Reviews

Seducing and Killing Nazis

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The Nazi occupation of The Netherlands is indelibly linked to reading Ann Frank’s diary; her extraordinary description of surviving in hiding for over two years and her tragic death in Belsen shortly before the end of the war.

However, fewer of us know much about the Nazi occupation and the resistance to it, including the contribution made by women and teenagers.

The colourful life of Alasdair Gray

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Alasdair Gray, the author, illustrator, artist and political commentator, died aged 85 at the turn of the last decade on 29 December 2019. He will be remembered for his polymathic talent, the sheer force of his creativity and his life-long commitment to the notion that a better world is possible.

The child of factory and warehouse workers, and brought up on a council estate in the east end of Glasgow, Gray was raised with a strong socialist sensibility.

The Dressing-Up Box

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“The trouble with you...is that you feel that people’s stories have to make some sort of sense. Whereas in reality it’s all accidents.” So says one of the characters in David Constantine’s collection of gripping, dark and powerful short stories; stories whose unexpected twists seek to bring in some sort of light and meaning.

The Other End of the Line

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This latest Inspector Montalbano story is the one the racists do not like. It is sympathetic towards refugees, who are shown as human beings facing hardship and tragedy, rather than as an alien “threat” to be feared or hated.

Author Andrea Camilleri has often sprinkled his Montalbano books with social comments from his left-leaning perspective — for example, targeting the links between big business, corrupt politicians and the Mafia.

But this time he wears his heart on his sleeve even more explicitly than usual by conveying a strong anti-racist message.

Mask Off: Masculinity Redefined

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This incredibly enjoyable book utterly destroys the myths around masculinity and is a great read for younger men told to “man up”, “stop being such a wimp” and so on. There has been a significant rise of books around the same theme, but JJ Bola directly relates his struggles and understanding to a younger audience, which has largely gone amiss in recent years.

Insurgent Empire

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This book is a very important contribution to the history of anti-imperialism and racism in the UK. Priyamvada Gopal first tells the stories of several white colonialists who, as a result of the brutality of imperial rule that they witnessed, became convinced that it should be either radically reformed or ended.

The letters and the reports they either sent or brought back to Britain circulated among a growing number of anti-imperialists to become an important current that subsequently formed the basis of anti-imperialist campaigns up to the present day.

Superior: The Return of Race Science

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Many people assume that scientific racism and eugenics were dealt a death blow at the end of the Second World War when the nature and scale of horrifying Nazi atrocities were revealed. But Angela Saini destroys that myth in the most forensic of fashions.

First, she shows the extent to which the Nazis were foreshadowed by top British academics who sought justification for slavery, and later colonisation, in theories of racial hierarchy.

On the Doors

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Eliza Gearty’s debut novel is vivid and utterly engaging, grabbing you from the very first page and pulling you up and down Glasgow’s sandstone tenement flats, into living rooms filled with clouds of tobacco and along the city’s iconic streets.

The book is loosely based on Gearty’s own experiences as a door-to-door fundraiser, and is told through the character, Emma. Emma works for a homelessness charity and, like many fundraisers, and until only recently, a sharply rising number of the population, is employed on a zero-hour contract.

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