16 Nov 2017

(DR HARRY KENT SERIES #1): THE HOLLOW MEN & HIDDEN FIGURES: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN WHO HELPED WIN THE SPACE RACE.

Two reviews of two very different books, both of them read for my Reading Group. To view the synopsis of each book please click on the book's title. TT


THE HOLLOW MEN by ROB MCCARTHY.

The hearing is the last sense to go, and the first to come back.
- First Sentence 

He could feel the sweat under his arms, on his face. Lahiri's face was sallow, defeated, with the expression of horror you get when you realise someone else knows something they were never meant to. An expression of abject failure.
- Memorable Moment: Page 192

MY THOUGHTS ... Used to reading US Police Procedurals , it was refreshing to read one set in Southwark, England, and not just any Southwark, England ...

With its backdrop of inner city housing estates notorious for their gangland culture this is a gritty read in which Intensive Care Registrar, Harry Kent, gets caught up in an incident.

A strong debut novel. Whilst the medical terminology could be a bit dense, for the main part the author managed to walk the line that saw the jargon kept authentic and yet largely understandable to even those of us whose only knowledge of a pneumothorax  (that's a collapsed lung to you and me) is what we have gathered off any number of the medical dramas out there.

Character wise?

As with most protagonists of this genre Kent is not without his demons. His CID counterpart (and I dare bet love interest to be) Frances (Frankie) Noble, likewise with issues of her own. Both willing to go that extra mile, to bend the rules to get their man so to speak. Their humanity (and humility) make for interesting characters that I believe have a lot of mileage in them.


HIDDEN FIGURES: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN WHO HELPED WIN THE SPACE RACE by MARGOT LEE SHETTERLY.


"Mrs Land worked as a computer out at Langley," my father said, taking a right turn out of the parking lot at First Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia.
- First Sentence, Prologue

.... it was difficult to object to good education and mild middle-class manners, even if they came wrapped in brown skin.
- Memorable Moment, page 87

MY THOUGHTS ... What could have been a fascinating read if it wasn't so, I hesitate to use the word, dull. I can't help wondering if all of the immense research that had obviously gone into the book; the amount of facts and figures (many of them repeated more than once) that I got lost in, the sheer amount of technical know-how that went over the top of my head, came at the cost of what should have been three fascinating female 'computers', computers being the name given to the mathematicians who played such a crucial roll in America's Space Programme.

Yes, without doubt a story worth telling however ... 

The highly skilled work these women were doing aside (like most people I know I wasn't aware of this), for me the most interesting aspect of the book was the social history that chronicled the conditions under which women like Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson (the inspiration behind Hidden Figures) lived and worked. But alas, even then, for the most part facts like these 'Negro' women (not a term that sits comfortably with me but one that is sadly historically accurate) had a separate entrance to their 'White' colleagues came as nothing new.

Then there were the technical issues.  

To my mind, in need of a good edit. The repetitive way in which we were treat to fact and figures was bad enough, the chronological jumping to and fro downright confusing but, worst of all, rather than letting us, the reader, sit in awe of these women, there was a lot of unnecessary(?) adoration by the author.  

A book about which I've heard said 'read the final three chapters and you have the film'. I can't help wondering if this is one of those rare cases in which the film will indeed prove better than the book.



10 comments:

So many books, so little time said...

Not read any of these Tracy, I like the sound of the first one, recently found myself enjoying books that are a bit more heavy on the medical side. Will have an eye out for this. Hope you are well lovely lady xxx

Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

Brian Joseph said...

Too bad that hidden figures was disappointing. It sounds so disorganized. Books should not repeat themselves. As you say, it is a story worth telling.

Kelly said...

You might remember I read Rise of the Rocket Girls, which tells of the women who worked at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) both before the "space race", throughout, and to date. It was published around the same time as Hidden Figures, but since I knew there was to be a film of HF, I opted to wait for that instead of reading another book on the general topic. (though the JPL book was more about women than race). I loved the film Hidden Figures.

Your first book sounds interesting. I'm just not sure I need to begin yet another series. (I already have book 1 of several sitting in my TBR pile)

nightwingsraven said...

Tracy,
What you said about The Hollow Men
truly piqued my curiosity and I have
added it to my list. But I hesitate
about Hidden Figures and I am sorry it
was such a disappointing book for you.
And I am keeping your criticism about
it seriously in mind.
After Kelly reviewed Rise of the Rocket
Girls and the film of Hidden Figures I
added those to my list.
Raven

Melliane said...

I was curious about Hidden Figures.

sherry fundin said...

Like that title - Hollow Men. Kinda catchy. Have a great weekend.
sherry @ fundinmental

Literary Feline said...

I really enjoyed Hidden Figures myself--and found it better than the book in terms of accuracy (which I can be a stickler about sometimes), but the film is worth seeing if you get a chance. You will probably like it better given your complaints about the book. I think it will work better for you.

Hollow Men sounds like a good one!

The Bookworm said...

That's too bad about Hidden Figures, I had my eye on that one.

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

Greetings Tracy. I don't read much while I'm writing myself! Thanks for the reviews! Blessings to you. Enjoy your Sunday.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

LL Cool Joe said...

I think the film "Hidden Figures" was excellent, one of the best I've seen for several years, and sounds a great deal more interesting than the book.