BOOK REVIEW: The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith (Publisher: Hamish Hamilton 2013)

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From the award winning and best-selling author of White Teeth (2000) comes this novella, The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith.

The book competently manages to grapple with a number of thought provoking issues in a fairly limited amount of space, exploring issues of race, religion, culture and politics.

The focus of the story is on the main character, Fatou, a young African woman working as a nanny for a middle class Asian family in Willesden, North London. In short snippets Fatou tells of her life in Africa interwoven with her attempts to acclimatise to her new life in London. Along her journey Fatou meets and befriends a fellow young African, Andrew, in whom she finds a kindred spirit in a place where one is made to feel isolated with questions of culture and identity surfacing all the time.

At the heart of the story is the Embassy of Cambodia, a hub within the community which generates degrees of excitement and curiousity among the characters while they go about their busy lives.

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Zadie Smith

Smith writes beautifully, capturing the buzz and spirit of London while treating the issues of race, culture and identity with great subtlety and care.

A refreshing read which clearly demonstrates the writer’s skill at packing in an impressively diverse range of issues in such a minimal amount of pages, resulting in a definite triumph for the novella form.

© Copyright 2014, Darell J Philip

BOOK REVIEW: I am the Secret Footballer by Anonymous Footballer (Published by: Guardian Books 2013)

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Have you ever wondered what really goes on inside the changing room of your favourite football club? Do players and managers alike really not take any notice of what’s written about them in the newspapers? Is the life of a footballer as glamorous as it all seems? If any of these questions have crossed your mind begging to be answered then look no further than this book authored by an anonymous footballer!

The player describes what its like to play in the English Premier League against some of the biggest sides in world football including Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. Over the years the player has contended on the pitch with great legends in the game such as Didier Drogba, Thierry Henry and more recently Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.

Some interesting insights are given on the players’ relationships with managers, agents, the media (with whom he now works) and the fans. The player also gives his view on how glamorous the sport truly is.

There’s an engrossing section on the money involved in the sport while elsewhere the player gives a rather honest and frank account of battling depression.

Equally captivating are the players’ thoughts on the infamous race row between former England Captain John Terry and Anton Ferdinand all of which make for sensational and addictive reading!

© Copyright 2014, Darell J Philip

BOOK REVIEW: A Parallel Life by Bonnie Greer (Publisher: Arcadia Books 2014)

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Award-winning playwright, author and critic Bonnie Greer gives a candid account of her life in this first volume of her memoir. Born in in 1948, Chicago, USA, Bonnie humourously describes how her parents named her after Prince Charles but because she was born some hours later than him as a punishment she had to celebrate his birthday each year as her ‘delay’ prevented her parents from winning a free supply of diapers!

Bonnie shares her experiences of living through some of the most important times in history such as the freedom marches she actively took part in with other students during the Civil Rights Movement. Some interesting thoughts are given on the assassinations of Dr Martin Luther King Jr and US President John F Kennedy while also reflecting on the global fascination with the culture and music behind the ‘swinging sixties.’

Bonnie recalls her need to leave home at an early age in order to escape what she saw as the traditional trapped lives her parents lived (hardworking stay at home mother; industrious bread winning father) to pursue her interests in writing and theatre.

Along the journey Bonnie finds herself working in restaurants and at one stage a bar where she done topless dancing to fund her university tuition fees.

Throughout the memoir Bonnie weaves into her story the music of the time from the jazz infused Chicago Blues, to Swinging Sixties Beatle Mania, to Curtis Mayfield anthems during the Black Panther and Civil Rights Movements.

The memoir ends in 1978. Bonnie at 30 years old finds herself at a crossroad, single, unmarried and without children. As she leaves Chicago and all that is familiar to her she journeys on to New York hoping to find herself.

A very interesting, humourous and insightful first volume which leaves readers eager to find out what happens next!

© Copyright 2014, Darell J Philip