PositiveThe Times (UK)If I have a reservation, it’s this: it’s easy, as a writer, to expose your own life; it’s ethically awkward to do the same to the vulnerable, even with consent. Inside every writer there is a sliver of ice, it’s said, and Potts, sympathetic and non-judgmental as she is, must have needed it because holding an addict to their word can in some lights be interpreted as further exploitation ... But Potts serves a greater good. The Forgotten Girls rings with authenticity, a powerful, feminist, politics-made-personal analysis of how women in poor, white, religious societies suffer.
RaveThe Times (UK)A vividly wry and honest ... Slender, elegant ... And Finally is very much a memoir of enlightenment; the humbling, late in life, of a man of great skill and status ... In the biggest sense, though, this book articulates beautifully the emotional contradictions in growing old and ill.
PositiveThe Times (UK)It is inarguable that Morris emerges from this even-handed biography as profoundly selfish ... Elizabeth is key to Morris’s story, yet she is an empty space at the core of the book. She never discussed their relationship and Clements either chose not to or wasn’t able to explore this invisibility ... Clements seems sure posterity will remember Morris . I’m not quite so certain. But she led an extraordinary life and this is a measured and elegant biography that Morris aficionados will find fascinating.
PositiveThe Times (UK)In many ways this memoir is incomplete, but it’s never not psychologically fascinating — a compelling insight into how profoundly right Philip Larkin was about the power of bad parents.
PositiveThe Times (UK)This is a political book. Suzanne Wrack is The Guardian’s women’s football correspondent and her focus is the misogyny that runs, an unbreakable thread, through the history and development of the women’s game ... The politics in A Woman’s Game squeezes out the human side of the game — I wanted to know more about today’s players — but illuminates how in terms of inclusivity and progressiveness women’s football is miles ahead of the men’s. Time to catch up.
PositiveThe Times (UK)Imagine a City is a memoir wrapped within a scholarly travel book, at its heart a moving account of personal unbelonging. Vanhoenacker’s home city was Pittsfield, situated so high in Massachusetts that the local ski slope produced Olympic champions...He’s opaque about the trauma of his parents’ divorce when he was 16, but it was obviously profound...Biographical stuff is woven within meditative themes about the destinations he has explored so often — cities of air, snow, poetry, signs, gates, rivers, the colour blue; and every city bears a story, threads of memory, friendship or adventure...Imagine a City is rich with random facts...Geeky fans will be glad to know that he’s still flying — during lockdown Vanhoenacker flew cargo in 747s, then retrained on the 787 — but this book is not Skyfaring 2...There’s the occasional snapshot from the cockpit, but Imagine a City is not about aviation; it’s something more dreamy and erudite, a slightly reticent personal journey in which I’d have preferred more memoir, less city detail...He remains, however, a most likeable, warm-hearted narrator with an original world view.
RaveThe Times (UK)Well-sourced and exhaustively researched ... For this book she interviewed 120 sources, many intimately involved with senior royals, and her transatlantic perspective gives insight into the clash of Californian ambition with a thousand-year-old British institution ... Earlier in the book Brown revisits ground that feels like ancient history, but there are gems in there ... Brown does irreverent well. She’s like Camilla Long’s big sister...with the same knowing bitchiness and precision snobbery. Brown knows that the crumbs that fall from royal bird tables are intrinsically funny ... The writing is, er, colourful ... For the most part it’s an unashamed romp. Brown enjoys being subtly bitchy about Camilla and Kate Middleton, portraying them as endlessly patient, scheming women ... But Brown does serious too. She acknowledges the racism inherent in traditional royal attitudes ... The Palace Papers is clever, well-informed and disgustingly entertaining.
Alathea Fitzalan Howard
PositiveThe Times (UK)Her access to palace life offers a wealth of rich, unfiltered intimacy and detail, but few actual jaw-drops. We learn that George VI once told his wife, Elizabeth, not to eat so many cream cakes, and her daughter Lilibet enjoyed a game spitting over a bridge into a stream, trying to hit leaves floating by. The future Queen used her pet chameleon to catch flies on windows and, like any awakening adolescent, once \'stole\' a letter written by a boy she and Alathea admired ... Where these diaries triumph is in portraying the royals through a fresh lens — the eyes of a needy, emotional outsider, joyfully (for the reader) judgmental. Alathea veers between anodyne and screamingly funny, but is unerringly percipient about character. Rarely have royal accounts been so forthright ... The diary is permeated with envy. Elizabeth tells Alathea she’s her best friend, but it is her mother, the Queen, who is especially warm to her ... the real story is the much sadder tale of the narrator, a fragile, desolate soul, unable to comprehend her own lack of parental love. Her diaries, edited by her nephew’s wife Isabella Naylor-Leyland, are her legacy: unconsciously funny, astute, poignant and historically fascinating.
Vanessa Springora, tr. Natasha Lehrer
RaveThe Times (UK)... shocking ... As in a fairytale, Springora lets the narrative unfold with horrid inevitability. It is compellingly awful to read through modern eyes. How can the lamb be allowed to wander off with the ogre? ... I confess to laughing aloud in places: Springora can be darkly hilarious ... rapier-sharp, written with restraint, elegance and brevity — and beautifully translated — has done what it set out to do. I hope it helped her to write it.
Matthew B Crawford
PositiveThe Times (UK)Part portentous cultural philosophy, part funny anecdote, part evisceration of Big Data ... This is a book for those who love cars, or at least are sympathetic to the idea that many people enjoy driving. Those who live in Ubers so that they can catch up on social media feeds won’t get past the nerdy bits, which is a shame because there are broader questions here about the fate of human agency and democratic governance ... Crawford’s book is uneven, an analogue man’s despairing roar, but he is witty, open-minded and impossible to label as reactionary. As public polymaths go — he’s an engineer, physicist, philosopher, sociologist, motorbike mechanic and a restorer of VW Beetles — he leaves Jordan Peterson at the start line. I like his advice to challenge the chorus of inevitability, that \'one must accept the future rather than ‘cling to the past’ (which often means simply accepting the present — what presently exists — as perfectly adequate)\'. Let’s question what progress means.
PositiveThe Times (UK)Lyman is impressive on skin psychology ... If skin is the house that contains us, then within this clever, optimistic book there are many floors. Lyman ranges impressively from Didier Anzieu, the psychoanalyst who talked about the concept of the skin-ego, the surface of the body as integral to the functions of the mind, to the bold but rather less cerebral 19th-century Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
Alyson J. McGregor
MixedThe Times (UK)The unconscious sex bias in medical knowledge...is fairly jaw-dropping stuff ... McGregor is kickass; a respected crusader. If you’re a woman, she’s definitely the doctor you’d want to see in an emergency or to install as head of medical education, but it’s fair to say she’s not the greatest writer. Her book is unashamedly activist; a how-to guide for obtaining better treatment. Certainly for a British audience, it suffers from stridency and repetition, and McGregor is not personally modest. But skip over the hype and the core content is hair-raising and potentially life-saving.
RaveThe Times (UK)What makes this such an unusual work, far removed from conventional biography, is that it’s as much Shapland’s personal story as it is McCullers’. In the process of recasting McCullers, Shapland also finds her own identity, interweaving the two stories ... impeccably young, modern and fresh, an assertion of lesbian liberation ... Political and at times polemical, it’s a call to arms to reappraise past lives ... beautifully and sparsely written.
MixedThe Times (UK)There’s a timely, positive, thought-provoking message here. It’s just a shame the book is hopelessly overwritten: 100 pages shorter, it would have had real punch. Little is bewilderingly prolix in her scene setting ... It’s bad enough, to be honest, to drive me to vegan baby food.
Caroline Criado Perez
RaveThe Times...a damning indictment of the institutional ignorance about women that is built into all aspects of life, and the unintentional discrimination it causes. Invisible Women is a game-changer; an uncompromising blitz of facts, sad, mad, bad and funny, making an unanswerable case and doing so brilliantly ... The most powerful part of her book focuses on the male bias of Silicon Valley, where our futures are designed ... I’m happy to report Criado Perez dodges those traditional feminist staples of worthiness and humourlessness. Despite grappling with a barrage of evidence — there are 100 pages of endnotes — she largely manages to avoid bludgeoning the reader ... the ambition and scope — and sheer originality — of Invisible Women is huge ... It should be on every policymaker, politician and manager’s shelves.
MixedThe Times (UK)This is [Hannah\'s] first venture into nonfiction, and is — though she will inevitably bear me a grudge for saying so — an odd thing: a concept stretched to its limits, three quarters jolly, chatty self-help jargon and one quarter a personal story straining to escape. I wish she’d just written a memoir instead ... Stripped down, it’s standard pop psychology to empower and protect sensitive people from hurt. To turn pain into strength ... Is it, though, a deft psychological exercise pretending to be superficial? Or just light life-coaching for her many Twitter followers, whose grudges she sought online and used as case studies? I don’t know. I found the format too irritating, the examples of petty slights and fall-outs as tedious as TV soap opera.
RaveThe TimesLucy Inglis’s fabulous book Milk of Paradise is the history of civilization as shaped by opium ... Milk of Paradise coolly exposes some of today’s global business brands as yesterday’s drug lords ... in her restrained, lucid prose ... Milk of Paradise is a triumph, epic in scale and full of humanity.
PositiveThe Times (UK)A funny, raw account of being at the receiving end. It’s an enjoyable romp with real hurt at its core, page-turning, gassy and sometimes impenetrably American ... But Ellin’s achievement is to lay bare the abuse of the duper, the \'mindf***\' . How does anyone recover from that scale of emotional betrayal?
PositiveThe Times (UK)A terrific book — even-handed and entertaining ... richly human and intellectually lucid, uncontaminated by cheap psychology. She lays bare Greer’s personal flaws, cruelties and venomous tongue, but her quiet triumph is to balance them with the majestic achievements. Kleinhenz comes to the conclusion that Greer is a genius: unique, prescient, with an extraordinary intellect and energy. And if she’s a bit mad, well, that too is a hallmark of genius. Best of all, Kleinhenz suggests, she showed women how to escape the curse of being nice.
Patrick Radden Keefe
RaveThe Sunday TimesPatrick Radden Keefe’s great achievement is to tell Northern Ireland’s 50 years of conflict through personal stories—a gripping and profoundly human explanation for a past that still denies and defines the future ... Only an outsider could have written a book this good. Irish or British writers are tainted by provenance ... [the book] handles the minefield scrupulously, dodges loaded vocabulary and allows people to condemn themselves by their actions ... Humanity shines through in the small anecdotes ... I can’t praise this book enough: it’s erudite, accessible, compelling, enlightening. I thought I was bored by Northern Ireland’s past until I read it.
PositiveThe Times UKAdrian Tinniswood, a respected chronicler of the country house, is back with a study of the domestic staff who stage-manage royal lives, from washing their bed linen to grooming their horses ... from a fun, elegant narrative, Tinniswood rather freezes as he moves into modern times. It’s a shame, for there are many resonances. Elizabeth II has about 1,200 employees, the same as Charles II in the 1660s, but an increase of one third on Victoria. The royal household may do different things — writing embarrassing memoirs, for one — but characters such as Bobo, the Queen’s dresser, Paul Burrell, Diana’s butler, and Charles’s former valet Michael Fawcett were cast centuries ago. Sadly, Tinniswood chooses not to go there.
RaveThe Times (UK)\"One of the wonders, reading this desperately sad but beautifully written book, is how Lisa Brennan-Jobs managed to survive at all ... The sum of such memories might have been maudlin, but Brennan-Jobs is rescued by unsentimental honesty, wry humour and literary grace. Her description of growing up strung between separated parents, who struggled to cope within their personal limitations, would be powerful on its own merits ... Unintentionally or otherwise, her book feels like an act of revenge. Brennan-Jobs may have sought merely to assert ownership of her father, good and bad, and claim her place on his stage. But that’s the trouble with memoirs: intimacies you find merit in, others misinterpret.\
PositiveThe TimesNo one can say Robb is not brave ... The border lands were my home for a while; he catches their introversion beautifully ... I am inclined to indulge him his kite flying about the wretched Celts. He has earned the romance. His skill as a writer is to understand, without being fey, the fourth dimension: peeling back the modern landscape to find buried stories and forgotten paths, metaphors for life. He has the ability to bring alive quirk and coincidence—although sometimes too much—in the resonance of place and time.