Every Man in This Village is a Liar – Megan Stack

Stack is a green journalist when the Twin Towers fall. She just happens to be in Paris and well-placed to send to the Middle East and this is an opportunity she grasps to try and understand

We are then taken on her journey, as a woman reporter in the Middle East. She intertwines the wars, with the dangers she is in and the impact this has on her family, and her changing attitude to violence. She sees the people of Lebanon during the Israel-Lebanon war, not as Hesbolla insurgents but as the poor and trapped who are becoming radicalised by endless violence from Israel and an uncertain future.

She also is tied up in seeing people both as sources, and as people whose lives can be destroyed by talking to an American journalist. She sees hopes and dreams and ambitions. And how a bomb can tear all that away in an instant.

Ultimately she comes to the futility of it, how the circular nature of war means that all it ever begets is more chaos and war, and that the US is more deeply enmeshed that she knew, with tear gas cannisters “made in the USA” and an acute awareness that the bombs being dropped around her are funded by her own country.

This offers a powerful view of war, and is well-worth reading.

Minor note: the cover of this book jarred every time I picked it up. My mental image of Stack is of her being driven fastĀ in sedan cars full of smoke. The cover is a horse and cart filled with people in traditional Islamic dress. If we must steer away from the true subject matter, at least keep it in the same tone as the book!

The Bucket – Alan Ahlberg

I happened to be involved in a conversation about children’s books a couple of weeks ago, and one thing that came out was that Peepoo! was about the last time Alan Ahlberg saw his dad alive. I then saw this memoir in a bargin box so had to read it to find out if it was true.

I can confidently say that it isn’t, although I do wonder if the teddy is indeed Ahlberg’s teddy, which seemed to be something he brought with him through life.

Children’s literature links aside, this was a very descriptive, flowing memoir of a childhood in a working class family during and just after world war two. We don’t see the war, just where the bombs have been, because when you’re six the war itself doesn’t matter.

It is also an exploration of a free childhood, where children could roam and explore their surroundings, and the consequences of this.