1. Everybody Talks About the Weather…We Don’t: The Writings of Ulrike Meinhof:
A fascinating insight into the life of Ulrike Meinhof; from her humble beginnings as a Christian, pipe-smoking pacifist to militant, extreme left-wing terrorist.
Meinhof started her career as a journalist for left-wing German magazine konkret with her then husband Klaus Rainer Röhl, living in Hamburg with her twin daughters, mingling with the intellectual set of the time.
Ten years later, she had abandoned her bourgeoisie existence, her family, and was a leading figure in the RAF (Rote Armee Faktion, or the Baader-Meinhof Gang) alongside Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin; notorious for their acts of politically motivated violence.
The actions of the RAF had arguably evolved from the hotbed of student activity that had existed in West Germany in the late 1960’s. Student protests against the visit of the Shah of Iran to West Germany had resulted in the death of student Benno Ohnesorg at the hands of a police officer (later found out to have been a Stasi agent), leading student figure Rudi Duschke was shot in the head by anti-communist Josef Bachmann, and the appointment of Kurt Georg Kiesinger (a former Nazi party member) as chancellor of West Germany triggered widespread protests and a re-examination of the collective psyche of the German people post WW2.
The RAF believed that actions spoke louder than words, but was their integral message lost in the inevitable sensationalist press coverage that followed their activities? The collection of Meinhof’s work gives us an insight into not only her personal development from journalist to terrorist, but also an insight into the development and motivation of the movement itself through her articles, which invariably fell apart as a result of infighting and personal clashes.
Altogether an interesting examination into one of the most turbulent periods in modern European history.
2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:
On the morning of Amy and Nick Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy inexplicably goes missing. Nick is the prime suspect in the eyes of the world, some of the things he says and does in the aftermath of Amy’s disappearance betray a distinct lack of concern, or rather, indifference. The discovery of Amy’s diary further damages Nick’s reputation as her detailed entries reveal she was afraid of him…
A complex dissection of the minutiae of marriage. How well do we really know our partners? Will our seemingly inconsequential actions today have terrible repercussions in the future?
Definitely a page turner for me.
3. The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid:
Nobody writes serial killers like Val and the second book in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series is no different. A razor sharp dissection of celebrity life and what horrors lie beneath the thin veneer of fame.
Jacko Vance, celebrity, chat-show host, dedicated and tireless charity volunteer and former Olympic hopeful, is the prime suspect in the murders of young teenage girls.
For anyone reading who isn’t familiar with UK news, the parallels between the fictional Jacko Vance and the very real (and very dead) Jimmy Savile are not accidental. Val McDermid interviewed Jimmy Savile as a young journalist in 1977 and was deeply unnerved by the experience.
Hiding in plain sight, Jimmy Savile was able to abuse vulnerable young people. The NSPCC and Metropolitan Police state that they have received complaints from over 450 victims, making him one of the most prolific sex offenders in UK history.
Using her experiences interviewing Savile, McDermid then created Jacko Vance, who hiding in plain sight, rapes and murders young women. Whilst not all similarities are exact (as far as we are aware, Savile did not murder any of his victims) Wire in the Blood never-the-less leads us into a world where men can, and do, get away with murder.
Whilst McDermid has been criticised in the past for the violence enacted against women in her books, I think it’s very important to remember that acts of terrible violence ARE enacted on women, every day, all over the world; it is an inescapable truth in many women’s lives. I think fiction can work to draw attention to issues such as violence against women.
Val McDermid talks about this here.
Women’s Aid have some statistics that you may find interesting.