Book Group 4 – Books Read 4: T-Z

About the book and a review

Fiction:  Authors A-G   |  Authors  H-L  |  Authors  M-S   |  Authors T-Z : listed by author  |  Nonfiction

Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse

A 1959 novel that was later adapted into a play, a film, a musical, and a TV series.   William Fisher, a working-class 19-year-old living with his parents, spends his time indulging in fantasies and dreams of life in the big city   Billy lies compulsively to everyone he comes across, especially to his three girlfriends. Trapped by his boring job and working-class parents, Billy finds that his only happiness lies in grand plans for his future and fantastical day-dreams of the fictional country Ambrosia.

It’s something I never saw, as it’s a 1960s play but I have to say I really enjoyed it.  I loved the pure fantasy of it and in some ways it made me think about lockdown and how people might adapt Billy’s way to cope with it all.

Frost at Christmas by R D Wingfield
A Touch of Frost by R D Wingfield
Night Frost by R D Wingfield
Hard Frost by R D Wingfield
Winter Frost by R D Wingfield
A Killing Frost by R D Wingfield

Last month I read all six books in the Frost series, as dramatised on TV and played by David Jason.  They were published between 1984 and 2007.  If you’ve seen the TV series (which I enjoyed) you will know what to expect.

Reading the books you can visualise David Jason, the character is shambolic but dogged, often wrong about the case, doesn’t get any paperwork done, and shows empathy, even with some of the villains.  I found the series very readable, although the books are quite long (over 400 pages), but ultimately unsatisfying.

All the books are much the same plot and the characterisation thin.  However, if you look at any of the books on Amazon and look at the reviews you will see that the biggest complaint is about the rampant sexism.  The first book was apparently written in 1972 although not published until 1984, and the author seems stuck in the seventies.  The characters smoke constantly, and all women (and girls over the age of 12) are constantly leered at, even the dead ones.

A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling

On the day of the historic 1945 Jewel Voice Broadcast (in which Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender to the Allied forces, bringing an end to World War II) three men, flush with jubilation, made a pact.  After their deaths, each year on the anniversary of the broadcast, their souls would return to the Chinese village of their younger days.  It’s where they had fought—and survived—a war that shook the world and changed their own lives in unimaginable ways.  Now, seventy years later, the pledge is being fulfilled by American missionary, Pastor Billy, brash gunner’s mate, Ian Ferguson, and local soldier, Liu Zhaohu.  All that’s missing is Ah Yan, also known as Swallow, and Wende.

As they unravel their personal stories of the war, and of the woman who touched them so deeply during that unforgiving time, the story of Ah Yan’s life begins to take shape, woven into view by their memories.  A woman who had suffered unspeakable atrocities, and yet found the grace and dignity to survive, she had been the one to bring them together.  And it is her spark of humanity, still burning brightly, that gives these ghosts of the past the courage to look back on their friendship and how they treated her.  And how she treated them.