Spectator by Seema Goswami: Page-turners
The best news I have had in months is that Bahrisons, my go-to bookshop in Khan Market, has opened a new branch in Delhi – yes, in the middle of a pandemic, no less. If this isn’t confirmation enough that the book market is thriving then I don’t know what sign would suffice to convince doubters that reading is a more popular activity than ever before.
I guess we have Coronavirus to thank for that. Having been stuck in our homes for months, with nowhere to go and no one to see, many of us have rediscovered our love of books and of reading. When the world around you is stressful and fatiguing, there is nothing quite as relaxing as opening a book and disappearing into an alternate universe that demands nothing more of you than a willingness to engage.
I should know. I have been indulging in my fair share of escapism over these last few months, finding shelter in old books that have the comfort of familiarity, seeking to expand my horizons by rooting out new and unfamiliar works, and begging friends and family for book recommendations when I run out of titles.
Well, today I am returning that favour by recommending some books that I have read recently. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
This is Book Five in the Cormoran Strike series, written by J.K. Rowling under an assumed name, and it is the best by far. Written at a leisurely pace, as the author takes detours to develop characters and delve into such issues as feminism, this is much more than a murder mystery – even though it revolves around a cold case of a woman who disappeared many decades ago. There is, nonetheless, an urgency to the story that will keep you reading late into the night. For my part, I could not put it down.
The Order by Daniel Silva
Gabriel Allon is back at the Vatican, investigating the suspicious death of a Pope, while being stymied at every turn by a mysterious and powerful cult organisation. In case the plot sounds familiar to regular readers of Silva, it’s because it is; we have seen regular iterations of this formula over the years. But this spy thriller ventures into new territory, examining the origins of Christianity and its relationship with the Jewish community. Yes, there are shades of Dan Brown, but this is a gripping read that stands on its own merits.
The Spymasters by Chris Whipple
We tend to think of the CIA as some mythic beast with vast powers. But this book shows us that it is like any other government department: often confused, riven with infighting and at the mercy of politicians. This masterly summary of the CIA’s progress over the last 60 years or so captures many of its failures. It did not predict the fall of the Soviet Union and it was wrong about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. Read this, and you will end up feeling more kindly towards R&AW and our own spies.
Melania and Me by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff
The First Lady of the United States has always come off as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma (with due apologies to Winston Churchill). And even after four years in the White House, Melania Trump remains a mysterious figure, waving robot-like at her rare public appearances but saying very little of note. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book provides us with the first glimpse of Melania in private, revealing her in unguarded moments as the two women negotiate a friendship that goes very wrong. The portrait of the First Lady that emerges in this unrelenting take from an insider is not at all flattering. Which, I guess, comes as a surprise to no one at all.
Diary of an MP’s Wife by Sasha Swire
It is safe to say that Sasha Swire was dispatched to social Siberia from the moment the advance copies of this book began circulating. This gossipy, occasionally cruel, always snobby account of the doings of David Cameron’s inner circle (while he was Prime Minister) is astonishing in its frankness and candour. Which is exactly what makes it such delicious reading – best devoured with a glass of wine after the day’s work is done.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, October 18, 2020
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