Andrea Levy’s Small Island (£14.99), which won the Orange Prize last month, is a brilliant read. Levy captures the racism, both overt and subtle, faced by West Indian immigrants in post Second World War Britain in a moving and often funny way. She weaves together the lives of four characters, black and white, and in the process gives a fascinating picture of life in Britain before, during and after the Second World War. Through the gripping personal stories of its protagonists, the novel depicts the immense social changes in Britain, and its colonies, wrought by the Second World War. It shows the contempt and racism with which the establishment treated the black men who fought for Britain, like the character Gilbert Joseph who was in the RAF. And it also depicts how the experience and expectations of women were changed forever through their experience of the war. Its themes of racism, immigration and social change are more than relevant for today, and above all it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Richard and Judy’s ‘Book Club’ came up with a gem earlier this year with Joseph O’Connor’s excellent Star of the Sea. Now Richard and Judy are picking their recommended summer reads. I really enjoyed one of their choices, The Mermaid and the Drunks by Ben Richards. It is a thought provoking story, part political thriller and part love story, set in the post-Pinochet Chile of privatisation and crooked deals. As the story unfolds, Chile’s past – the bloody aftermath of the coup against Allende and the brutality of Pinochet’s dictatorship – are never far away. I became hooked on the story and would recommend it to anyone heading off for their holidays this summer.
Such has been the mood against George W Bush, it has become easier to count the bookshops that don’t have an anti-Bush book display than those that do. Publishing companies certainly seem to know a ready market when they see it. Even the latest issue of the Bookseller, the publishers’ magazine that goes out to all bookshops, saw fit to run its own anti-Bush feature. In its ‘Bush Beleaguered’ section it ran some of the latest of the many anti-Bush books out at the moment. These included Gaydon Carter’s What We’ve Lost, ‘An impassioned account of how the Bush administration has curtailed freedoms, mortgaged the economy, ravaged the environment and damaged America’s standing in the world.’
A Socialist Review reader emailed, ‘A lunchtime concert by anti-Zionist Israeli Gilad Atzmon not only gave me an opportunity to buy Exile, but also to get hold of a copy of the Michelin Guide to Israeli Prisons, Jails, Concentration Camps and Torture Chambers. In a matter of fact style, it provides a chilling description of the camps and routes, and includes maps and an account by an Israeli soldier of the attitudes at checkpoints, unofficially translated from Hebrew. The editors sought permission to use them, were denied, but printed anyway. As Gilad said, “Get a copy before they all get pulled”.’
We had a great start to our Socialist Review Book Club last month. I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion about the novel Purple Hibiscus, which encompassed the effects of colonialism, Nigerian politics, the role of religion, domestic violence and more. We decided to meet on the last Friday of every month, and are welcoming new members. In June we met to discuss Yann Martell’s Life of Pi, and on Friday 30 July we’ll be talking about Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. Bookmarks are offering a discount for Book Club members. Join us at 7pm at Bookmarks bookshop, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B.
If you are going to the Marxism 2004 event in July, do look out for me at the Socialist Review stall. We want to get together all those who want to contribute to our book review pages. Email me at [email protected].
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