'I never asked myself about the meaning of freedom until the day I hugged Stalin. From close up, he was much taller than I expected.' Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People were equal, neighbours helped each other, and children were expected to build a better world. There was community and hope. Then, in December 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, everything changed. The statues of Stalin and Hoxha were toppled. Almost overnight, people could vote freely, wear what they liked and worship as they wished. There was no longer anything to fear from prying ears. But factories shut, jobs disappeared and thousands fled to Italy on crowded ships, only to be sent back. Predatory pyramid schemes eventually bankrupted the country, leading to violent conflict. As one generation's aspirations became another's disillusionment, and as her own family's secrets were revealed, Lea found herself questioning what freedom really meant. Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.
A fascinating in-depth history of the library, this book weaves its way through time and is overflowing with tidbits and facts. The Library calls itself a: “fragile history”, and as beleaguered as our public libraries are today, you can see their past suffering too. This isn’t a light and breezy offering, it is serious, and seriously epic in its scope. I took my time, and soaked up the information, from learning about the gathering of baked clay tablets in Mesopotamia, how Popes, Kings, and Monasteries affected Libraries, the arrival of vertical shelving rather than trunks, all the way through and past the Second World War. I have always supported the idea of the library, but never before really thought about how they came into being, how books are selected, the discrimination and censorship that has taken place. Libraries should be a safe welcoming place for everyone, but that of course depends on a huge range of factors, all of which are detailed here. Arthur der Weduwen and Andrew Pettegree have spent time in over 300 libraries and archives, their acknowledgements and research material is listed. If you are interested in a detailed thought-provoking look into the history of the library, then The Library will answer your call. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
Germany, 1945: a country in ruins. Cities have been reduced to rubble and more than half of the population are where they do not belong or do not want to be. How can a functioning society ever emerge from this chaos? In bombed-out Berlin, Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, journalist and member of the Nazi resistance, warms herself by a makeshift stove and records in her diary how a frenzy of expectation and industriousness grips the city. The Americans send Hans Habe, an Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist and US army soldier, to the frontline of psychological warfare - tasked with establishing a newspaper empire capable of remoulding the minds of the Germans. The philosopher Hannah Arendt returns to the country she fled to find a population gripped by a manic loquaciousness, but faces a deafening wall of silence at the mention of the Holocaust. Aftermath is a nuanced panorama of a nation undergoing monumental change. 1945 to 1955 was a raw, wild decade poised between two eras that proved decisive for Germany's future - and one starkly different to how most of us imagine it today. Featuring black and white photographs and posters from post-war Germany - some beautiful, some revelatory, some shocking - Aftermath evokes an immersive portrait of a society corrupted, demoralised and freed - all at the same time.
Working alone or in small cells, sometimes with local resistance groups, SOE and OSS agents bravely undertook missions behind enemy lines involving sabotage, subversion, organising resistance groups and intelligence-gathering.Notable successes included the destruction of a power station in France, the assassination of Himmler’s deputy and ending the Nazi atomic bomb program by destroying the heavy water plant at Vemork, Norway. The life expectancy of an SOE wireless operator in occupied France was just six weeks.In No Moon as Witness, former Special-Forces soldier turned historian, James Stejskal, examines why these agencies were established, their training regimes and the ingenious inventions developed to enable agents to undertake their missions. There are a lot of books published about the SOE and OSS – many of them very thorough and detailed. No Moon as Witness is a more concise, more easily readable but nevertheless thorough account that benefits from the author’s particular knowledge and background as he applies his personal analysis to this important part of our military history. An excellent read.
‘After the Wall Came Down’ is a well-researched account of how the British Army has changed, developed and adapted to the highly variable demands placed on it during the last 30 years. From regular deployment on the peace-keeping role in Northern Ireland to dealing with genocide in the Balkans, from rescue missions such as Sierra Leone through to wholesale war in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Never before has so much been asked of these young men and women. When our civil support services struggle, such as during flood, Fire Brigade strikes or the Foot and Mouth outbreak, it is the military our political leaders turn to in times of crisis. This book explains why we, the public, sleep soundly at night in the knowledge there are people out there who keep us safe. Andrew Richards provides a thoroughly absorbing account made all the more interesting due to the wide ranging contributions of men and women who were there, did the jobs, experienced the changes and often have the scars to prove it. An excellent read.