Books I Read in January 2023

February 11, 2023 · 12:34 pm

Love Marriage by Monica Ali tells the story of 26-year-old junior doctor Yasmin Ghorani who is engaged to fellow medic Joe Sangster. The novel opens with Yasmin’s Bengali immigrant parents meeting Joe’s famous feminist mother for the first time at her house in Primrose Hill. The evening forces Yasmin to re-evaluate her assumptions and opinions about the people she is closest to, but the supposedly inevitable culture clash doesn’t develop in the most predictable way. There are several subplots with a large cast of supporting characters, and although some of this could have been cut down, ‘Love Marriage’ is an entertaining modern family saga. Many thanks to Little Brown for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.

Scoops Sam McAlisterScoops by Sam McAlister is a behind-the-scenes look at the often long and torturous negotiation process of securing major interviews for the Newsnight current affairs programme on BBC Two. McAlister began her career as a criminal defence barrister before finding her real passion in TV journalism and becoming a producer and interview booker for Newsnight. Some of the interviewees were involved in huge media stories at the time and include Julian Assange, Stormy Daniels, the victims of Ariel Castro and the Australian radio DJ Mel Greig who took part in the hoax call to the hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge. Not all interviews were successes – Steven Seagal walked out when questioned about sexual harassment allegations and his links to Vladimir Putin – and McAlister is candid about the reasons why things didn’t always go to plan. The biggest coup of McAlister’s career by far was securing an interview with Prince Andrew in 2019. Even though the consequences are now well-known, the details of how the Palace initially thought the interview had gone well are still excruciating. This is a very engaging book which is a good companion to Airhead by Emily Maitlis published in 2019.

Really Good Actually Monica HeiseyReally Good, Actually by Monica Heisey has been one of the most talked-about debut novels of 2023 and tells the story of Maggie, a 29-year-old woman who is going through a divorce less than two years after getting married to her partner of 9 years, Jon. Heisey has worked on TV sitcoms such as Schitt’s Creek and her talent for sharp one-liners is evident in the dry and witty tone as Maggie navigates the chaos of her post-divorce life, loosely based on Heisey’s personal experience of her marriage ending when she was still in her 20s. However, the plot development is relatively limited in that it is a slow path towards Maggie’s eventual realisation that she has to move on with her life. Many thanks to 4th Estate for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog Muriel BarberyVery occasionally, I manage to chip away at my long-standing TBR list, and I finally read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery translated from the French by Alison Anderson. It is set in an apartment block in the 7th arrondissement of Paris where 54-year-old widow Renée has been the concierge for the last 25 years and hides her self-taught knowledge and appreciation of philosophy and literature from her neighbours. The other residents of the building include Paloma, a precocious 12-year-old girl who works out that Renée is much more intelligent than she lets on, and Kakuro, a Japanese businessman. There are a lot of philosophical digressions. As someone who favours realist perspectives, I have always struggled to see philosophy as anything other than pretentious and find that the supposed depth of this type of intellectual discussion often ends up appearing rather shallow. Art is timeless and all you need is love – who knew? It’s also the main aspect that makes this such a Marmite book, confirmed by the reviews on Goodreads. Anyway, whether philosophy is your thing or not, which it generally isn’t for me, it’s all very, very French.

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