Intriguing insight into life and discrimination after ‘The Great Depression’.
There aren’t many books named after poems. Personally I can only think of two, one by Christie, and one by John Steinbeck, whose work Of Mice and Men is so called after a poem by Robert Burns. Amongst the lines in said poem is “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley”-basically even the most carefully thought out schemes will always go wrong, following Murphy’s Law (‘what can go wrong will go wrong’). And in Of Mice and Men, there is a lot that can go wrong.
The Children of Charlecote, written by Brian Fairfax-Lucy (on whose childhood it was based) and Philippa Pearce (of Tom’s Midnight Garden fame), had promising authors. It had a promising plot-a glimpse into how the upper classes lived in the early 20th Century. And the vast majority of it was a very good read, enthralling in its descriptions of how the other half lived, and how their lives evolved with the huge changes in world politics.
When we think of World War II, we think of soldiers in the trenches, the aerial dogfights, the huge naval battles. What doesn’t spring to mind quite so regularly is life at home, and when it does, it is a Dad’s Army life, a life of soldiers out of the war. What most people don’t think of is regular, day to day life. Everyone’s heard of the bombing, and the rationing-but what happened apart from that, what happened in their 9-5 day? More pressingly, what did the children do? Many had no school, due to bombing or lack of staff, so what did they do with their days? It’s most children’s dream to not have school, and to have free reign over their daily activities. So a book which focusses on the lesser known, less glamorous side of war, on the life of the children is welcome. Such a book exists, and that is the basis of today’s review-it is called The Machine-Gunners, and was written by Robert Westall.
The alternative history genre has bred some shockers, but fear not. Robert Harris’ Fatherland is, quite simply, brilliant. It’s one of my favourite books. Thought provoking and thrilling in near equal measure (well, not really, it’s quite a bit more thrilling with some thought provoking bits thrown in for good measure), it embodies everything that the genre should aspire to, it is surely the pinnacle of the alternative history genre. The fact that there were no good Nazis is challenged, the protagonist Xavier March attempts to get to the bottom of the murder of a leading Nazi.
Reading modern dystopian thrillers, it is all too easy to forget one of the defining novels of the genre-John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. It is in many ways the perfect example of an overcontrolled world, one in which any ‘deviation’ from what is perceived to be the true image results in expulsion to the ‘Bad Lands’. It is not only a gripping read, but can be read as a criticism of overly controlling religions, a big current issue. It’s a story of many things-of family feuds, of a world which has survived an apocalypse, and most importantly, a story of attempts to survive in a land where regulations stifle difference and diversity.
Fabrice Muamba united a sport. On 17 March 2012, Muamba died on a football pitch. Within hours, hundreds, thousands of fans from all over the world sent their support, from Barcelona to Bolton. For a few days, football was united over a common cause: praying for Muamba.
Shown here is the immediate reaction to Muamba’s death (though it is quite long), and the immediate unification of both sets of supporters and staff.
I’m Still Standing is Muamba’s account of the experience, from his father being persecuted by the enemies of a previous president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mobutu, to Muamba’s return to White Hart Lane, the scene of his collapse.