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May 2023 paperback book reviews


Simon Evans makes his pick of the latest paperbacks 

Queen_of_our_times paperback book coverQueen of Our Times, by Robert Hardman

The historian Peter Hennessy recently told of how he had wept during the Queen’s funeral, realising, in that moment, that “the age of decency had now passed.” And that is what strikes you reading this thoroughly researched life of the late Queen, that the values she embodied, of service and selflessness, now belong to a different age but should be no less revered.

Looking back at Queen Elizabeth’s remarkable reign Hardman has many new insights and stories to tell in a biography that is at once reverential and, at times, revelatory. First published in March 2022 it has been updated to include details of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, as well as her death and its aftermath.

Published by Pan Price £10.99 Pages 720 ISBN 9781529063455


Bowie Odyssey 73, by Simon GoddardBowie_odyssey_73 paperback book cover

It’s quite an aim, to document David Bowie’s Seventies – the decade he dominated in much the same way as the Beatles did the Sixties – year by year, once a year. So far Simon Goddard has kept to his brief admirably and this is the fourth in the series, the last three years having already brought us Odyssey 70, 71 and 72, not just documents of particular years in Bowie’s life and career but also snapshots of what was happening in the wider world at the time.

Written with all the narrative drive, attention to detail and focus on character you would expect from a novel, the series is not only a detailed and incisive portrait of one of the great pop stars of the last century but also a fascinating social history of the world at the time, especially strike-bound, inflation-ridden Britain.

This instalment follows Bowie as he struggles with fame as his creation, Ziggy Stardust, turns into a teen-idol monster, triggering a dark descent into cocaine addiction. He also continues to dominate the charts, however, with records as vastly different as The Jean Genie, Life on Mars, Aladdin Sane, Sorrow and The Laughing Gnome.

Published by Omnibus Books Price £16.99 Pages 168 ISBN 9781913172817


Anna the biography paperback book coverAnna: The Biography, by Amy Odell

Once described by a former colleague as “incapable of simple human kindness” the rise of long-time Vogue editor Anna Wintour to the position she occupies, as Queen Bee of the fashion world, has all the trappings of a successful pulp novel (Laura Weisberger’s thinly-disguised tell-all The Devil Wears Prada was based on her former boss). However, rather than burying Anna Wintour under the weight of her well-documented foibles and obsessions – fur, celebrities and weight-loss – Amy Odell seeks to offer something approaching a defence, claiming that if a male editor behaved the same way they would be praised for their decisiveness and commitment. She has a point, of course; Wintour has been a remarkably successful magazine editor because she accepts nothing but the best from her staff, plain and simple. But, although full of fascinating detail by the end of the book we are no nearer knowing what really drives this intriguing woman – and that, presumably, is exactly as Anna Wintour likes it.

Published by Allen and Unwin Price £10.99 Pages 464 ISBN 9781838957285


1945 victory in the west paperback book cover1945: Victory in the West, by Peter Caddick-Adams

When, in March 1945, Allied troops prepared to cross the Rhine and storm into Germany they must have felt victory was within their grasp. But the final 100 days of the War would be hard-fought and full of immense challenges and horrible realisations, not least the scale of Nazi barbarity as revealed at Buchenwald, Dachau and Belsen. Drawing on memoirs and interviews with survivors, the renowned historian, Professor Peter Caddick-Adams, has compiled what may prove to be the last word on the closing days and weeks of the conflict.

Published by Penguin Price £12.99 Pages 684 ISBN 9781529157734

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