Book Diary – February 2014

‘Live By Night’ by Dennis Lehane

Friday 31st January – Monday 10th February

As with ‘The Given Day’ this took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I read 80% over the course of a weekend, and finished it off at the earliest opportunity during my lunch hour on the Monday.

I think in the past I’ve been a little dismissive of Dennis Lehane’s ability as a writer (and I would still maintain that he is my least favourite of the group of writers from The Wire) but time and time again he is proving himself to be well capable of writing an intelligent page-turner. His more recent, epic novels are also showing that he is making a significant improvement from book to book.

My main criticisms this time would be a lack of what I would consider to be balance in the story. The catalyst for many of the events is the disappearance of a significant character from the early chapters. It’s pretty obvious that this character will reappear, but when they do, they are promptly and summarily dismissed from the story never to return. The second criticism would be the very sudden ending, in which another significant event occurs in the space of the last three pages. I was left wondering where that had come from and why, and then the next page was the acknowledgements.

‘Nobody Ever Says Thank You: Brian Clough, the Biography’ by Jonathan Wilson

Tuesday 11th February – Sunday 9th March

I honestly don’t know how it has taken me so long to get around to reading this book. After all, it is the most complete record of the life of the most iconic person in the history of Nottingham Forest, written by my favourite football journalist, Jonathan Wilson.

Perhaps my reluctance to start turning the pages was down to the fact that I have read several books on Clough, including his autobiography and so I felt I would spend a long time covering familiar ground. To a small extent, this proved to be true, but Wilson’s incredibly detailed research and clear re-telling of the familiar stories showed me just how little I actually knew and how distorted the tales had become.

The greatest difference that was revealed by this book was between my impression of Clough and what Jonathan Wilson convincingly depicts as the reality. A lot of Forest fans I know, swayed by the anomalous success he brought our club, are still in a thrall to Clough, years after his death, and the impression given is always that of a charismatic eccentric. However, he is revealed as an arrogant, erratic and unpleasant man, deviously manipulative and given to provoking confrontation for his own satisfaction and amusement.

The greatest compliment I can pay Jonathan Wilson’s writing is that for 547 out of the 550 pages of NESTY, my sympathy and respect for Brian Clough was completely eroded by JW’s unbiased and unsentimental portrayal of Clough’s awkward personality, and then, in the final 3 pages, he managed to claw enough back for me to pity Clough.

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