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 […]

The Blood Never Dried

A People's History of the British Empire

By John Newsinger
This year is seeing a veritable frenzy of spectaculars encouraging the sad old supremecist idea that Being British is something to be jolly well/fucking proud of, what with all our institutions and history and achievements. Our diversity in particular has been cited as a significant reason we got lumbered with the Olympics and the French didn't. Anybody wishing to read something that presents a less uncritical evaluation of these ideas and an unsanitised history of some of the "achievements" […]

Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power

Community Organising in Radical Times

By Amy Sonnie and James Tracey
The history of radical 'White' activism in the 1960s and 70s in the USA is dominated by the the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a large organisation which was very influential in the creation of what is known as the 'New Left'. Much has been written about their activities in the Universities particularly around resistance to the Vietnam War and their eventual split which led to urban armed groups such as the Weather Underground. However, this interesting book uncovers the hidden history […]

Havoc In Its Third Year

By Ronan Bennett
Havoc in its Third Year is Bennett’s third novel. It is set the 1630s in the period leading up to the English civil wara town in northern England which had recently removed a corrupt and tyrannical local aristocrat, only then to be ruled by a new repressive puritanical regime. Bennett is a writer of deep political conviction and this novel deals with universal themes, in particular the corrupting forces of power, fear of the outsider and the destitute and the nature of moral and political […]

Pure

By Andrew Miller
Bristol writer Andrew Miller’s sixth novel and deservedly won the 2011 Costa Book of the Year. It is 1785 and France is on the brink of revolution as the old order is about to be swept away. Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young engineer of humble background, is ordered to exhume the vast and ancient cemetery of Les Innocents in the poor Parisian quarter of Les Halles and demolish its church. Baratte, ambitious and forward thinking, “a disciple of Voltaire,” dreams of building utopias and as a man of […]

Sacred Hunger

By Barry Unsworth
Sacred Hunger
This book was published in 1992 and won the Booker Prize. It is about greed, raw capitalism and the relentless pursuit of profit, the sacred hunger, "which justifies everything and sanctifies all purposes" in the triangular slave trade. The story revolves around a conflict between Thurso, the captain of a slave ship and Paris the ship’s doctor. Life aboard the slave ship is contrasted with the life of the wealthy owners back in Liverpool. The nature and mechanics of the barbaric treatment of […]

The Given Day

By Denis Lehane
The Given Day
Italian Anarchist, Galleanists, Latvian revolutionaries, Bolsheviks, communists, NAACP, Irish cops and gangsters thrown together into a mix with immigration, racism, corruption, strikes, riot and class warfare as a city goes into meltdown leading up to the Boston police strike of 1919. Two main characters are Danny Coughlin, Irish and son of one of Boston’s most powerful police captains and Luther Lawrence, poor and black, and on the run from racism and the mob. While Danny wrestles with his […]

Half Blood Blues

By Esi Edugyan
Half Blood Blues
Berlin, 1939. A young, brilliant trumpet player, Hieronymus, is arrested in a Paris café. The star musician was never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sidney Griffiths, the only witness that day, still refuses to speak of what he saw. When Chip Jones, his friend and fellow band member, comes to visit, recounting the discovery of a strange letter, Sid begins a slow journey towards redemption. From the smokey bars of pre-war […]

The People’s Act of Love

By James Meek
The People's Act of Love
Its 1919 and the civil war which followed the Russian revolution is drawing to an end. A Czech division is trapped in Yazyk, an isolated Siberian town, with the Bolsheviks advancing along the rail route into the town. Armored trains hold the key to military power. However the townspeople are made up of religious sect of voluntary castrates. (Both these groups of people existed in Russia at the time and so the events are based loosely on historical fact.) When the enigmatic revolutionary Samarin […]

The Intellectual Life Of The British Working Classes

By Jonathan Rose
The Intellectual Life Of The British Working Classes
This is a brilliant book for all people interested in the history of the working class . How good books, music and fine art moved the long revolution forward for the poor, uneducated masses, from the pre-industrial era to the twentieth century. All thinking people will be inspired by the memoirs, social surveys, statistics and research into how the working classes educated themselves. One chapter entitled ‘What Was Leonard Bast Really Like?’ gives the reader a completely new insight into the […]

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