Audiobook and e-book reviews: non-fiction from Anjan Sundaram, Victoria Young and Chris Easterly

Journalism under a dictatorship, the truth about motherhood and a memoir of a divorce

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 March, 2016, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 March, 2016, 9:00pm

Bad News

by Anjan Sundaram

Doubleday (e-book)

Imagine the futility of teaching journalism in a country where the only news allowed is propaganda and the head of the journalists association is a former police officer. Worse, it’s where journalists who try to give different views are imprisoned or worse. Anjan Sundaram finds just such a media landscape in Rwanda, where, strangely, he holds workshops to train reporters. He tells his tale through students such as Gibson, a reporter who had been working for the country’s main independent paper (later closed) and who tries to establish his own magazine, which would write around the official narratives. But still the authorities catch up with him and instil such fear that he flees his homeland. Bad News also underscores the harm wreaked by Western governments providing aid to the regime of Paul Kagame, thus supporting his dictatorship. It is not the first time they’ve supported repression in Rwanda, Sundaram writes. The book ends with a long list of journalists who have “disappeared” or otherwise “faced difficulties” after criticising the Rwandan government. In a country where authorities could make anyone confess to any crime, Sundaram states, the theatre and fear of dictatorship have escalated. Sound familiar?

Things I Wish I’d Known

edited by Victoria Young

Icon Books (e-book)

The many women who contributed to this book obviously all agreed with Victoria Young that there’s not enough literature by mothers for mothers about their actual motherhood experiences. Manuals about what should be don’t help when you’re not able to breastfeed (and want the assurance formula isn’t the devil’s milk); don’t want to be friends with other mums (or visit swing parks); are not convinced you’re having the time of your life (which you’d been promised it would be), and the like. Young – who writes about the tedium of days spent “bouncing [on her birthing ball], pumping [to express milk], feeding” after her husband goes back to work and leaves her alone with their child – gathers together an impressive collection of favourite writers for the collection. They include Adele Parks, Emma Freud, Kathy Lette and Nicci Gerard (who writes, with her husband, Sean French, under the name Nicci French). She includes in her list of “Things I Wish I’d Known” (which end every chapter) such practical advice as: “Don’t wear dangly earrings: your earlobes will get ripped by small, grabbing hands.” Another piece of wisdom is simpler. Cathy Kelly writes: “Learn how to say no.”

Falling Forward

by Chris Easterly

Audible Studios (audiobook)

Chris Easterly writes about his divorce because few books on the subject tell of the trauma from a male perspective: what’s out there, he says, focuses more on how to protect financial assets and gain custody of the children. Which is why he tries to share the pain, grief and anger that course through his body after his wife of six years announces she has had an affair with a colleague. Unfortunately, Easterly falls short of convincing this reader his book will help others pull through similar circumstances. It reads more like self-therapy for someone needing to get through the withdrawal symptoms of “quitting” a person abruptly. His story is familiar: money troubles cause initial friction and, after six years of marriage, theirs goes stale. He seems to mourn the death of their marriage more than she does, although their friendship continues. The nail-in-the-coffin moment comes, however, when, seven months after her confession, she tells him she is pregnant. Ron Butler is Easterly’s even-tempered voice in Falling Forward, which somehow feels like the guts of the book have been ripped out and readers are privy only to the outlines of what was surely a dreadful experience.