Books For Troubled Times

Ralph Mcallister recommends these titles to readers seeking good books for these dark days.

‘As mentioned in my last column,’ he says, try:

‘Star Crossed.’

And then there is —

‘Joyful and finally triumphant’

Or, Ralph says, for  a  mind distracting thriller, try:

‘The Woman in the Window’


‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies
Growing up in Ireland’


Now we return to Ralph’s monthly column

‘Sometimes I surprise myself, not only with what I read, but also the way I get to these particular titles.

Look at THE WALL by John Lanchester for example.

I rarely read dystopian novels and yet beloved Tilly (of Unity Books fame) pushed me to The Wall .

I was glad.

This is a short account of people doing time, guarding against invasion by The Others.

Two  years defending and then you are “free” to live within the wall which surrounds what was left after the unspecified apocalypse.

Lanchester creates a bleaker than bleak future and yet it is a story of passion and survival shot through with scenes of beauty.

Well worthy of your attention.

If you want a bit of theatrical history you might be captured by DRAMATIC EXCHANGES -THE LIVES AND LETTERS OF THE NATIONAL THEATRE.

Superbly edited by Daniel Rosenthal this history leads you through the trials and tribulations of first , the creation, and then the results of the fifty years of Britain’s National Theatre, so far.

So you thought it was easy choosing and performing a play.

Yeah right.

Wonderful outbursts of joy, pain and frustration from the playwrights, actors and directors through the years prove that things don’t get less complicated.

The list of contributors is endless and you might just dip in and out of the book, checking on the likes of Judi Dench, Diana Rigg, PeterBrook and even our own Sunny Amey, as they help create a monument to creative excellence.

Not just for the historian.

COLE PORTER  by Willam McBrien, a biography, was published some twenty years ago.
Again, I was so pleased that I listened to the recommendation of good friend Mark, and read this account of the privileged and oh so talented life of one of the greatest of composer lyricists.

Spoiled rotten by his mother he was given every chance to excel in his chosen calling.
You could spend night and day beginning a compilation of the hundreds of his wonderful works.

You might also try to understand how his marriage lasted even though he was an avowed homosexual at a time when secrecy of your sexual identity was paramount in Hollywood at that time.

A wonderlife, fe ,a painful death, but what an inheritance for us.

Finally I feel I am now part of the 20th if not quite the 21st century.

I put off reading Minnie Darke’s (no,not her real name) STAR CROSSED as it was indicated that it centred on astrology and it was a romcom, neither exactly passions of mine.

So pleased that I overcame my snobbery.

This is one of the most joyous love stories I have read in a long time.

Justine is a young and ambitious journalist who will do almost anything to succeed.

In her editorial capacity, she starts to change horoscopes to influence people she knows.

These include  a childhood friend Nick, who has aspirations towards an acting career but whose wealthy girlfriend wants other things from him.

Set in Sydney, with a large cast beautifully managed by the author (Tasmanian Danielle Wood if you really want to know) this is  hilarious touching and, finally, a must for your next glamping holiday .

Eclectic indeed.



Thanks Ralph, illuminating as usual. I am behind in my reading by several already acquired books, Both ‘The Wall’, and ‘Cole Porter’ are immediately appealing. So as time and energy allows. We’ll see. Regards, Don

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