Books I read in July

August 14, 2022 · 13:33

Notes on the Death Penalty by Danja Kukafka is a novel told from the perspective of the women associated with Ansel Packer, a serial killer on death row in Texas, counting down the hours until his execution by lethal injection. As well as the four victims he killed, the perspectives of other women in his life are explored, including his mother, his ex-wife’s sister and the detective who caught him. “Death Penalty Notes” spans both literary and crime fiction, asking thoughtful questions about the justice system while ratcheting up the tension both in the present-day plot, as the clock ticks down to Ansel’s execution, and in moments like his mother trying to escape an abusive relationship. Overall, this is a unique suspense novel with a skillfully handled plot structure.

I'm sorry you feel that way by Rebecca GaitI’m sorry you feel that way by Rebecca Gait will inevitably draw comparisons to Meg Mason’s Sorrow and Bliss due to its dryly humorous central theme of women and mental illness, as well as its topicality. book cover trend women in their twenties are literally unable to face the world. The novel opens with a family funeral, a very bold and powerful set piece that introduces siblings Alice, Hannah and Michael and the dysfunction at the heart of their family. The plot then jumps back in time to explore the roots of their mother Celia, whose sister suffered from schizophrenia, neuroticism and social awkwardness. Celia’s interactions with fellow students at the university and colleagues are particularly pronounced. Her discomfort with friendships and relationships affects her children in different ways, and it eventually becomes clear why twin sisters Alice and Hannah haven’t spoken in a few years. I’m Sorry You Feel That Way is a nuanced and understated novel with brilliantly developed characters.

Have you not heard of Marie le ConteHaven’t You Heard?: Gossip, Power and How Politics Really Works by Marie Le Conte is about the role of gossip in British politics. The main thesis is that information has power and can be just as effective and influential through informal networks than necessarily coming directly from those at the heart of government. It explores the myriad ways politicians, special advisers, government whips and journalists interact with each other, from cozy chats in private members’ clubs and tearooms in the House of Commons to leaked WhatsApp groups. Published in 2018, it’s not too bad because it focuses on gossip techniques rather than specific events (except Brexit, of course). Le Conte is a well-connected political journalist with a dry sense of humour, and her engaging book will probably appeal most to those already familiar with the eccentricities of life in the Westminster bubble.

You have a red Clark CollisYou’ve Got Red on You by Clark Collis is a deep dive into the making of the 2004 romantic zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, covering everything from how director Edgar Wright met lead actor Simon Pegg, the film’s many cinematic influences, the casting and production processes, and how Shaun of the Dead” eventually became a word-of-mouth success on both sides of the Atlantic. Not only is Shaun of the Dead an endlessly quotable and rewatchable film, there’s also an interesting story about how this relatively low-budget British film was made and distributed at a time when zombie films were completely out of fashion. Despite the success of Wright and Pegg’s cult comedy Spaced on Channel 4, the road to Shaun of the Dead was not an easy one, as extensive interviews with Wright, Pegg and many others reveal. how the industry works. You’ve Got Red on You is a highly entertaining behind-the-scenes look at one of the most beloved films of the 2000s.

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