I’ve kept up the pretence of still being on holiday for a whole week now – I’m back with a bang though. Brown is PM , Blair has gone and Hull was flooded whilst away. On top of that, the Department of Education is abolished, instead we have a new mantra about skills and education delivered through new departments, three new ones: the Dept for Children, Schools and Families; the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills AND a Department for Business, enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Not easy for people to get their heads around, and lots of rumours and whispers for the Quangos and other government related bodies who are now wondering what sits under what and whether or not they are still important.
My job (yes I work for a quango) has changed but that had already been decided before I went on holiday and before the announcements and I wonder how long I can keep up with it all and whether or not it is simply becoming too tedious for words. We’ll battle on.
Meanwhile I still have a couple of entries for the blog, all written up whilst on holiday. Just as well, I ran out of energy this week! So here are some comments on books, because books are so much more interesting than all the politics and policies. I read a piece about Alistair Campbell in the Sunday Times today (his diaries are soon to be published): he does not even tune into Radio 4 any more and is totally out of touch with all of it, ever since he left his job with the Blair government. I think that is probably the case for most people, totally involved in their work: once you leave it, you all of a sudden realise how unimportant it is and how the world is a much bigger place, and often so much more interesting outside of your daily grind! So here are my comments on a book I read whilst on holiday (it actually won the Orange Broadband Prize for fiction):
Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is unputdownable. She writes with a fluency that is enviable, she knows her story, writes with a certainty and passion, using words and sentences to describe the breakup of Nigeria, through the eyes and ears of sisters, their partner and husband, their child and houseboys and friends, weaving a fantastic mosaic of events, that make you want to cry, but read more. It has told me more about the break away of Biafra than any newspaper article or history book (already: history!). The writing is fluent, the people real, the events horrific and real, all set in such a way that people remain human, funny as well as serious, caught up in something that is so much larger than they are, in which they are both players and victims. A must read.
Ugwu is the houseboy who is taken in by a university professor and Olanna is the beautiful and attractive, privileged woman, from a wealthy background, who gives all that up to live with her professor, Odenigbo. Olanna has a twin sister, completely different from her, harder and professional, knowing that she is not half as beautiful as her sister is, but much more determined. Richard is the shy English man who falls in love with Kainene and adopts Nigeria and in particular Biafra as his homeland. Their lives are lived within a Nigeria that is breaking up, and as Igbo’s they retreat to the Biafra that will become a wasteland of poverty and hunger, with whole groups of villages murdered and wasted, rapes and hunger. They grow apart and are thrown back together, all written in a style that is at times funny, serious but always catching and you want to know more, what happens next.