The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud had been on my radar for a long time. So much so that when I decided to do some second-hand bookshop in Cardiff last year I knew I would buy a copy of the book if I found it. For those of you who kept recommending the book to me: Thank You.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

The Woman Upstairs tells the story of Nora Eldridge, a middle-aged teacher who sees her conventional American class and life disrupted with the arrival of a new pupil from France. Nora describes herself in the first lines of the book as ‘a good girl’, and that is probably the description that best fits her until the following question is posted: What makes a good girl and why? In this first chapter we learn about her anger and her frustration with her life. If she has been a good daughter, a good colleague, and a good woman in general, why did this happen to her? Of course ‘this’ is the whole of the book. Messud is a master at describing psychological processes, and the novel focuses on Nora’s internal life and her evolution. But before we learn more about the year the incident that changed her life forever, she graces us with one of the most intense, truthful and brief takes on anger expressed by a female character in contemporary literature:

Maybe, instead, I’ll set the world on fire. I just might.

This anger floods her story like a hemorrhage she cannot stop when she reconstructs what happened between her and the student’s family. Because I do not wish to spoil the novel to anyone, I will leave it here, and instead I will focus on why so many people have considered Nora a unlikable character. For me she was a heroine, but I am the one who takes Rebecca’s side on the Du Maurier classic. As a female character, Nora uses the narration in first person to vent her anger and her frustrations, and she directly links her situation to the fact that she is a woman and has been socialized to be quiet, silent, kind, show acceptance, and care for others. But above all, she highlights how society teaches women to repress negative feelings, and most importantly to not show the in public:

Don’t all women feel the same? The only difference is how much we know we feel it, how in touch we are with our fury. We’re all furies, except the ones who are too damned foolish, and my worry now is that we’re brainwashing them from the cradle, and in the end the ones who are smart will be too damned foolish.

Despite the importance of these feelings, Messud gives Nora a rich internal life, and her ambitions to be an artist also play a key role in the narrative. Even though she earns her living as a teacher, Nora has always wanted to be an artist but saw her will and determination crashed by society and her environment. Sadly this is a too common situation for many women even nowadays, and the fact that Messud chose to write about it may give help female readers give a second chance to the dreams of their youth. Nora’s self-rediscovery is one of the most beautiful and inspiring processes I have seen portrayed in literature, and it stands along with the library scene in Atonement, which two years later still lingers in my mind.

It has been over a month since I finished The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, but I fiercely miss Nora. Every day I look at my piles of books trying to find something that will make up for the loss, but I am afraid I will not find anything until Messud’s next book comes out this year. Even though reading The Woman Upstairs l may take a while due to the intensity of the story, Nora will remain with readers as one of the most complex, fierce, brave, inspiring and flawed characters in contemporary literature. For me this is probably the best book I have read this year so far.

Doing It: Let’s Talk About Sex by Hannah Witton

I discovered online sexual educator and Youtuber Hannah Witton this year while discovering the huge amount of bookish and sexual content available on Youtube and decided to create a list of subscriptions to check every day. Her channel – with more than 300,000 subscribers – focuses on sex and relationships, and although I would be weary of anyone talking about such issues from a feminist perspective – I have had some terrible experiences watching other vlogger’s videos – Hannah does a good job by speaking openly, candidly and open-mindedly about sex. When I learnt that she had a book coming out this Spring called Doing It: Let’s Talk About Sex I requested a review copy to the publishers and they kindly sent me this early review copy:

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The first thing to say about Doing It: Let’s Talk About Sex is it is aimed at a 14+ audience, meaning that this is one of the few non-fiction YA books out there talking about body issues, sex, and relationships. Witton’s candid tone translates perfectly from her videos to the text, and she often illustrates her theories with her own experiences and even her own drawings. However, she is quick to recognise her privilege as a thin cisgender while female in Western culture and she does not shy away from including diverse voices in her book. Many of the contributors are Youtubers whom Hannah has met during her career and who offer another take on sexuality. The book includes testimonies from non-normative people including transgender, asexual people, homosexual, and disabled  making the text a landmark in contemporary non-fiction for young adults.

As Hannah Witton is known for her irreverent approach to sex, Doing It also includes a very interesting (and feminist!) section in which the author interviews her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother about their sex educations hence bringing together more than 100 years of sexual discourse together. The historical perspective is not new to the author, who is a History graduate and did research about Victorian sexual manuals during her time as a student. Even though I am usually weary of judging people only by their studies, Hannah’s past in Medical Humanities helps bring together science, art, and story-telling to offer young readers a fresh take on their sexuality. One of the book’s themes is the necessity to talk about sex always in the negative: Do not get pregnant. Do not get an STD. Do not lose your virginity too soon/late, etc. So, as much as sex-positive texts for teenagers, Doing It is a game-changer.

However, I was disappointed to hear Hannah on her Youtube channel, and then on the book talk about a contraceptive method that she labels ‘Fertility awareness’ and that basically consists of: “Figuring out when you are fertile during your cycle and avoiding unprotected sex during this time. Must be taught by a specialist. You monitor your body temperature, cervical mucus, and the length of your cycle”. For me this method sounds very much like the Knaus–Ogino method which has been proved not to be a reliable contraceptive method. Plus, if the book is aimed at teenagers I think that other external factors such as stress, medication, and hormonal changes could affect the monitoring hence resulting in unplanned pregnancies. I understand the body-positive idea behind the method, which would probably make women more familiar with their reproductive system but I deem the risk too high. Several scientific resources online associate a failure high as 15% for this method while Witton describes it ‘over 99% effective’. And while adult women may have more resources (physical, emotional, economic, plus the right to do as they want despite of their parents’ thinking), this method could put teenagers in a risky situation.

Doing It: Let’s Talk About Sex is a wonderful book for young adults that I wish I had had 15 years ago. Not only it provides great information about sex, gender identity, consent, and body image among other things, but Hannah Witton’s body and sex-positive attitude translates perfectly to the reader. Highly recommended to the teenagers in your life (boys and girls!), just make sure you mention the many contraceptive methods available today that have been proven more effective than the Ogino one.

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Big Little News

I am sure you may have noticed that I have been blogging on and off for the past weeks. There is no other reason that… I’m finally moving to the UK! As many of you know I live in Spain, but this blog is a testament of my love for British art and culture. As part of my PhD I have been offered to develop part of thesis in my favourite country in the world. And I’m in awe.

So that is the reason why I have not had much time for reading and writing. A trip like this takes some planning (type A personality anyone?), and one of those plans is to buy some books at Waterstones and second-hand bookshops. Sadly I’m not allowed to join a public library, although I will visit my city’s largest one and beg them to please please please give me some kind of card. Meanwhile, I will post as much as I can, but please bear me with me as I settle down and find the time and space to read and write. And if you have any bookish recommendations please leave them on the comments below. I was planning on not buying any books, but who am I kidding?

Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight

Last year I read Sarah Knight’s non-fiction debut The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, and I loved every page of it. Knight book is a parody of self-help books, but it was also very useful as women sometimes give too many f*cks about others, and not enough about our free time and self-care. So, as soon as I knew Knight had another book coming out in December 2016 called Get Your Sh*t Together I knew I had to read it, and went on harassing the pertinent editor until she sent me the book. Thanks to Quercus Books for the review copy!

Get Your Shit Together

Get Your Sh*t Together‘s subtitle is self-explanatory: “How to stop worrying about what you should do so you can finish what you need to do and start doing what you want to do”. The book is a step beyond Not Giving a Fuck, so that once you have decided how many f*cks to give, you can set your goals and start working towards a better you. But if you already know what you want, and what to care about then this is your book. Knight offers a hilarious categorisation of personalities that very much fits the typical Type A, Type B, and Type C personalities but exemplified with The Chipmunks. Yes, these Chipmunks:

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You can be a Theodore (relatively hopeless), an Alvin (cruises along just fine, but is unable to kick it into high gear), or a Simon (keeps up appearances while dying from a thousand self-inflicted cuts). There are a lot of people in the world, but you will surely fit into one of those categories. Once you learn which Chipmunk you are, get your sh*t together and don’t forget about it (like I did), because Knight will offer specific tips for each of the rodents. It turns out I am a Simon – no surprises here – and this book was more an exercise on relaxing and letting go rather than in learning how to work. It turns out overachievement can lead to losing your sh*t in non-professional tasks. And a better version of myself would not allow that.

The book’s techniques are broken down in easy steps, because that is how things work in real life: Step by step. So, for example, if you want to save for a big holiday, it will take planning in advance, setting up a small bank transfer each day, and small sacrifices that will eventually pay off. Knight is a master of making difficult, long-term tasks look easy, affordable and doable in small steps that will also make you feel successful. Forget about making big sacrifices and feeling void: Her to-do lists will break tasks into achievable goals. For example, to write this book Sarah set herself a 500-words-a-day goal, which looks easy, and amounts to 2,500 words a week, and 10,000 words a month. For writing folks out there, like me this would help me meet my PhD writing goals, while still feeling like I have a life, enjoy the Puppy, go out, read, etc.

So, Get Your Sh*t Together is a parody self-help book that actually works. Knight’s distinctive tone will make her tips feel less like admonisments and more like a good friend’s talk. She never loses faith in her readers, and she constantly offers you tips from her journey from NYC publisher (she edited Jessica Knoll’s bestseller Luckiest Girl Alive) to Dominican Republic freelancer. However what I enjoyed the most is that getting our shit together does not mean working more, but less and reminding Simons that having time off is a big a success as getting work done. Or even a bigger one. Thanks, Sarah.

He’s Gone by Alex Clare

Last January’s Women’s March events all over the world raised a lot of questions about who had a right to participate, and why. The concept of “woman” has been destabilised and questioned since Simone De Beauvoir announced to the world that one becomes a woman, rather than being born one. In fact, postmodern theorists like Judith Butler have denied the existence of a subject that exists under the label ‘woman’, and instead advocates for a more diverse take on womanhood that breaks away with society’s traditional constructions and expectations.  Hes Gone explores this postmodern postulate by having a trans-woman detective as a main character. Meet Robyn Bailley, DI of the Meresbourne police in Kent (UK), a working-class town witness to the industrial crisis of the 20th century. Like the town, Robyn has felt her life deteriorate for decades now. That is, until she realised that she no longer was Roger Bailley, but Robyn.  Is crime fiction ready for a trans-woman main character? Apparently not. As Robyn struggles to come back to work as her true self, she will find rejection from her colleagues, Melissa – mother to Ben – and whose child’s disappearance she is investigating; and the rabid journalists who want to know more about her transition and think that maybe she is not the right person to be involved in a case involving a child. If this situation was not enough, Robyn’s daughter cannot believe what her father has become and wonders if their relationship can move forward to healthy grounds.

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Hes gone can be labelled as one of the first novels to introduce a trans-woman main character in crime fiction. But the novel is also rich in female characters, and one of its peculiarities is the construction of the victim’s mother as a dislikeable woman. Robyn’s struggle is also adorned with the echoes of Melissa’s conservative church, for whom Robyn’s identity emerges as a dangerous and contagious state of identity that should not be allowed to exist: “Let me be clear. I meant why were you speaking at the press conference? Now, rather than thinking about Benjamin, everyone will be focusing on you and your deviance”. Melissa Chivers emerges as one of the most unlikable characters in contemporary crime fiction, where the victim and their family needed the sympathy of the detective, and the reader, in order to move the story forward. Not in this novel. The creation of Melissa as unlikable character works as a test for political correctness when she is described as an overly ambitious black woman who made herself, but who is a terrible mother to her kid. This type of femininity, that goes against the traditional image of the loving and caring mother, presents the reader with questions about how the expectations of being a woman in contemporary society, as well as the importance of seeing beyond stereotypes in criminal investigations.

Ironically, Robyn perceives Melissa as a woman that exudes the power and authority that she feels she is lacking, and that Roger clearly had. In an effort to present herself to the world in a similar light, Robyn keeps in mind Melissa’s body: “She remembered how Ms Chivers stood when she exuded a feminine authority and turned a little to the side so that she no longer faced the camera head on, putting one foot half a pace in front of the other. That felt more natural”.

Along with posture, Robyn has also incorporated new hair, and the use of make-up and nail varnish to the set of acts that make her a woman. These typically feminine products become her trademark, as they are used to trace the thick line that has traditionally separated masculine and feminine aesthetics. Her insistence on adopting traditional female markers could not have found a better historical moment, as Third-wave feminism, postmodernism at its best, relies on traditional feminine traits. As Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards explain in Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (New York: Farrar, 2000): ‘Girlie encompasses the tabooed symbols of women’s feminine enculturation—Barbie dolls, makeup, fashion magazines, high heels (p. 136.) However, traditional feminine aesthetics are constructed in spaces restricted to women with no safe space for masculinity. As Robyn faces her first week as a woman, the novel takes us back to Roger’s decision to buy women’s clothes for the first time, and the worried looks of the shop assistant that forced him to purchase Robyn’s wardrobe fully on the Internet: “She’d visited a few shops as Roger but the questioning looks from shop assistants whenever she’d picked anything up had put her off and decided it was much easier to buy the first set of female clothes online”. Hence, social media and the Internet emerge as a safe place in which liminal identities can be performed and shared with people with a similar life experience. The community Robyn found online, as well as the anonymity of online shopping, granted her the opportunity to explore alternative constructions of womanhood, as well as people who, like her, do not adhere to traditional cisgender discourses. The ultimate questioning of the construction of safe spaces for the performance of non-normative gender identities comes up in the form of bathrooms. After Robyn’s struggle to choose which bathroom to use, the issue intersects with Donald Trump’s recent revocation of federal protection for trans-students in schools all over the country starting a conversation about human rights, and the construction of gender identity. In her first day back, she enters the men’s bathroom, but she will later on move to the disable’s one.

The patriarchal segregation of non-white and non-normative bodies outside the dominant discourse tangentially emerges as a key element in the construction of the postmodern identity and the forensic detective process. As Robyn negotiates her new identity with herself and her colleagues, she ponders on the physicality of forensic science, and the need to go beyond the metaphysical and consider the importance of the victim’s personal narrative and life story. This moment, although as brief as a paragraph, constitutes a remarkable point of inflexion in contemporary crime fiction, comes when the remains of a victim need to be identified though DNA testing. In this precise moment – and still a year far from her complete physical transformation into a woman – Robyn realises that were she to die, her DNA would come up as masculine in the system. With this scene, Robyn’s narrative is questioning long-held beliefs about the legitimacy of forensic science, and the blind trust that the 20th century deposited into scientific discourses. It is true that the production of scientific knowledge needs to rely on the metaphysical world in order to avoid past mistakes such as the pseudo-scientific theories used to back up racism and discrimination against women. But, crime fiction goes a step beyond this metaphysical world and posts questions about the construction of the subject victim from the investigating team’s point of view.

The necessity of approaching the detective process from a more personal point of view led to the questioning of Robyn’s detective process, as she sees how the loss of Roger’s male gaze has resulted in her re-education about what she is allowed to see as a policewoman. If Laura Mulvey met Robyn, she would have a perfect case study of how men are given the privilege of looking, while women are looked at. The term “gaze” appears throughout the novel linked to the pressure Robyn feels from people around her, yet another struggle of her new identity. This is reflected in Roger’s pastime as a photographer, while Robyn struggles to pick up a camera after her transformation. However, discrimination is subtler, with of her peers presuming that Robyn, unlike Roger, will not be driving the police car, relegating her to the passenger’s seat, where she is a mere spectator. As the late John Berger stated (1972): ‘Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at’. Robyn herself feels the weight of this gaze when the case becomes news, and she is faced with several press conferences. Have the audience noticed her chipped nail polish? Will the camera enhance the different between her skin tone and her new foundation? And, will the evening audience notice that the laser removal still did not get away with her beard? Directly related to being watched comes sexual harassment, which takes a darker turn with Robyn’s trans identity, as an officer jokes she may be on her period, on the one hand constructing women’s minds as unstable and, on the other hand, being cruel to Robyn who clearly does not have a period. Her final recovery of agency will come through the detecting process, as Robyn solves three cases in collaboration with her team and finally finds peace in her negotiation of her past and present by incorporating Roger’s professional experience into Robyn’s life story. In the eureka moment that postmodern fiction relies on – that scene where everything comes together and the truth is revealed to both the main character and readers – Robyn can only solve the case because of the specific knowledge that comes from lived experience, in her case, a female (albeit short) lived experience.

As Roger morphed into Robyn, she was faced with the task of redefining her relationship to those in her inner circle of friends. The novel centres around Robyn’s relationship with her daughter, Becky, to whom Robyn communicated her new identity in a letter. The necessity to redefine paternity in the postmodern is also highlighted by the case Robyn investigates, as the disappeared child’s father is unknown. However, Robyn’s daughter appears as a young agent of change, who will offer the detective the possibility of deciding which place to occupy in her life. Robyn’s decision to remain Becky’s father opens up a dialogue about how gender structures family life, and the necessity to break way with traditional representations of motherhood and fatherhood. The case itself works as a bone of contention, as Robyn faces the recent of the emergence of conservative groups that, in the postmodern era, fight for a return to more stable definitions and meanings. As the mother of the victim, a religious extremist member of a cult against abortion, homosexuality, birth control, and any kind of “diversity gone mad”. Melissa voices religious concerns about gender fluidity, but The Men’ Rights movement also makes an appearance highlighting the necessity of every child to have a father relaying on traditional discourses based on gender-biased arguments. However, the eventual defeat of these discourses comes from Robyn’s solving of the case and her refusal to give up a job she loves.

He’s Gone by Alex Clare is a thrilling post-modern novel in which the inclusion of a trans-woman detective questions the conception of the detective novel and its normative and traditional representations of women as victims. However, it is still to be seen whether the novel receives praise for its inclusion of a transwoman as a main character in a literary tradition that has been considered masculine since its inception, or whether the creation of a trans character by a cisgender woman is still problematic. I, for one, was very happy to meet Robyn, and I hope that more writers – cisgender, trans, and genderqueer – venture into crime fiction to prove that the word ‘detective’ welcomes all subjects alike. It’s just about time.

I Love Dick (1997) by Chris Kraus

I love Dick (1997) by Chris Krauss made an appearance on my Twitter feed thanks to Elizabeth Morris’ account last Autumn when she gushed about the book and the upcoming TV adaptation. She highlighted how the book dwells on women, sex, agency, and art:

I was sold from that same minute. Not only because the book promised to be a landmark in my feminist reading, but because I had been reading about rape culture and forensics for three months and I craved something different. This hype about the book, along with Wallace Yovetich’s series on romances novels for Book Riot I realised the ‘something different’ that I wanted was a story about female desire. So, when M and I decided to exchange books in Christmas instead of splurging on presents, I knew what I wanted: I love Dick.

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Even though I finished reading the book some weeks ago, I haven’t been able to put my thoughts in a coherent order. Reading I Love Dick parallels the main characters’ chaotic descent into her desire for Dick, a man she met during a networking dinner with her husband. The woman is named after the author after – as gossip goes – she had a relationship with art critic Dick Hebdige. This much was said after the book’s cool reception twenty years ago, but after the rise of the unlikable female character, all the Nasty Women, and a constant fight to be human and not perfect, I Love Dick was rediscovered by pop culture as a chant to freedom and female agency.

As an academic the book posted some interesting and complex questions about who gets to speak in specific contexts and why. Chris is an experimental artist married to Sylvère, a professor who embodies all the post-structuralist and post-modernist theories that I live by, and that I write about. However, as the couple goes to dinner with Dick, Chris finds herself unable to join the conversation. She feels an outsider to a world – Academia – that is masculine, theoretical and patronising to women and women’s experience. As the novel progresses, we learn about Chris’ past as an artist in NYC, and the many lived experiences that have shaped her into the person that falls immediately head over heels in love with a stranger.

Sylvère keeps socializing what I’m doing through with you. Labeling it through other people’s eyes – Adultery in Academe, John Updike meets Marivaux… Faculty Wife Throws Herself At Husband’s Colleague. This presumes that there is something inherently grotesque, unspeakable about femaleness, desire. But what I’m going through with you is real and happening for the first time.

The novel is divided into two parts. The first one – ‘Scenes from a marriage’ – presents the reader with a third-person narration of the events the set the plot in motion and how Chris shares her infatuation with Sylvère and they jointly decide to start writing letters to Dick. In them, they describe how the stranger is profoundly changing the way they relate to each other with desire taking central stage, as the couple had given up on sex for a few years now. Their sexual relationship relinked, they wonder how the introduction of a third person may change their identity as a couple, but also individually (*). The author’s vast knowledge of literature and postmodern theory allows for references to every unfaithful partner in literature, as well as even more dark references that can only be gasped at during second or third readings. Because if there is something that characterises I Love Dick that is the impossibility to control the text and pin it down to references known by the reader, a process that mirrors the beautiful yet chaotic event of falling in love and seeing your life turned upside down and blurry for a period of time.

The second part of the book is called ‘Every letter is a love letter’ and it takes place after Chris abandons Sylvère and reappropriates the relationship the couple had with him as hers only. During this period she is travelling across the United States and she presents herself to Dick by sharing her past with him: How she worked at a strip club, how she is dismissed because of her art, her constant struggle against anorexia, and how she ended up marrying Sylviere. As someone interested in the representation of eating disorders, I was shocked by the blunt description of Chris’ necessity to stop eating sometimes and the happiness that comes with the restrain and the supposed control derived from the starving. The main character’s lived experience emerges in this part of the book as her own, and she unties herself from Sylvères-wife through her desire for Dick. This does not mean that the main character replaces one partner from another as Dick is just a recipient for her letters and the only voice that we hear is hers. Instead, the return of her sexual desire brings back her desire to live and to exist outside institutions and discourses that deem her a secondary character, a side-passenger. The ending, as it happens with every infatuated state, is a crash against reality reminded the reader that the process is as important as the goal.

The fact that Chris Krauss (author) and Chris Krauss (main character) seem to be the same person posts a lot of question about women in the arts and how we have been told to dismiss the female voice and avoid questioning why it is not being heard. I Love Dick challenged the status quo and inscribes two women’s lived experience as a female artist in pop culture: the fictional Chris’, and the real-life Chris’. With the upcoming television adaptation starring Kathryn Hahn as Chris and Kevin Bacon as Dick, the wold is about to be taken by storm by a tour de force on what it means to be a woman and dare to have any kind of desire for one’s self.

In short, I Love Dick by Chris Krauss is an essential read for anyone interested in women’s agency in art, feminism, female desire, relationships and postmodernism. It is not an easy read, and the process will be plagued with chaos, infatuation with the book, hate towards the book, and a necessity to run back home to read one more chapter. But that is exactly the power of the book: Its ability to make us feel like Chris does, with no Dick whatsoever.

(*) If you are interested in how the introduction of a third-party may affect a couple I highly recommend the Netflix show You Me Her (2016 – ), where a couple gets obsessed with a female escort that eventually enters their relationship in nonprofessional terms.

Flashbacks by J.E Hall

I borrowed Flashbacks by J.E Hall from a friend from university who, knowing of my passion for crime fiction, thought I would enjoy a thriller by a local author that she is familiar with. Turns out, she was right!

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Meet Adam, a nineteen-year-old about to enjoy his gap year bicycling all the way from his native England to the Middle East. Over-protected by his parents, who insist on safety issues that he, clearly does not need.

Kaylah is doing Business Studies at Southgate University and daughter to Bishop Sam Kone, descendant of Caribbean immigrants and a television star. As any young woman, Kaylah does not agree with her parents’ beliefs, and keeps her mind open to other religious ideas.

Ali has recently given up his engineering studies to join IS because that is what was needed of him. However, after the expansion of the group in late 2014, things are now too quiet for his taste, until he is assigned a very special mission.

Flashbacks tells the story of these three main characters interconnected as they meet, work together, and fight against each other at a time when religious freedom and mobility has defined the UK as a true melting pot. However, the lives of Adam, Kaylah, and Ali are far more complicated, and as they prepare to celebrate Armistice Day, they all have different goals in mind. The novel is an outstanding representation of contemporary diversity in which religion plays a key role. The first in the Adam Taylor trilogy, it presents readers with the main character after whom the series is named, but also with Kaylah, one of the most impressive female characters I have encountered in recent political thrillers.

Written in a style clearly reminiscent of John Le Carré, Flashbacks shows the intimacy and social preoccupations that have characterised British crime fiction during the 20th century instead of just focusing on the action. With each chapter devoted to each of the main characters, the book inscribes the youth in the thriller tradition breaking away with middle-aged secret agents who have been doing their jobs for decades. Instead, Hall gives Millennials access to the Intelligence Services and reminds society that we can do some good work too.

Flashbacks is a thriller that will keep you in the edge of our seat until the very last page while also posting important questions to the reading audience. In current times, when religious extremism has changed the world as we know it, it is important to keep an open mind and go beyond essentialism believes and alt-right propaganda. The introduction of Ali’s IS ideals as a main character is a significant change in contemporary literature, even though, as a thriller, the book keeps a clear line between good and bad, and there is no space left for moral relativism. But, in a fast-paced thriller like this, there is no time for lucubrations, and that is OK.