Our resident bookie, Angela Ledgerwood, shares what to read this month. If you’re in the mood for inspiring stories from three of the world’s most exceptional women, the non-fiction picks are for you. After a more transporting read? Go for one of our fiction favourites.
In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum
War correspondent Marie Colvin worked for The Sunday Times from 1985 until she died covering the siege of Homs in Syria in 2012. After being injured by a grenade fired by a government soldier in Sri Lanka in 2001, Colvin lost the sight of her left eye–the patch she wore to cover it became her trademark badge of bravery. When she wasn’t chasing a story in a war zone, she could be found back in London, clad in an elegant black cocktail dress, mixing vodka martinis for a house full of actors, poets, and politicians as well as journalists. Now her friend and colleague of fourteen years, fellow reporter Lindsey Hilsum (the pair were known as the Thelma and Louise of the press corps) examines the life of her revered friend, who died in service of recording what really happens in war. Colvin was driven to extremes in both her personal and professional life and Hilsum explores the precarious line between bravery and recklessness. The biopic about Colvin’s life, A Private War, with Rosamund Pike playing Colvin, is out this month, so read the book first to grasp the full scope of her incredible life.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Though no one can get their hands on an early copy of Michelle Obama’s memoir, we are sure it’s going to be full of hard-earned life lessons and insights from the former First Lady, lawyer and University administrator, who is apparently open about being frustrated at having to put aside her own career ambition for her husband. If there was ever a time to be reminded that of Obama’s wise words, “when they go low, we go high”, it’s now. You may not be able to make it to her sold-out Beyoncé-like stadium tour organized by Live Nation, who usually manage concerts for the likes of Rihanna and U2. (With some tickets being resold for as much as $3500US, who can?) However we’ll all be able to get our paws on her book come November 14. Let’s hope this is the beginning of Michelle Obama reclaiming her time and ambitions.
Evening in Paradise: More Stories by Lucia Berlin
Lucia Berlin (1936-2004) published 77 short stories during her lifetime and won an American Book Award but it wasn’t until a posthumous collection of her stories A Manual for Cleaning Women, was published in 2015 that she was rediscovered and embraced by a whole new generation of readers. Evening in Paradise, is a selection from Berlin’s remaining stories―twenty-two gems that showcase the gritty glamour that made readers fall in love with her. Born in Alaska, she had lived in mining camps and towns of Idaho, Kentucky, and Montana, El Paso, and Santiago, Chile, where she led a flamboyant existence. In Santiago, she attended cotillions and balls, had her first cigarette lit by Prince Ali Khan. She married a sculptor, then a pianist, then an affluent addict, before working as a high-school teacher, switchboard operator, hospital ward clerk, cleaning woman, and physician’s assistant, while writing. Berlin’s words brood and bubble under the surface and you’ll recall these stories long after reading.
Those Who Knew: A Novel By Idra Novey
From the award-winning translator, poet and author of Ways to Disappear comes one of the season’s most talked about novels about power imbalances and the risks of speaking up in a profoundly divided country. In this case, in an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime. When a young a woman, who has been assisting a powerful senator on the campaign trail is found dead, Lena, the book’s protagonist recalls her own fraught history with the senator and the violent incident that ended their relationship. Why didn’t Lena speak up then, and will her family’s support of the former political regime still impact her credibility? What if her instinct about this young woman’s death is wrong? This all too timely novel is a gripping and unnerving reflection of our times.
The Last Girl My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad
In August of 2014 she was abducted with other Yazidi women when their home village of Kocho in Sinjar, northern Iraq, was attacked by Isis. Islamic State militants massacred the people of her village, executing men who refused to convert to Islam and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after. Soon after Nadia was taken to Mosul and forced, along with thousands of other Yazidi girls, into the ISIS slave trade. Murad eventually escaped her Isis captors and was smuggled out of Iraq in early 2015 and went to Germany as a refugee. Since then she has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of human trafficking. She was awarded the 2018 Nobel peace prize, jointly with with Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, for her remarkable efforts. This harrowing and important book, now out in paperback with a forward by Amal Clooney, Nadia Murad recounts the unfathomable experiences that have shaped her life and her activism until now.
All the Lives We Never Lived: A Novel by Anuradha Roy
In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman. The man was in fact German, but in small‑town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British. So begins the fourth novel from the renowned Indian writer Anurandha Roy, whose most recent novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, was longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker prize. Roy’s books and journalism often revolve around strong-willed women and their search for independence set amidst the constraints of conservative Indian society. This is the story of Myshkin and his mother, Gayatri, a rebellious artist who abandons motherhood and marriage to follow her desire for freedom during the Second World War and Indian Independence. Cut to present day. Elderly Myshkin, receives a bulky envelope in the mail that prompts the journey he’s been waiting for his whole life–to find out who his mother really was.
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