Army of Shadows

By Joseph Kessel

By Joseph Kessel
Front cover of Army of Shadows
  My partner brought me this book for Xmas. It was priced at 2/6, about 12p in today’s prices. I hoped she paid more than that, but this classic is priceless. This copy was printed in 1959, but the original was written by Kessel in 1943, and it about the French Resistance to Nazi occupation. The German army had invaded France, and an armistice was signed near Compiègne on 22 June 1940. Life continued as normal at first, but the German war machine took more and more. France was partitioned […]

54

By Wu Ming
WuMing 54 Cover
What does the Italian/ American mafia, the Italian Communist Party, Cary Grant, Field Marshal Tito, the KGB, and a McGriffin TV have in common? Well read this book and you will have a find out. All these are marvellously and skilfully interwoven into a rich plot that spans 541 pages of compelling reading. What makes the story even more enthralling is the fact that it is written by a collective of authors, going under the name of Wu Ming. Previously known as Luther Blisset, a famous black […]

A Girl Among the Anarchists

By Isabel Meredith
From its advent as a modern worldview anarchism was always too pure a faith to be properly judged by the conduct of its adherents and practitioners. Or so it would seem from A Girl Among the Anarchists, one of several novels that lifts the lid on that simmering cauldron that was the Victorian anarchist scene. First published in 1903, the University of Nebraska deemed this rare book of the belle epoch worthy of reprinting in 1992. The fact that it was written by insiders is the virtue that sets […]

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

By G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday not only draws upon the historic stigmatisation of anarchists but also self-consciously explores and develops the caricature. The novel was first published in 1908. During the late Nineteenth Century anarchism had emerged as a distinct militant strand of socialism, a distinction underlined by the exclusion of anarchists from the Second International. By 1908 the anarchist movement had been heavily vilified due to various individualist ‘outrages’. […]

A Child of the Jago

By Arthur Morrison
A child of jago
Arthur Morrison’s 1890’s novel A Child of the Jago is set in the slum courts of London’s East End. Life in the Jago is a Hobbesian war of all against all, a socialist Darwinist nightmare for which the legal jurisdiction is the law of the jungle. Based on the historic rookeries of London’s Old Nichol, the Jago is not only a geographical area but an existential state of desperation. Morrison penned A Child of the Jago in such a way as to both inform and also shock and titillate middle-class […]

Anarchy In A Cold War

By Kurtis Sunday
Anarchy In A Cold War is set in divided Berlin in 1981. But Berlin is far more divided than just the Cold War divisions of East and West. The book centres on the squatter culture against the state, and the “Bullen” (police) who harass, beat and arrest the squatters. The narrative also highlights the rich culture of the street, and the different groups, political and racial, that inhabit the thoroughfares of Berlin. There are a lot of parties, and support networks. However, the main characters in […]

Owen Glendower

By John Cowper Powys
Are all the events in the great world… so different from what the historians say? Although it’s a contradiction in terms, it seems accurate to say that John Cowper Powys is a novelist who has more than a single magnum opus, maybe even several. For me The Glastonbury Romance is his great work among the Wessex novels but it is difficult to think of Wolf Solent, Maiden Castle or Weymouth Sands as in any way lesser works. The vast and panoramic Owen Glendower looks and reads like his magnum opus […]

Troubles

By J.G. Farrell
Set in 1919-21, years of conflict when the struggle for Irish independence raged, Troubles is the first in J.G. Farrell’s 1970’s trilogy of historical novels dealing with the decline of empire. Troubles follows the fortunes of Major Brendan Archer who, traumaticised and lacking purpose after serving in the First World War, crosses the Irish Sea to the fictional town of Kilnalough to meet with his fiancé, Angela Spencer, to whom he’d almost unwittingly become engaged following a brief, scarcely […]

The True History of the Kelley Gang

By Peter Carey
The best book to give a full historical account of Ned Kelley’s life is Ian Jones's excellent 1995 biography. Jones tells us that Kelly was a heroic man maddened by injustice and driven to become an outlaw as a result of his struggle against oppression. However if you want to find out what it may have really felt like to be Ned Kelley read The True History of the Kelley Gang. Carey succeeds in giving this extraordinary man a voice and makes him achingly real. His life story is narrated […]
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The Instance of the Fingerpost

By Ian Pears
This novel is set in Oxford during the restoration in the 1660s, a time of complex intellectual, scientific, religious and political ferment and uses a mix of both real and fictitious historical figures. The murder of Dr Robert Grove, a fellow of New College, and the events surrounding it are narrated from four significantly different points of view. Marco da Cola, a Venetian Catholic doctor newly arrived in Britain; Jack Prescott, son of a Royalist traitor and desperate to clear his father’s […]

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