Tag Archives: Patrick Radden Keefe

Books I Read in August

Booth Karen Joy FowlerBooth by Karen Joy Fowler was longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize and is a piece of historical fiction about the family of John Wilkes Booth, the man who shot dead Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Fowler has deliberately ensured that Booth and Lincoln’s assassination are not the focus here, and instead turns to the background of his relatives spanning a whole century. His English father, Junius, was a bigamist and a celebrated Shakespearean actor who had 10 children with Mary Ann Holmes in rural Maryland after he abandoned his first wife. Fowler is certainly a versatile author – ‘Booth’ is about as different as it gets from the modern setting of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which was shortlisted for the Prize in 2014 – but I’m not too surprised her latest novel didn’t make the shortlist which was announced earlier this month. While the parallels with contemporary events are interesting, the plot went off on too many tangents which didn’t really go anywhere. ‘Booth’ may also appeal to those who have more knowledge of 19th century American history than I do. Continue reading


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Books I Read in June

A Waiter in Paris Edward ChisholmJune was a non-fiction month beginning with A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City by Edward Chisholm which is an account of the author’s time working as a runner and waiter in a Parisian restaurant. Chisholm moved to Paris in 2012 at the age of 24 to live with his then girlfriend. After she broke up with him, he decided to stay and look for work in the city despite speaking very little French at the time. Hierarchy means everything among restaurant employees and Chisholm paints vivid pen portraits of his colleagues who are all heavily reliant on tips to make ends meet. Chisholm leaves _____ gaps in the dialogue he doesn’t understand, which gradually disappear as he becomes more fluent in French. As a modern-day ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ by George Orwell, ‘A Waiter in Paris’ exposes the cut-throat intensity of long hours behind-the-scenes in the service industry, which doesn’t appear to have changed all that much in the decades since Orwell worked in the city as a plongeur. Continue reading


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Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe and Fall by John Preston

Empire of Pain Patrick Radden KeefeEmpire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe won the Baillie Giffard Prize for Non-Fiction last year and examines the history of three generations of the Sackler family. Radden Keefe is a journalist for the New Yorker and ‘Empire of Pain’ was developed from his 2017 article about the Sacklers. The Sackler name is mostly associated with philanthropy. Several universities, museums and galleries have wings named after the family in recognition of the substantial donations they have made towards the arts and sciences. However, the Sacklers’ role in the development of the highly addictive drug OxyContin in 1996 and the subsequent opioid crisis in the United States has only recently become subject to proper scrutiny.

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