PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Little of the analysis is new or original, but it is certainly elegantly expressed ... There is a very personal element to After the Fall in which Rhodes admits to disorientation and a desire for purpose in the long spiralling descent from the Oval Office...The introspection, coupled with an itinerary of venerable European destinations, such as Paris, Budapest and Baden-Baden, sometimes gives the book the feel of a melancholy Chekhovian tale: the young courtier in the retinue of a revered, recently ousted monarch, touring old watering holes ... Some of the best passages arise when he is back together with his old boss, and we are given an insight into what Obama thinks of it all.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)The acclaimed correspondent captures a country torn apart by military aggression and religious extremism, and tries to work out why he was expelled ... The subtitle of the book is Dispatches from a Divided Nation and the author criss-crosses those political, religious, ethnic and generational fault lines, assembling a portrait of the vast country of 220 million people through his travels and the lives of the nine compelling protagonists ... Walsh is a wonderful writer, with a gift for sketching an impression of a place, time and ambience with a few brief lines. He knows how to interweave travelogue with an account of the relentless tensions that always threaten to burst through each vignette in the book. What also shines through is the relish with which Walsh throws himself into the far corners of Pakistan, into crowds, celebrations and rites, with a drive born of fascination with the land and its people.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)To read Barack Obama’s autobiography in the last, snarling days of Donald Trump is to stare into an abyss between two opposite ends of humanity, and wonder once again at how the same country came to choose two such disparate men ... Obama’s A Promised Land is 701 pages of elegantly written narrative, contemplation and introspection, in which he frequently burrows down into his own motivations ... A Promised Land delivers amply on the basic expectations of political autobiographies, providing a granular view from the driving seat of power.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Osnos’s concise biography treads back along the trail of horrendous tragedies, dashed hopes and dramatic implosions that preceded Biden’s improbable third run at the presidency, and gives at least some clues to the kind of leader he will become if he wins ... It is impossible to come away from the Osnos’s biography without a sense of awe at what Biden has overcome to arrive at this point, so late in life and so close to achieving a prize he had assumed was lost ... Osnos has written a fast-paced biography that draws on extensive interviews with his subject, as well as with Obama and a host of Democratic party heavyweights. In pursuit of brevity it races through the many personal dramas of a tumultuous life and deals only perfunctorily with Biden’s surviving son ... This book suggests Biden has the capacity for self-reinvention.
PanThe Guardian (UK)... if I had an anonymous source burrowed deep inside the administration, I would want a lot more colour and anecdote than we are given in A Warning ... The author predicts that there will be a lot more compelling stories to emerge from the administration at a later date, to which any reader would be entitled to ask why they were not informed of that before they bought this book. By way of explanation for its surprising blandness, the author explains early on that too many details could compromise national security or help blow the writer’s cover ... An extensive middle section is devoted to measuring Trump against Cicero’s virtues of leadership – an odd, rather pointless exercise, a bit like judging Boris Johnson by the attributes required to be a world class ballerina. There is little surprise that the president scores badly in every department ... ends then with a rousing call to the ballot box, but it fails to answer the question that hangs over almost every page: why heed the counsel, however urgent, of someone who is not prepared to reveal who they are?
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)With the world’s seafood stocks in crisis, Urbina lifts the thick veil on a global criminal culture, at just the moment when the damage inflicted on the oceans is becoming terminal.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... elegantly written and exhaustively researched ... The story Fifield tells, as befits the supreme ruler of a bizarrely unique country, is vivid to say the least ... The deeply weird relationship between the faded hoops legend and the communist despot is the book’s uproarious comic interlude between murders and nuclear bomb making ... Camp farce sits uneasily side by side with the horrors of Kim’s consolidation of control.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... a deeply researched, compelling biography of Holbrooke ... taken in its entirety, Packer’s detailed, graceful account of Holbrooke is not unsympathetic. It shows him, for all his vanities and insecurities, dedicating most of his life to grappling with how the US could and should do the right thing in the world ... not just a portrait of a fascinating historical figure, it is a contemplation of a half century of US foreign and security policy and its most intractable challenges ... Packer strives, and mostly manages, to shrug off the heavier conventions of biographies of the good and the great ... a reminder that, in a world where such men are consistently put in the driving seat of world events, it should be no surprise that the most disastrous mistakes are the ones most often repeated.
PositiveThe GuardianThe commission, interviewing survivors and poring over the official records in a Virginia bunker in the aftermath of the 2020 cataclysm, describes the relentless unravelling of the situation ... As the events accelerate, Lewis deftly relaxes the constraints he has imposed on his story by telling it through the words of an official report, allowing the narrative to take on the pace of a thriller without breaking with the form. He transposes eyewitness accounts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, putting them in the mouths of the survivors from New York and the Washington suburbs who come to tell their story to the commission ... In its efforts to tug at the sleeve of a blithe nation, Lewis’s book follows in the post-apocalyptic footsteps of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach or the 1983 film The Day After. In its black comedy, which surfaces in the deadpan prose of the report, it is a Dr Strangelove for our time. Trump is as flamboyantly grotesque a character as any cooked up by Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers ... It is a measure of the insanity of the past 18 months that this seems entirely believable.