Date Archives February 2011

“Next World Novella” by Matthias Politycki

I finished this 138-page novella in one evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book opens with Hinrich Schepp discovering the dead body of his wife Doro. She has been editing an old manuscript of his, a novel he started writing before they met and quickly abandoned. Through her scathing margin notes he discovers an entirely different side to her, and to their 29-year marriage. So the story is told through his reading of the manuscript and Doro’s notes on it. The story of the aborted novel bears a striking resemblance… Read More

“Chocolate Nations” by Orla Ryan

This is a comprehensive view of the chocolate industry, following the chain from African farmers to European consumers and explaining exactly why the cocoa farmers receive just 4% of the price of the average UK bar of milk chocolate.  It’s well written and well researched, mixing history with present-day politics to great effect, and illustrating it all with carefully chosen personal stories. I thought the chapter on Fairtrade was a little, well, unfair. Fairtrade gives a guaranteed fair minimum price to farmers, and Ryan shows how in practice this is… Read More

Living like it’s 1972

Read an interesting article by George Marshall in the New Internationalist recently about cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, a seemingly impossible task until you realise that this would only mean returning to the levels of 1972. I was quite amazed when I read that. 1972 is not long ago. I don’t quite remember it myself, but I’m not far off. Certainly the world described by the author doesn’t seem that different from what I know, or knew. Of course the standard of living in general was lower then. But… Read More

“Incendiary” by Chris Cleave

A well-written, poignant look at terrorism, both cause and effect. [Warning: spoilers further down, don’t read on if you don’t want to know the ending] The effect comes first – a British woman suffers the loss of her husband and son when a suicide bomber kills a thousand people by detonating a bomb in the middle of the crowd at an Arsenal game. She writes a letter to Osama bin Laden, and this book is the result. It’s calm, moving, never melodramatic. The woman’s loss is tempered by guilt –… Read More

“Making Inroads” by the Rowan Arts Project

I really enjoyed this free book put together by the Rowan Arts Project. It’s a series of interviews with people who live and work on the Holloway Road in north London, each one accompanied by a photograph. The stories are simple, just a few paragraphs each, but fascinating to read. Each person chooses an object to be photographed as well, something that means something to them. Often it’s a reminder of home – the participants come from all over Britain and the world. Police constable James Craggs, for example, chose… Read More