Don’t miss The Great Alone, one of my favourite books of the year so far with a five star rating. And then I review a non-fiction, but highly intriguing book, Prisoners of Geography, about global politics. It sounds boring by a very well written and interesting book, find out more below.
THE GREAT ALONE – Kristin Hannah
Rating: 5 stars
I finally decided to read this book after a couple of my friends recommended it and I can see why so many people have been buzzing about it this year. I loved it! Heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, this is a sweeping tale of friendship, love, family and forgiveness.
Ernt Allbright is a deeply damaged man who returns home from Vietnam where he was a POW. Clearly suffering from mental illness, although not diagnosed as such, he is volatile and impulsive. After inheriting a piece of land in a remote and rural part of Alaska, he decides on a whim, to move there with his wife Cora, and their thirteen-year-old daughter, Leni. Although woefully underprepared and ill-equipped, they start to make a home during the long summer nights with the help of the men and women of the small community, but when winter begins to descend, the darkness of Alaska is mirrored in the darkness of Ernt. This is a story of survival on two fronts, surviving the Alaskan winter in the wilderness and Leni and Cora surviving with an abusive man.
This book was very compelling (and not just because I am travelling to Alaska soon). It’s beautifully written. The characters are wonderful, and importantly with such a damaged and complex cast, understandable. The friendship turned love between Leni and her classmate is one of my favourite love stories I have read in a while. I don’t have much more say about this book other than definitely go and read it! But keep warm while doing so because the descriptions of Alaska in deepest winter will make you reach for a blanket!
PRISONERS OF GEOGRAPHY – Tim Marshall
Rating: 3.5 stars
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. I usually find it quite boring and struggle to fully engage. In fact, I think the only non-fiction I have read so far which I would really rave about is “Sapiens”. So , I wasn’t totally convinced when my Dad recommended this book to me but decided to give it a try. In the USA where I live, it’s published as Prisoners of Geography: 10 Maps That Explain Everything About the World and I thought this ended up being a little misleading. In the UK (and I assume South Africa) it is published rather as “10 Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics” and I thought this was a lot more accurate regarding the content of the book.
The author, a British journalist known for his reporting on foreign news and diplomacy, presents each region as a different chapter opening with a map (obviously) and then goes on to explain how the various borders, both natural and manmade have impacted the politics of the region over time.
First, let me say that I do not recommend reading this on a kindle – it was very annoying trying to flip back to the maps and they didn’t come out in print as nicely as they (probably) would in the printed version of the book, as well as being in black and white.
The book was focused on more modern times, I had expected him to delve back into the beginning of history – I think this is part of why I found the USA title misleading – the UK title correctly gives you the expectation that the author will discuss global politics.
What I enjoyed about this book is that you definitely do not need to have any prior knowledge about this topic before reading it. It is very well suited to somebody (like me!) who is not that well-informed on global politics and geography but more has a vague idea. He explains many things, and when you read it you nod in a “ah, ok, that makes sense” way. I learned a lot! Marshall also writes in engaging prose vs dry facts listing which I appreciate in a non-fiction. Definitely give Prisoners of Geography a read (unless you already know a lot about this topic).
Keen to read more of our book reviews? Click here