Category Archives: Book Review

The Memories the City Holds

Review – A Line in the River: Khartoum, City of Memory by Jamal Mahjoub

Home does strange things to us. There’s an entire sub-genre of autobiographical writing to attest to that. But for Jamal Mahjoub, a novelist whose life has been nothing if not international, home is less than fixed, and therefore difficult to pin down, let alone document. Continue reading

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Covering the Ground

Review – Days of the Fall: A Reporter’s Journey in the Syria and Iraq Wars by Jonathan Spyer

As the violence of the Syrian civil war increased, and as the Islamic State group (IS) crossed the Iraqi border, it was clear that the wars in these two countries would become the essential conflict of our times. Continue reading

Fire and Fury, but Little Else

The biggest of the stories swirling about Donald Trump this week concerns, not a tweet (as is ordinary), but a book.

The president is famously unlettered, professing little time for reading; and others attest that Trump has little interest in any printed matter that does not contain his photograph. Continue reading

War in 140 Characters

Review – War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century by David Patrikarakos

The commercial internet changed the world. That much is conventional wisdom.

Similarly, its importance in the contemporary scene, largely in the form of social media, which features in what is termed ‘Web 2.0’, is sacrosanct.

It has altered the way billions of people communicate and has changed the nature of that communication. Its influence on politics is accepted to be vast, with some political figures practically defined by their use of one particular website: Twitter. Continue reading

Missing Man: On William Gerhardie

This is a story of one thing leading to another.

My parents set the foundations for everything I have read. From my mother, books about history and poetry; from my father, an introduction to contemporary novels. In the latter category, amid Amis, McEwan and Faulks, one cannot escape William Boyd. Continue reading

Life under the Islamic State

Review – The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from ‘Islamic State’ by Samer

The Syrian war has produced a great deal of writing, but little of real permanence. Most of its derivative works are journalistic accounts and dry geopolitical analyses. It has yet to produce a new novelist, poet, or memoirist of note, rather than simply providing new material for old hands. Some day, a great book about the Syrian civil war will be written – something that draws deeply from the conflict and sets the tone for a changed nation, region, and world. Such an era-defining conflict will have that effect. Continue reading

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

Review – Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is one of the most imaginative works of twentieth century fiction. The book is a dream, a vision, literally so. It depicts, as a framing narrative, a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, the great figure at the head of the Mongol Empire. The two of them exist in a dream state, caught in a suspended moment. They discuss wonders and marvels, the result of Polo’s travelling. These are the cities of the title. Continue reading