Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018, Book Review, Books I have read

American Heiress – Jeffrey Toobin #20BooksofSummer

Non-Fiction
4*s

Although I vaguely knew the story of Patsy Hearst it turns out I didn’t know very much at all, thanks to Jeffery Toobin I am now appraised not only about the facts of the case but of the political climate in the US at the time.

I’m not normally a fan of politics in my reading matter but without the political rhetoric, Patsy Hearst’s kidnapping would not have happened in the first place, we can’t begin to understand one without the other.

Patsy Hearst was a wealthy heiress to the Hearst’s family fortune. At the time of the kidnapping on 4 February 1974 she was living with her boyfriend, not exactly estranged from her family, but her mother in particular disapproved of her lifestyle. But Patsy was young, it was the 1970s and she was finding her feet. At the same time the self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army were looking to make the headlines and to do so they needed a story so they set-up a fairly shambolic kidnap. Luckily for them Patsy’s boyfriend wasn’t really up for a fight of any description and ran in the opposite direction. So Patsy was taken hostage and if you follow one point of view, she was brainwashed into becoming part of the Symbionese Liberation Army herself. The other point of view is that she didn’t need brainwashing, she believed in their aims. The world was all agog when two months later she was taped telling her family that this was what she wanted and she now had the nom de guerre “Tania.”

From the little I know it appears to me that this is an author who not only knows his stuff but is able to put it across so that those of us who have no understanding can access the information and gain an insight into the place, the times and the psychology of those involved. Jeffery Toobin explains how the family made its fortune and the reality, as opposed to the headlines, of what funds he was really able to raise.

But for me the best part of the book was to explain the era in terms of American social and political history. I won’t lie, I knew next to nothing to begin with so it could be called an ‘easy sell’ but I found the context and background really interesting. My précis of Jeffrey Toobin’s measured analysis was that there was a new angry generation wanting more financial security with fewer wars which they didn’t believe in with the result that domestic terrorism was booming. Sound familiar anyone?

What I had never appreciated before reading this book was that although the SLA were led by a male ex-prisoner with a somewhat erratic personality, there were a number of radical feminists in the group and therefore it was quite conceivable at that time that the former wealthy young Patricia was drawn to their cause. It therefore isn’t such a huge leap to understand that after the group became separated that the fight for survival was all that mattered. There are lots of shocking facts in this part of the story which I was completely unaware of but I’m pleased to say the tone of the book remains factual.

Nor does the author spend a lot of time trying to convince us of Patricia’s culpability or otherwise, he presents the facts and sometimes gives us one view or another but he plays it fairly straight. It is really up to the reader to decide and play the psychoanalyst with the tools he has provided.

Overall the book is a comprehensive look at the kidnap, the intervening years that Patricia Hearst spent as a revolutionary plus short book-ends on her life as a child and what happened afterwards.

“In the end, notwithstanding a surreal detour in the 1970s, Patricia led the life she for which she was destined back in Hillsborough. The story of Patricia Hearst, as extraordinary as it once was, had a familiar, even predictable ending. She did not turn into a revolutionary. She turned into her mother.”

American Heiress is my ninth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge and one that I feel has broadened my understanding of an era as well as educating me about a story I thought I knew about, but it turns out I didn’t really know anything at all. Now I do!

First Published UK: 2 August 2016
Publisher: Doubleday
No of Pages:432
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

I Came To Say Goodbye – Caroline Overington

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

Blurb

The CCTV footage shows a young woman pushing through the hospital doors.
She walks into the nursery, picks up a baby and places her carefully in a shopping bag.
She walks out to the car park, towards an old Ford Corolla. For a moment, she holds the child gently against her breast and, with her eyes closed, she smells her.
Then she clips the baby into the car, gets in and drives off. This is where the footage ends.
What happens next will leave a mother devastated, and a little boy adrift in a world he will never understand.

This book starts with a woman taking a baby from a hospital but the reader should take note of the ‘From the Author’ before this where Caroline Overington explains that she has been a journalist reporting on child neglect and child murder.

I’ll be honest the beginning of this story confused me slightly. Med Atley has been asked to provide a witness statement about his grandchild but how does this link to the stolen baby? All soon becomes clear with the majority of this book taking the form of a letter to the judge thereby telling the story in reverse. This letter written in a realistic style of a man born in the 1950’s, not a sophisticated telling, but one man’s view of the truth of what has happened to lead up to this court case. It all starts with Med’s family as a boy, follows him through to how he marries and onto his own children. Slowly the reader is able to put parts of the jigsaw into place.

I couldn’t stop reading this book which although sad is never mawkish. Few judgements are made by the author, despite it concerning a court case. What you take from letter and how you believe things should have happened is down to the reader to decide. Unfortunately it appears to be only too real. Although this is set in Australia could actually be anywhere in the Western world. We have all, only too often, read or seen on the news aspects of the events in this novel.

Despite the difficult subject matter I really did like this book with its gentle characterisation and Med’s successfully understated responses to the actions of himself and others.
I received a free copy of this book in return for this honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Stolen – Rebecca Muddiman

Crime Novel 4*'s
Crime Novel
4*’s

Abby Henshaw is forcibly removed from her car by two men following a deliberate collision. Her baby daughter Beth is left alone in the car. Before Abby is able to return she disappears. DI Michael Gardner is running the investigation into Beth’s disappearance and uncovers secrets and lies that cause Abby’s life to completely unravel.

This book details the long search for Beth both by DI Gardner who is battling negative publicity from the media as he becomes frustrated at the unresolved mystery. When Abby receives an anonymous tip off on where to find Beth she struggles to make anyone listen not least because DI Gardner now has another missing child to find.

Rebecca Muddiman has written a book moves along at a fair pace with enough twists and turns to keep the reader’s interest although the first few chapters were fairly predictable the tension soon ratcheted up as Abby’s obsession with finding her daughter seemed increasingly futile. A great holiday read.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Hushabye (A Kate Redman Mystery) (The Kate Redman Mysteries) Celina Grace

Crime 4*
Crime
4*

Hushabye is a classic whodunit; Charlie, a young baby, is kidnapped in the early hours of the morning the nanny is dead but who has would want to take Nick Fulman’s baby – is it just because he is wealthy or does the mystery lie with his trophy wife Z list celebrity Casey?

Kate Redman has just changed jobs and is now Detective Sergeant, needing to become part of the team she has lots of baggage from her past; dealing with this case brings it all back to her and she has to struggle not to throw away her years of success by making emotional mistakes. Celina Grace has created a great character in Kate, her interaction with her colleagues is as well done as her problems with her mother.

This book moves at speed with a few minor continuity and spelling mistakes but is overall a satisfying short read. I would recommend this book as the perfect poolside read.