BOOKS : PAPERBACKS

! Konin: A Quest by Theo Richmond, Vintage pounds 8.99. The Jewish settlement at Konin, the town of Theo Richmond's ancestors, was among the first to be established in Poland during the Middle Ages. And in 1939 it became one of the first to receive the attentions of the invading Nazis, when in an appalling sweep the entire community was displaced and sent to perish in the camps. Only a few survived. This book is virtually a recreation of the place: streets, buildings, population carefully reassembled piece by piece from painstakingly researched records and living memory. It is an amazing act of obsessional homage, of mourning, even, but Richmond's sense of obligation to the past doesn't obscure the modern relevance.

! Walter Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity by Neal Gabler, Papermac pounds 13. Winchell, the man who made gossip journalism if not respectable, then inevitable, was cock of the American media walk from 1930 to 1950, a titan of syndicated newspaper columns and radio. Fame afforded him the licence to pronounce on matters far more weighty than the current movie stars' peccadilloes, and he indulged himself to the full. But the enemies he made in the process kept their spurs sharp and, towards the end of this book, a tingle of Schadenfreude awaits the reader, for Winchell was eventually cut down by the very weapons he had himself employed so devastatingly: a mixture of political vituperation and gossip. By the 1960s, he was forced to watch hated rivals like Ed Sullivan preening their feathers on television while he moulted in old- aged obscurity.

! Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat, Abacus pounds 6.99. The ton-ton macoute, a voodoo figure put by the Duvaliers to political use, haunts books about Haiti whether in the vein of Ian Fleming or Graham Greene. But this novel is by a Haitian, and it provides a gentle corrective to the sensational reading of voodoo given by outsiders. The ton-ton macoute is literally "uncle knapsack" - a bogeyman who steals children away under cover of night in his straw satchel. In Danticat's tale of the troubled lives of four generations of Haitian women, all the men have their own metaphorical straw bag, which they use (consciously or otherwise) to filch the happiness of their womenfolk. It is a very nicely observed novel, lyrical but also unflinching about this "place where nightmares are passed on through generations like heirlooms".

! Bosnia: A Short History by Noel Malcolm, Papermac pounds 10. John Major believes that the Bosnian conflict is an inevitable flaring up of "ancient hatreds" following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The author of this excellent, clear-eyed history says fiddlesticks. If the cause of the disaster had been clearly identified, he says, instead of obfuscated by a mistaken reading of history, the war could have been avoided. He makes no bones about this. At root it is not a civil war but calculated territorial aggression by Serbia. The "ancient hatreds" are real enough, as we read in this narrative which ends with the Dayton Accord. But without the cynical intervention of Belgrade, there was nothing inevitable about their reappearance in the 1990s. ! Crime Story by Maurice Gee, Faber pounds 6.99. Gee's well-made novel tells the story of two families in Wellington, New Zealand: the poor, working-class Rossers and the wealthy, property-sharking Peets. When petty thief Brent Rosser burgles Athos Peet's house, pushing his wife down the stairs and breaking her neck, the crime is the catalyst not just for Brent's destruction but for the near-nemesis of his victims. Both these families are equally dysfunctional, and Gee's moral message transcends class: driving your relationships without due care and attention is a crime worse than GBH. Overall, his book reinforces the too-easily received notion that, in cultural matters, the Kiwis are a step or two behind the main dance. Monochrome realism is Gee's style, the hard-fisted manner of the north of England fiction of the early Sixties. In those days, to write as if Joyce had never existed seemed refreshing and direct, but I'm not sure the same trick can be pulled 35 years on. However, some of Gee's characters are mesmerising.

! Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and its Rivals by Ernest Gellner, Penguin pounds 7.99. Civil society is a technical term in political theory, yet in any liberal/capitalist context one recognises it easily and sympathetically, for this is the water in which we swim. It defines a system tolerant (or claiming tolerance) towards a diversity of social institutions whose influence offsets the state and prevents "monopolies of power and truth" from lording it over us. The necessary proviso is that such institutions are never so strong as to impede peace and justice, the inalienable tasks of government. Gellner is inclined to see civil society as another term for light regulation of the market and a cudgel against Marxism, but many institutions outside commerce ought to have a stake in society. And if that sounds a touch Blairite, you're on to the script.

! Attila, King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth by Patrick Howarth, Constable 9.95. Recognition - at last! This is the book one imagines Attila, sitting out his time in some Limbic holding tank, has been waiting for. Howarth is not content to portray him merely as a fine general. He makes out a convincing case for Atilla the Hun as a Good Thing, whose people, in their kingdom by the Danube, enjoyed a carefree existence and a high standard of living under his efficient administration. Meanwhile, next door, the Roman Empire crumbled. Moreover Atilla was personally a man of dignity, compassion, modesty and culture, if the sole eye-witness account of him (from a Byzantine historian) is reliable. So where does the bloodthirsty stereotype come from? Howarth has a couple of illuminating chapters on this too.

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit