Copenhagen by Michael Frayn – Minerva Theatre, Chichester 31st August 2018

Why did I choose to go to Chichester to see this play?  I don’t know, and neither does anybody else.  The facts are clear enough.  I had seen it was coming, and thought it would be interesting.  But I didn’t book tickets until the last minute.  I didn’t realise how popular it would be. How could I?  So by the time I came to book nearly every seat was taken and I had very little choice of which seat to take – and there were no nights where two seats were left next to each other.   Is that why I went alone?   Or did my wife’s reluctance to go and see a play  about a couple of physicists with a total cast of 3 and no prospect of any singing or dancing have something to do with it.  Did that hold me back from getting my credit card out.  Did I only commit when I had a valid excuse for why I was going alone?   I literally don’t know the answers to these questions, even though it all happened in my head in the last month.  Our brains and how they work are a mystery to ourselves. Michael Frayn could probably get a play out of this. Continue reading Copenhagen by Michael Frayn – Minerva Theatre, Chichester 31st August 2018

The King’s Speech

 

Hello, I’m Colin Sanders and this is the history books review. It isn’t a book today. I have just watched the film of the King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter.  I’ll leave the merits of the film to the film critics, though I will say that it are nearly brought a tear to my eye. But the thing that interested me was how it showed just how much attitudes have changed in a relatively short period of time. It tells the story of events that are still just about within living memory.   I talked about them to my grand parents who remembered them vividly.  George VI, the main protagonist, still appeared on coins when I was growing up. Continue reading The King’s Speech

The Second World War by Antony Beevor

second-world-war-antony-beevor

In tackling the Second World War Antony Beevor was picking a big subject. I had reservations. I love his accounts of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin. But it wasn’t obvious to me that the same formula would work.  Usually he gives enough background to understand what was at stake and then looks at how individuals caught up in these big events coped with them.  Would this work on a larger scale?

And in fact I was right to be worried to some extent. It doesn’t work as well, but it still works well enough to produce a really splendid and readable book.  If you are looking for a book on World War 2 there are plenty to choose from. But I can’t think of a better one than this, particularly if you want to know what it was like to take part in it.It is easy to forget one of the most obvious facts about World War 2, which is that a very common experience of it as a participant was to simply get killed straight away.  Millions of people’s lives were abruptly, un-heroically and completely pointlessly brought to a sudden violent end.  No war has taken a greater toll on innocent bystanders.And you were no better off if you were involved officially.

Continue reading The Second World War by Antony Beevor

Orwell, Tolkien, C.S.Lewis and the Nazis

My three favourite twentieth century English authors are Orwell, Tolkien and C.S.Lewis. It isn’t a perfectly equal trinity though. I think Orwell and Tolkien are writers of huge genius who will be read for centuries to come. Lewis I like a lot and enjoy reading, but he isn’t really in the same category. He can certainly write well and has lots of interesting ideas, but I think he is very much of his time and will get steadily less relevant as the world changes. He also got a lot of his ideas from the other two. This doesn’t diminish how much fun you get from reading him. But originality always commands more respect than derivation, no matter how skilfully done. Continue reading Orwell, Tolkien, C.S.Lewis and the Nazis