What the books are about
A Long Way Gone
This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. In the more than 50 conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now 25 years old, tells a rivetting story: how at the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognisable by violence. By 13, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare, mesmerising account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.
...My Melancholy Whores
He has never married, never loved and never gone to bed with a woman he didn’t pay. But on finding a young girl naked and asleep on the brothel owner’s bed, a passion is ignited in his heart — and he feels, for the first time, the urgent pangs of love. Each night, exhausted by her factory work, Delgadina sleeps peacefully whilst he watches her quietly. During these solitary hours, his love for her deepens and he finds himself reflecting on his newly found passion and the loveless life he has led. By day, his columns in the newspaper are read avi-dly by those who recognise in his outpourings the enlivening, transformative power of love.
The Shakespeare Secret
A modern serial killer — hunting an ancient secret. A woman is left to die as the rebuilt Globe theatre burns. Another woman is drowned like Ophelia. A professor has his throat slashed open on the steps of Washington’s Capitol building. A deadly serial killer is on the loose, modelling his murders on Shakespeare’s plays. But why is he killing? And how can he be stopped? A gripping, shocking page-turner, The Shakespeare Secret masterfully combines modern murder and startling true revelations from the life of Shakespeare.
The stakes are high — corporate crime on the largest scale. The duo of lawyers at the centre of the narrative are Mary and Wes Grace, who succeed in a multimillion dollar case against a chemical company, who have polluted a town with dumped toxic waste. A slew of agonising deaths have followed this, but lawyers for the chemical company appeal, and a variety of legal shenanigans are employed — and it is certainly not clear which way the scales of justice will be finally balanced. As ever with Grisham, the mechanics of plotting are key, and the characterisation is functional. But it is (as always) more than capable of keeping the reader totally engaged. Given Grisham’s much-publicised conversion to born-again Christianity, it’s intriguing to note here the implicit criticism of the moral majority’s religious values. What counts is the storytelling, and while the writing is as straightforward and uncomplicated, few readers will put down The Appeal once they have allowed it to exert its grip on upon them. — Barry Forshaw
Contrary to the usual image of the press as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in its search for truth, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky depict how an underlying elite consensus largely structures all facets of the news. They skilfully dissect the way in which the marketplace and the economics of publishing significantly shape the news. They reveal how issues are framed and topics chosen, and contrast the double standards underlying accounts of free elections, a free press, and governmental repression between Nicaragua and El Salvador; between the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the American invasion of Vietnam; between the genocide in Cambodia under a pro-American government and genocide under Pol Pot. What emerges is an account of just how propagandistic our mass media are, and how we can learn to read them and see their function in a radically new way.