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seanh78 has commented on (3) products.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
Down and Out in Paris and London

seanh78, May 8, 2013

I'd assumed this was a roman a clef about Orwell's lean college years where he took some humorously terrible jobs. In fact, this is a rather harrowing account of restaurant life(in Paris) before labor laws, health inspections or social safety nets, and (in London) the life of beggars and transients in the early days of workhouses and bare bones shelters. The first half of the book will be a terrible revelation to anyone shocked by "Kitchen Confidential" or "Waiter Rant," as you won't find restaurants in the civilized world operating in any way similar to what Orwell describes (one hopes). No restaurant job anybody reading this has had in the free world could be worse. It might put an end to any lofty Lost Generation fantasies you might have about fine dining with Stein and Hemingway in 1920s Paris.
Orwell's account of homelessness and observations of the perceptions of the homeless are startingly modern. I can't think of much that has changed for the better in the 80 years since he wrote about it: not in the way homeless people actually live nor in the way they are perceived.
Though I'm giving the book a great rating, it's not without its flaws. It lacks a narrative voice or structure, and consequently it often reads like a laundry list of experiences rather than a cohesive story. Orwell also shares the early 20th Century writer's fascination with race and ethnicity.
This is a great read for anyone who has worked in the margins or found themselves at the bottom of the totem pole.
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Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Where'd You Go, Bernadette

seanh78, March 22, 2013

This is a fantastic comic novel where most all the characters start out looking awful, and come out sympathetic. It's simultaneously scathing yet gentle satire. The novel is part epistolary, part found footage and part real scenes, with commentary from an at once precocious yet sweetly naive teenage girl. Her parents, yuppie/Whole Foods/Stuff White People Like types are California transplants to Seattle, of the exact sort that everybody in the Pacific NW - even Idaho - loves to complain about, and the book gives ample justification why. The title character hates everyone and lives a life of isolation, farming out tasks to a virtual assistant in India. She disappears aboard a cruise ship when her husband attempts to have her committed, and when husband and daughter attempt to find her, the book switches more to mystery and lays off the satire. This is a bit unfortunate, because the first half, particularly Bernadette's fights with other parents at her daughter's exclusive prep school are some of the best comedic writing I've read in a long time. It's up there with "Confederacy of Dunces" or "I Capture the Castle."
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A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R. R. Martin
A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3)

seanh78, August 31, 2012

I nearly lost interest during the meandering, character-heavy second book, but in book three Martin narrows both the focus and the list of characters. There are many, many surprises in this one some of which you will not see coming. Some of them you were hoping for, and some of them will blindside you. A lot of surviving characters get new verve and purpose. If you thought you couldn't make it through the lengthy series, this one gives you the momentum to make you keep going.
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