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The Uncommon Reader

As part of Literature Week, the Chronicle is publishing book reviews. The event organised by Gibraltar Cultural Services includes discussions with local authors live streamed on their Facebook page and talks in schools. Today GBC News Editor Christine Vasquez shares her book recommendations.

If I ever have to recommend books, there’s an old favourite I could never leave out. It’s also very relevant during Literature Week. ‘The Uncommon Reader’ by Alan Bennett, is a real treat. It can be read in an afternoon and you can delight in how the Queen becomes obsessed with reading after coming across a mobile library.

I have also chosen my two most recent reads. The first is the ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeanette Walls. This book stayed with me as an inspiration on how we make our own choices and can overcome even the toughest upbringing. It starts with the author seeing her homeless mother rooting through the bins on the streets of New York as she makes her way to an event in a taxi. Jeanette Walls, had for years, hidden her past and the book finally tells the story of her childhood. The story of Jeanette and her three siblings is told without a hint of self pity. They start their poverty stricken life convinced by their parents that it is one big adventure. As they grow up, so does their view on reality and they realise they have to make a choice. The story is nuanced- the author describes her dysfunctional parents with love and generosity, with a theme of unconditional love masking the horrors she and her brother and sisters endured.

The second book I chose is a Graham Greene classic which I only picked up because my seventeen year old left it lying around. His writing is always sublime, of the sort you want to capture with the highlighter, however I sometimes find his books a bit dense. ‘Our Man in Havana’ combines his masterful writing with humour. In true Graham Greene style, he again liberates his protagonist from the mundane, giving them respite from a life of mediocrity. In this case he chooses a weary vacuum cleaner salesman, who from not having had the courage to stand up to his manipulative daughter, is seamlessly transformed into ‘Our Man in Havana,’ capable of beating the system. The author, who himself worked for MI6, mocks the British Intelligence Service and its willingness to want to believe the wildest reports from its informants. This book is Greene at his best and had me laughing out loud.