Book Reviews: Non-Fiction

Anything Goes
Lucy Moore
Last edited on: 31/03/2013 - 11:33

The 1920s are second only to the 1960s when one considers the seismic changes to society over that decade. They occupy a mythical space in the psyche and conjure up mental pictures of flappers, Bertie Wooster, Tamara de Lempicka's angular brush strokes, and the Art Deco movement with its brutal minimalism and streamlining. Just like the 1960s however, most of this mythology is misplaced. The movers and shakers of society represented a tiny proportion of the population, most of whom lived in abject poverty.

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William Hoffer et al
Last edited on: 11/03/2012 - 14:57

Air Canada 143 is surely one of the most famous aircraft disasters in the history of aviation. A brand new fly-by-wire Boeing 767-200 inexplicably ran out of fuel on a flight from Montreal to Edmonton. Thanks to a series of fortuitous coincidences and the skill of Captain Pearson the stricken plane glided to a decommissioned aerodrome at Gimli, and the powerless landing resulted in no fatalities. So was born the sensational story of the Gimli Glider

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The Covent Garden Ladies
Hallie Rubenhold
Last edited on: 04/03/2012 - 12:42

London in the eighteenth century is much chronicled and a spate of new books have depicted this country's capital at the time as a cesspool mired in vice, crime and violence. One such tome, authored by Hallie Rubenhold, concentrates upon the sex industry, the epicentre of which was Covent Garden. This was in close proximity with London's theatre-land and renowned lawless and bawdy drinking houses around the piazza.

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The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex
Mark Kermode
Last edited on: 01/10/2011 - 10:35

Ask the general public to name a film critic and they would struggle. If they did however manage to dredge one name from the recesses of their collective minds, it would undoubtedly be Mark Kermode. Kermode and Simon Mayo review the latest UK movie releases on a weekly BBC Radio 1 show. Kermode browbeats the submissive and unsure Mayo, and his hectoring rhetoric leaves the listeners in no doubt as to his opinions, opinions which are usually told as irrefutable facts.

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The Damnation of John Donellan: A mysterious case of death and scandal in Georgian England
Elizabeth Cooke
Last edited on: 25/09/2011 - 23:23

The flavour of the month in literary circles is the publication of books raking over the evidence of long forgotten murder cases, often hundreds of years in the past. Having enjoyed Mr Brigg's Hat from the Victorian age, I felt a return trip to the genre, a foray further into the dim and distant past, was in order with Elizabeth Cooke's The Damnation of John Donellan.

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The Life and Times of Moll Flanders
Sian Rees
Last edited on: 04/09/2011 - 20:47

Over the years Daniel Defoe's creation Moll Flanders has had bad press. Film and television adaptations have sensationalised and romanticised her exploits. The BBC's 1995 version starring Alex Kingston had Moll as an amoral prostitute with heaving bosoms and lesbian tendencies. Such broadcasts have skewed the public's perception. Whilst Moll may be imbued in the public's psyche, very few will have picked up the book and actually read it and formed their own judgement.

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Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars
Sonia Faleiro
Last edited on: 31/08/2011 - 21:47

The brothels of Bombay are frequently depicted in the photojournalism features of The Sunday Times Magazine and other lifestyle colour supplements. These pictures paint a vivid picture of the abject poverty and depravity of the sex workers' lives, yet they fail to tell the entire story and in reality such scenes merely scrape the surface of an industry of jaw-dropping dimensions. Sonia Faleiro's Beautiful Things – Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars explains the hierarchy of these workers.

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Sex on the Moon
Ben Mezrich
Last edited on: 21/08/2011 - 09:59

Thad Roberts will go down in history as the NASA intern who threw away the prospects of a glittering career potentially leading to becoming an astronaut when he stole 100 grams of moon rock from his employers. Roberts was a straight-A student from Utah of Mormon upbringing, talented yet lacking direction and living in the shadows of his elder siblings. He harboured a dream of becoming a placement student at NASA, yet despite his scholastic endeavours he had neither the vocational nor the interpersonal skills to make the grade.

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Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down: How One Generation of British Actors Changed the World
Robert Sellers
Last edited on: 07/08/2011 - 13:04

The late fifties and the early sixties heralded a seismic change in society; the country was coming out of the post war austerity years of rationing and 'making do', the advent of rock and roll music was hitting our shores and empowering the country's youth hitherto overlooked and marginalised. At the same time a new brigade of writers, tired of the upper-middle class french-windows and tennis club plays written by the likes of Terence Rattigan and Noel Coward, were exploring working class issues and relationship politics.

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Mr Briggs' Hat: A Sensational Account of Britain's First Railway Murder
Kate Colquhoun
Last edited on: 22/07/2011 - 22:15

On the evening of July 9 1864, well-to-do elderly banker Thomas Briggs became the unwitting victim of Britain's first railway murder, struck down in his 1st class compartment by a blunt object as his train approached Hackney from Fenchurch Street. The perpetrator of this crime made his getaway, stealing Briggs' silk top hat and gold watch and chain, whilst accidentally leaving behind a less well appointed soft hat.

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