42 Word Retrospectives

The Silver Pigs

The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis (1989); audiobook read by Christian Rodska (Bolinda, 2015) The mystery doesn’t amount to much or even feature heavily in this long-ish debut novel. The Ancient Roman setting, however, is refreshing in its detail and Didius Falco (history’s first down-and-out detective!) has a certain appeal, especially as voiced by Christian Rodska.    


Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky (Jonathan Cape, 1998) Comprehensively researched, and written in an engaging style (though the start-of-chapter quotes and end-of-chapter recipes could easily have been omitted), Kurlansky’s history of trout fishing is of interest beyond the fate of the much-revered fish. International politics, economics and exploration feature heavily.    

Yes Prime Minister, Volume I

Yes Prime Minister: The Diaries of the Right Hon. James Hacker, Volume I ed. Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay (BBC, 1986) A droll reworking (by the same writers) of the television series broadcast earlier that year. The machinations and absurdities of government are exposed with an equivalent cleverness but the humour is necessarily diminished, coming across in commonplace echoes of…

The Tao of Pooh

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff; ill. Ernest H. Shepard (Dutton, 1982) The notion of explaining Taoism (the Eastern philosophy) by way of Winnie-the-Pooh (the pleasingly simplistic bear) is one of those inspirations that work better as lightbulb moments than as book-length treatments. Hoff makes his point in the foreword; the rest is belaboured.    

Rhyme Stew

Rhyme Stew by Roald Dahl; ill. Quentin Blake (Jonathan Cape, 1989) Lame poetry that, otherwise treated, could have become classic illustrated short stories. Dahl’s rhymes are too simplistic for grown-ups, yet too adult for young readers (the cover explicitly says so, though everything else about the book’s presentation screams ‘children’). A perplexing offering.    

Service with a Smile

Service with a Smile by P G Wodehouse (Simon & Schuster, 1961) More pig-stealing machinations at Blandings Castle. Wodehouse as ever constructs and demolishes, re-weaves and unravels a plot thick with thwarted marriages and jovial underhandedness. Ickenham performs admirably as Galahad’s understudy, yet the prose and resolutions fall short of Wodehouse at his best.