Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya

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Read 26/06/2020-11/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 4 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya is the US edition of Caroline Elkins’ book published in Britain as Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya. It documents a particularly atrocious period in Britain’s history – the brutal suppression of the Kikuyu people in Kenya in the 1950s, through the use of detention camps and forced labour, and the subsequent attempts by British government to cover it up. Continue reading

Swing Time

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Read 11/04/2020-20/04/2020

Rating 3 stars

Zadie Smith’s Swing Time is a sprawling tale of how two girls’ lives intersect and separate over the years. It’s about growing up poor but aspirational, a tale of friendship and rivalry, and of the inadequacies of adulthood. Continue reading

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

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Read 26/01/2020-14/02/2020

Rating 3 stars

Jonathan Haidt wrote The Righteous Mind in 2012, four years before many of us finally became aware that the political world had tilted on its axis and everything we thought we understood about the democratic process had unravelled. Haidt, it’s true, had pinpointed the change as starting in the 1990s, but for many of us, 2016 was Year Zero. Continue reading

Killing Commendatore

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Read 05/01/2020-22/01/2020

Rating 4 stars

First published in Japan in two volumes in 2017 and issued in English translation in 2018, Killing Commendatore is the fourteenth of Haruki Murakami’s novels to be published in the English language.

In this instalment of his epic tale of men who don’t understand women and don’t fully understand themselves, Murakami has chosen to tell the story of an unnamed artist. The novel incorporates a trio of mysteries. Continue reading

A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War

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Read 24/11/2019-12/12/2019

Rating 4 stars

A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse legacies of the Cold War is a collection of academic essays on the material culture of the Cold War and a multidisciplinary approach to its history. It makes a case for the influence that the Cold War has had on the world, from the domestic lives of those living under its psychological shadow in Europe and the USA, to those living alongside nuclear power stations (also sites of manufacture of weapons grade nuclear material) and nuclear test sites. It takes in archaeology, history, art, architecture and cultural studies in its examination of material culture and what that material culture can tell us about something that has been hidden behind military classification for so long. Continue reading

Tokyo Ueno Station

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Read 17/10/2019-20/10/2019

Rating 4 stars

Tokyo Ueno Station is a ghost story, an alternative history of Japan and a critique of Japanese society. Beginning among the homeless community who live in and around the busy commuter station near Ueno Park, it reaches back through time to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the post-war economic boom, the migration of workers to Tokyo to help build the Olympic park in 1964, and the devastating tsunami of 2011.

The narrator of the tale is called Kazu. Through him, we see a different Japan to the one portrayed in travel programmes and newspaper articles. It’s a harrowing story of loss and abandonment. Continue reading