Reviews

1 April 2018 Erica Smith

FeedARead.com, 2017; 372pp; £8.99

This book is a singular account of a community of action which didn’t just witness history, but was instrumental in changing it: Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. 25 years on, life experiences can be forgotten, so I am grateful to Howard and Moulin for collecting these reminiscences for posterity.

Like the film Pulp Fiction, this book begins at the end – with an action in 1993 where 16 women climbed into the grounds of Buckingham Palace to condemn nuclear testing in the Nevada desert. And, like Adrian Mole, the author…

1 April 2018 Esme Needham

OR Books, 2018; 204pp; £13

In one of the last poems in this book, entitled ‘To the woman on St. Nicholas Avenue whose thigh was a wilderness blooming’, Ellen Hagan celebrates a woman she saw who had tattoos of flowers and trees all up her leg. She speaks of how uplifting the sight of this ‘garden of a woman’ was, and the poem is infused with a sense of the bravery this random stranger had – to show the world how she wanted to look, and who she wanted to be. I felt like this poem summed up everything joyous and essential in this collection of ‘poems for a new feminism…

1 April 2018 Andrea Needham

Imperial War Museum, London, to 28 May. £15/£10.50 (£7.50 under-16s).



Dolls at Dungeness September 11th 2001 © Grayson Perry / Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Photo Stephen Brayne 2001 Glazed ceramic

I wonder whether people who have been directly affected by the aftermath of 9/11 – in a way that most of those viewing this exhibition haven’t – would find parts of it baffling or even insulting

For example, if you had lived in Baghdad during the 2003 war against Iraq, what would you make of the ‘twin towers’ created by Jake and Dinos Chapman? Nein! Eleven?…

1 April 2018 Ian Sinclair

Routledge, 2017; 368pp; £32.99

Far from being simply a personal choice, our diet is deeply political.

As Dr Pamela Mason and professor Tim Lang explain, the spread of the standard Western diet has had devastating consequences for people and the planet. Worldwide, obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. Poor dietary patterns in rich nations have been the greatest contribution to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. ‘North America and Europe consume biological resources as though they inhabit multiple planets’, the authors note.…

1 April 2018 Gabriel Carlyle

OR Books, 2017; 134pp; £12

It’s not always a good sign when the most frequent comment one finds oneself scrawling in the margins of a book is ‘Really?’

Anyone who hasn’t been asleep for the last five-plus years will be aware that today’s digital technologies – first and foremost the internet itself – present wide-ranging challenges to some of our most cherished rights and institutions. Mass government surveillance of the internet threatens our privacy. Google has built an unassailable and unaccountable monopoly off the back of its users’ data. Meanwhile,…

1 February 2018 Catherine Barter

Granta, 2017; 176pp; £12.99

‘There are specific ways in which people are silenced,’ Rebecca Solnit writes in her latest collection of essays, ‘but there is also a culture that withers away the space in which women speak and makes it clear that men’s voices count for more than women’s.’

Solnit is the author of the widely shared essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me’, included in a 2014 collection of the same name (see PN 2574), and is often credited with inspiring the word ‘mansplaining’. In both collections, the silencing of women is an ongoing theme.…

1 February 2018 Gabriel Carlyle

Verso, 2017; 224pp; £14.99

‘By the age of fourteen months,’ George Monbiot writes ‘children begin to help each other, attempting to hand over objects another child cannot reach. By the time they are two, they start sharing some of the things they value. By the age of three, they start to protest against other people’s violations of moral norms.’

We are supremely social mammals, ‘blessed with an amazing capacity for kindness and care towards others’, and yet today ‘an epidemic of loneliness is sweeping the world’. Moreover, this loneliness is ‘just one…

1 February 2018 Emily Johns

PM Press, 2015; 448pp; £21.99

A story of poverty and desperation and of crashing through a society with few safety nets, Everyone has their reasons is an education in the struggles in Europe in the 1930s. But it is most frightening because its narratives about ethnicity, migration and belonging are still so much alive today, and people at this very moment are experiencing the terror caused by borders.

This harrowing book told me things that I needed to know about Europe – and that we all need to know in order to understand the present. A fictional re…

1 February 2018 Clare Bonetree

Unbound Digital, 2017; 400pp; £10

This anti-war suspense novel is the debut full-length fiction work of activist and writer Virginia Moffatt, a regular contributor to Peace News for some years. It’s a tale of suspense and intrigue following the lives of three generations of women, from Edwardian times to the first Gulf War, each connected by marriage to the appropriately named Flint family, that lives at the equally apt Echo Hall in bleak north Shropshire. Each woman has to contend with the impact of the war on her family and her life choices – and a family…

1 February 2018 Esme Needham

Sasquatch Books, 2016; 192pp; £23.99

Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring didn’t originally intend to call their book Dead Feminists. The title arose as a way to refer to their project in a slightly jokey way, ‘especially as many of the women we’ve profiled have themselves denied being feminists’. However, they wanted to reclaim and own the word ‘feminist’, and decided that the only way to do that was to use it to refer to every single one of the historic and world-changing women profiled in their book.

The book itself is beautifully set out: there are at…

1 December 2017 Callum Alexander Scott

Verso 2017, 256pp; £12.99

Stephen Armstrong shows how consecutive governments have abandoned Britain’s most vulnerable citizens and overseen the gradual dismantling of a welfare state that once protected them. Importantly, Armstrong also tells the stories of those most affected.

Beginning with the 1942 Beveridge Report – the founding document of Britain’s welfare state – Armstrong outlines how, by adopting its recommendations, postwar governments were largely successful in eradicating what the report called the five ‘giants’ blocking the road of…

1 December 2017 Henrietta Cullinan

Manchester Metropolitan University, 2017; 102pp; £5

In October, I travelled to Burnley for the trial of Sam Walton and reverend Dan Woodhouse (see p1). Walking to the court past derelict industrial buildings and rows of empty shops and pubs, I couldn’t help think of the Women’s Peace Crusade meetings held here exactly 100 years ago.

According to this short book, Burnley was once called ‘the largest producer of woven cotton in the world’ but, by the First World War, its economy had slumped. Over 4,000 young men from Burnley were killed at the front, with over 100 dying in a single…

1 December 2017 Esme Needham

Faber and Faber, 2016; 336pp; £8.99

‘Suddenly, being a woman doesn’t look like such a minefield after all,’ Sara Pascoe says in the blurb for this book. She is referring to all the amazing things she has found out while researching evolution, science and the the history of patriarchy, and seeing how they relate to the way society works – or doesn’t – today. Except that makes Animal sound dry: it isn’t.

Although Sara Pascoe talks about evolutionary science a lot, she never dumbs it down – after all, she isn’t a scientist, she’s a comedian (or, as she is…

1 December 2017 Clare Bonetree

Wolf Press, 2017; 236pp; £7.99

In this, the third thriller in Max Hertzberg’s alternative East Germany trilogy (set in an alternate history in which East Germany’s Peaceful Revolution of 1989 resulted in the creation of a socialist state run by direct democracy), the young, self-organised democracy is testing its self-confidence and looking to the future, while threatened by ghosts from its past that just won’t lie down. It’s a year on from a crucial referendum to take down the Berlin Wall and disband the Republicschutz, a temporary counter-espionage service formed to…

1 December 2017 Milan Rai

PM Press 2017; 192pp; £14.99

‘When our enemies expect us to respond to provocation with violence, we must react calmly and peacefully; just as they anticipate our passivity, we must throw a grenade.’ This is pretty much the only ‘reflection on the role of armed struggle in North America’ that you will find in Ward Churchill’s 1986 essay, ‘Pacifism as Pathology’. These words, quoted approvingly, are from Black Nationalist activist Kwame Ture (formerly nonviolent civil rights Freedom Rider Stokely Carmichael).

Quite apart from any moral issues, this ‘grenade-…