woman when she sat down to write it some 20 years later, and for her memoir nevertheless to contain no more than an extremely superficial description of the political circumstances of the day, absolutely zero analysis (political or otherwise), and instead a relation solely from the perspective of her spoiled child-self of those years is pretty underwhelming.  This could have been so much more.


As a side note, Anoushka Rava is going straight onto my list of "never again" narrators.  Note to publisher: A narrator with no ears for narrative rhythm, flow and texture does decidedly not add to the authenticity of the narration, for however much their accent may (presumably) resemble that of the author when speaking a foreign language.  It is also emphatically not necessary to spend nine hours yelling at the reader / listener in order to convey the impression of a household in which conversations conducted at that level of vocal exertion (equally exercised by all speakers, and moreover at the same time) was apparently the norm.

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review 2019-07-24 02:44
Solitude & Company - ¬°QUE VIDA!
Solitude & Company - Silvana Paternostro

I read "SOLITUDE & COMPANY" as an 'inverted memoir' in which Silvana Paternostro very smartly compiled a biography of the Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez as told by the various personages she interviewed who knew García Márquez best, through various periods of his life, from childhood to death. Indeed, it was these people who, through their impressions of García Márquez and his various incarnations --- journalist, struggling writer, celebrated writer (following the massive success of his novel 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' in 1967), and Nobel laureate & world celebrity --- made him for me a tangible and interesting person. 

Reading this 'testimonial' has been an experience that I won't soon forget. I enjoyed it. 

("SOLITUDE & COMPANY" also contains a number of photos featuring García Márquez and the various persons in his life, as well as a few pages of biographical ''Notes on the Most Important Voices' on many of the persons Paternostro had interviewed for the book.)

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review 2019-06-02 22:54
Data, A Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match - Amy Webb

"DATA, A LOVE STORY: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match" is a testament to Amy Webb's ingenuity and sheer grit to devise, test, and put into practice a strategy that netted her 'the man of her dreams' who became her future husband. 

Anyone who has tried online dating as a way to find him/herself a girl/boyfriend or prospective spouse can appreciate how stressful and at times frustrating it can be to have that good date or series of dates that could lead to meaningful, personal relationships. I admit I felt a kind of voyeurism from reading about Amy's dating experiences. I appreciated her honesty in being clear about the type of man she was seeking and the systematic way she went about realizing her goal. Some other reviews of this book, I've noticed, have taken issue with Amy Webb's methods. That didn't bother me one bit. In fact, I couldn't help but admire what she was able to do in being able, after considerable effort, to meet the man who became her future husband. Maybe some of those people who have written critical reviews of "DATA, A LOVE STORY" have a certain envy of Amy's success. 

Beyond the main text of the book, Amy Webb, through the accompanying Notes and Appendix, shares with the reader the fine details behind the crafting of each chapter as well as the logic and quantitative methods she employed in finding the 'ideal date' for her. Anyone reading this review who may want to try online dating, I feel, would derive a worthwhile benefit from learning from Amy Webb herself through reading this book as to how she cracked the online dating code to meet her match.

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