This isn't really about writing at all, nor is it about Graham Swift (which is a shame, because he's one of my favourite writers and I'd love to knowThis isn't really about writing at all, nor is it about Graham Swift (which is a shame, because he's one of my favourite writers and I'd love to know how he does it). It is, however, a fairly interesting collection of essays, often involving encounters with other members of the literati. What pushes it up to four stars, for me, is the beautiful memoir of Swift's father, which illuminates what must have been a rather quiet (but important) life and makes it feel very special....more
In August 1992, journalists Ed Vulliamy and Penny Marshall revealed to the world the concentration camps in which the Bosnian Serbs, presided over byIn August 1992, journalists Ed Vulliamy and Penny Marshall revealed to the world the concentration camps in which the Bosnian Serbs, presided over by Radovan Karadžić, Ratko Mladic and others, kept their (primarily Bosnian muslim) prisoners in the service of ethnic cleansing. Twenty years on, Vulliamy attempts to make sense of what he found, and what has happened since to those prisoners - on both a personal and a political scale.
The book's subtitle is "Bosnia: the Reckoning", but it contains several chapters starting with the word "Unreckoning", because it seems very little reckoning has taken place among Bosnian Serbs. While some of those interned in the camps have returned to their homes, they must live among their Bosnian Serb neighbours, many of whom participated in the ethnic cleansing - in other words, raped and tortured them, not to mention murdering their friends and relatives. Other survivors have scattered to Europe, the USA and Australia, but remain haunted by what they left behind.
While what happened in the camps was at times horrific, Vulliamy does not dwell on this; instead, he is more interested in what is happening now. The survivors are at the heart of the book, and Vulliamy quotes them often - perhaps because they need to be heard, in the face of Serbian obstruction and international amnesia. It is their stories I will remember as the rest of the book fades, and their stories are the reason I encourage everyone to read this....more
Jonathan Safran Foer brings his thoughtful literary touch to the subject of eating animals. This is not a book that scolds people who eat meat or takeJonathan Safran Foer brings his thoughtful literary touch to the subject of eating animals. This is not a book that scolds people who eat meat or takes a superior moral stance. It begins with Safran Foer, a lifelong flirter with vegetarianism, deciding to discover more about where his food comes from when his son is born.
The result is a gently devastating (I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms) portrait of the factory farming industry and its ramifications: for the animals caught in the system, for small-scale farmers attempting to raise animals more humanely, for surrounding populations affected by debilitating pollution, for those working in the industry, dealing with dehumanising conditions themselves, for the human race as a whole (antibiotic resistance) and for the environment.
The book includes interviews with people from all over the spectrum: a factory farmer, a vegan who builds slaughterhouses, an activist who breaks into factory farms to care for the animals and film footage, various people involved in the "happy meat" movement and many more. For these insights alone, the book is well worth its purchase price.
Refusing to adhere to a single "right" answer, Safran Foer argues that it is important for all of us to understand what our food choices (ie where and with which companies we spend our money) mean, so that we can make the choices that best fit our values. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about the world we are living in....more
I enjoyed this book a lot despite its narrative flaws. The subtitle, "the rise and fall of an English Dynasty" is somewhat inaccurate, since we beginI enjoyed this book a lot despite its narrative flaws. The subtitle, "the rise and fall of an English Dynasty" is somewhat inaccurate, since we begin with the Fitzwilliam family at the peak of their dynastic power, and follow their decline over the first half of the twentieth century.
Bailey has a knack for drawing the reader in with a mixture of a (sometimes overbearing) portentious narrative, emotional resonance and vivid details. Jumping around in time to maximise the narrative power, she sometimes doesn't seem to know when to stop, or how to blend stories together. Hundreds of pages are spent on social conditions among British miners - all very relevant, but sometimes entire chapters go by without a mention of the Fitzwilliam family. The same goes for the story of Kathleen Kennedy; she was doubtless a fascinating, sympathetic character, but did we really need to know all her history?
Despite this, I really enjoyed reading the book - it even left me wanting more, which is perhaps part of the point. Wentworth House, home to the Fitzwilliams and once as grand as Chatswood, is vividly brought to life, as are the various characters and the social history.
A truly fascinating book, despite its flaws. I recommend it to anyone interested in early twentieth century Britain....more
I found this book very depressing. If the point of writing, for me, is to make the ordinary beautiful, Bennett does the opposite here by emphasising tI found this book very depressing. If the point of writing, for me, is to make the ordinary beautiful, Bennett does the opposite here by emphasising the mundane existences of his parents, their families and their struggles with depression. Perhaps that was the point, for him - but for me, it just felt as if he thought their lives were a complete waste, because they'd lived them out so quietly and with so few achievements....more