March 27, 2022 · 5:47 p.m
Time has gotten away from me again this month, so I’m just now starting to review the books I read in February, starting with No one here reads Mark Hodkinson’s Tolstoy. His part biblio-memoir, part cultural history describes how he became a voracious reader in Rochdale in the mid-1970s in a working-class household with very few books, eventually succumbing to what Americans call BABLE. , that I can definitely do it). identify with it, and I’m sure many readers of this blog can too). The story of his grandfather, who suffered from mental illness, is also intertwined in the book. Hodkinson is very good at dissecting the mindset of a collector, and I particularly enjoyed the second half of the book, which outlines his career as a local newspaper journalist, publisher and writer. Local journalism in particular has changed beyond recognition from what it was at the start of Hodkinson’s tenure. All in all, Nobody Here Reads Tolstoy is quite odd structurally and not quite the straightforward bibliomemoir I expected, but it’s still a very enjoyable and nostalgic read.
Stonehouse: Cabinet Minister, Scammer, Spy, Julian Hayes is a biography of Labor MP and former Cabinet minister John Stonehouse, who faked his death in 1974, believed to have drowned off the coast of Miami, before being tracked down in Australia a few months later. Hayes writes from the unique position of being Stonehouse’s nephew, who was nine years old at the time of Stonehouse’s disappearance and is now a criminal defense attorney. Drawing on the archives of the Czech State Security Agency in Prague, Hayes uncovers evidence of Stonehouse’s connections with Czech spies at the height of the Cold War, and his knowledge of the criminal courts adds color to his detailed account of his great-uncle’s sensational trial in the Old War. Bailey after a lengthy extradition process from Australia. Hayes makes it clear that he believes his father, Michael, has been betrayed by Stonehouse in his business dealings. This is a compelling story of a complex man in one of the strangest episodes of 20th century British political history.
Gwendolyn Riley My Phantoms tells the story of forty-year-old academic Bridget Grant and her difficult relationship with her twice-divorced mother Helen, also known as Hen. Bridget’s dad, Lee, died several years ago, and the desk portrait in the first part of the novel reveals that his controlling behavior is not gone. For many years, Bridget and Han have seen each other only occasionally, until Han’s health problems bring them closer together. The dynamic between them is harrowing and definitely lingers in the mind, raising questions about how Bridget treats her vulnerable mother and how much of her dysfunctional behavior is inherited from or influenced by her parents. This is a short but powerfully written novel with a stunning ending.
Top marks for the attractive cover Seamus O’Mahony Ministry of Institutions, a medical memoir detailing life at a large teaching hospital in Ireland, where O’Mahony worked as a consultant gastroenterologist until his retirement in February 2020 when the pandemic hit. This is a highly fragmented collection of anecdotes based on O’Mahony’s notes in his final year, rather than an official diary. His patient sketches of general medicine wards tend to be very brief, while the effects of bureaucratic management and budget cuts are prominently in the background. O’Mahony’s dry and cynical candor in his reflections on the state of the hospital is sometimes reminiscent of Henry Marsh’s books, also written late in his career. Having read quite a few medical memoirs over the past few years, I don’t think Ministry of Institutions adds anything particularly new or original to the genre, but it’s still an interesting read if you like this type of book.
Sarah Vaughan’s reputation is a thriller about Labor MP Emma Webster, a divorced former teacher whose life unravels when a body is discovered at the bottom of her stairs and her teenage daughter is embroiled in a bullying scandal at school. The novel is a timely examination of many hot-button issues, including social media trolling, revenge porn and how female politicians must navigate their media portrayal and work-life balance in a way that their male counterparts are less so. possible to consider. The courtroom scenes in the second half are tense, if a little repetitive, but overall “Reputation” is stylishly written and offers a realistic portrayal of life in the Westminster bubble thanks to Vaughn’s background as a journalist. Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.