Big books from each side of the big pond

Big books from each side of the big pond

Modern Manners in the UK

Set in West Sussex in 2015 the book features the same characters we first met in The Secret My Intensity of Everyday Life (2009). I did not read this book and it did not make any difference to my understanding of the characters now.

Written against the backdrop of the 2015 general election but before the cataclysmic EU referendum it is interesting to note how the political environment affects the lives of those with a social conscience. Our characters are middle-class, middle-aged and middle of the road politically.

Instantly recognisable as the generation who have got their degrees, worked in respectable careers in the media or arts and are now loosening the ties of duty to ageing parents and needy children. Except that these are “the ties that bind” and we follow the anguish of Lizzie who is waiting for her mother to die, and Henry and Laura who are desperate to help their depressed daughter.

The relationships in the book are all too familiar and it is not just the responsibilities that are restricting but the release of them which offers a chance of freedom. Sex still plays a role in the lives of our protagonists and the question of sex as a deception or an opportunity is an important theme of this tale of modern manners. The author shows that growing older is not easy and the questions of morality become even more complicated as you evaluate what you want from the rest of your life.

I was fascinated by the ethics of marriage raised in this book and several times examined my own standards. Loyalty, truth, obligation and the weakness of our own desires filter in and out of the various relationships and the sensitively written narrative of these marriages had me intrigued.

The author has captured the essence of married love and the difficulties of balance between honesty and self-fulfilment.

This book shone for me in a sea of my required reading of romance, thrillers and historical dramas.

At last a real human tale of what real life is like when you care about those you love, yet long for the freedom to be yourself before it’s too late.

Adventures in Modern Marriage by William Nicholson Published by Quercus on 26 Jan 2017 in hardback RRP £19.99

Big business in the USA

This is a blockbuster in the vein of John Grisham or Michael Crichton. A must-read book on the modern sins of corporate greed and commercialism. This story covers all the angles of a courtroom drama saga with family loyalties and journalistic disclosures.

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, a garment factory burns to the ground, claiming the lives of hundreds of workers, mostly young women. Amid the rubble, a bystander captures a heart-stopping image-a teenage girl lying in the dirt, her body broken by a multi-story fall, and over her mouth a mask of fabric bearing the label of one of America’s largest retailers, Presto Omnishops Corporation. When the photo goes viral, it fans the flames of a decades old controversy about sweatshops, labour rights, and the ethics of globalisation.

A corporate lawyer meets disgraced journalist to uncover damaging business practices and we learn of the malpractices and the exploitation of third world workers.

Despite it being, at times, complicated and hard to follow I understood enough to be gripped by the story and main characters. The depiction of the multi-million-dollar empire that eclipses mere people and is the retail temple at which we worship, my conscience was stirred enough to question my own buying habits.

It is a big book, over 450 pages, but it is a big subject with big characters. I am glad I read it, and would recommend this to anyone who wants a little more than a cosy romance to the popular option of a psychological thriller. This a much bigger book to get your teeth into.

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison is published on 24th January by Quercus in paperback at £13.99