October 2004
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- Most of this month's books have extracts available to read online -
October Smorgas-Borgas

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"The Last Enemy"
by Richard Hillary

Iíve been trying to wean myself off fiction for a while. And I have found over the years, that something which I can always rely on to lend a little gravity to my existance, is a firsthand account of some major event. Now, there isnít an event, in living history certainly, any more major than the Second World War. Richard Hillary was 22 when he wrote this, his one and only literary work. It is only a short book; some 176 pages in the copy I have. But it is in a way the story of his life, certainly the part which mattered most to him. He joined the RAF in 1939,when he was a 20 year old, Oxford undergraduate. He gained his commission in the summer of 1940 - The Battle of Britain; within a year had been flying combat missions, was shot down and burned terribly, then underwent reconstructive surgery at the hands of renowned plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe. After persuading the RAF to allow him to fly again, Hillary was killed when his plane crashed on a night training mission in 1942. He was 23.

The account given of these young men and the way they approached their terrifying missions, the loss of thier comades and probability of their own death, is profoundly moving. However, this is not a recount of heroic exploit. At itís heart is the question of the morality of war and self, what really motivates the self in war.

When we come to compare our own lives, to those who risked their lives on a daily basis so that others might survive and a way of life that they believed in, might survive ó we find that the relative peacetime we know, has trivialized our existance and if anything, has made us lesser people.

Do yourself a favour, if you get this book try to find a copy with an Introduction by Sebastian Faulks this really will help you to understand it all a lot better than I.



Nathanielís Nutmeg ďHow One Manís Courage changed the course of HistoryĒ"
by Giles Milton

Very interesting, straightforward history. I love this kind of stuff. Hey, New Yorkers ó you really ought to read this. Gotcha now, havenít I.

"ďEats, shoots & leavesĒ
by Lynne Truss

Completely brilliant. But, it is a bit of an ďOh dear!Ē

If you consider the written word as a gauge of our cullture, then you may be horrified by this.

Itís a book about punctuation, not language, not common usage, not grammar but punctuation i.e.commas, apostrophes, full-stops etc.. How on earth this magnificent woman managed to make this subject, one of, if not this yearís most, entertaining read, is a welcome miracle.

Ms Truss, I am thoroughly indebted to you. I now understand the subtle, yet crucial importance of say, the semi-colon, which joins related sentances where a full-stop would be a little heavy handed. By the way, Iím still practising; Iíve nearly got the hang of ...

Ooh-eró scary isnít it!

Hang on, am I suppose to put a question mark after a rhetorical question?

OK, itís going to take some getting used to, but Iím determined to have a go.
And I forgot to mention; this book is hilarious.
By the way, those three dots ó theyíre called an ellipsis.