Summer books, featuring John Gray, Julie Myerson, Mark Thompson & othersby prospect / July 23, 2009 / Leave a comment
FICTION recommended by Julie Myerson
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Virago, £16.99)
The novel that has given me the most pleasure so far this year is, without question, Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger. Set in a huge, decaying country house just after the second world war, it appears to unfold as a ghost story but, like the very best tales of hauntings, its most chilling aspects are the human ones. Money, class, emotional and sexual repression—and people’s uneasy relationships with buildings and their histories—are its real themes, and Waters handles them with a restraint that feels alternately thrilling and sinister. But what I admire most is that, without resorting to annoying tricks, she makes the entire novel change shape and texture so convincingly as it progresses that you, the reader, start to question your own responses. As its grim conclusion began to dawn on me—at exactly the right moment—I felt entertained and terrified, but also somehow altered by what I’d read.
Julie Myerson’s most recent book is “The Lost Child” (Bloomsbury)
FINANCE recommended by Jonathan Ford
Lords of Finance: 1929, The Great Depression—and the Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed (Heinemann, £20)
A financial bubble has given way to a publishing one—a bubble of crisis books. Many are of limited value, written by authors no more blessed with foresight than bankers. The difficulty of seeing over the financial hill is the subject of Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance, a magisterial history of an earlier crisis. The lords in question were the central bankers of Britain, the US, France and Germany who wrestled with the problems thrown up by the realignment of finance after the first world war. Ahamed’s book is a beautifully written and melancholy account of how well-intentioned men failed to deal with the global imbalances that followed from the transfer of most of the world’s gold to the US in the war. “We have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the workings of which we do not understand,” wrote John Maynard Keynes in 1930. We like to think we know better now, but do we?
Jonathan Ford is commentary editor at Reuters
PHILOSOPHY recommended by John Gray
The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands (Granta, £8.99)
If you think that philosophy is the art of…