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14 December 2015updated 07 Sep 2021 11:18am

Feminism, family doctors and the voices of Labour’s past

This week, the NS recommends books by Jane Haynes and Martin Scurr, Roxanne Gay, and David Clark.

By New Statesman

An Untamed State
Roxane Gay

The feminist critic Roxane Gay’s debut novel is an unflinching examination of sexual violence. It follows Mireille Duval Jameson, the US-born daughter of Haitian parents, as she is kidnapped while visiting Port-au-Prince. More than half of the novel details the 13 days she spends in captivity in sparse yet horribly detailed prose, as she is gang-raped, beaten and humiliated.

Her life is told in flashbacks as she struggles both to remember and to forget her life before the abduction. Gay’s work reminds us how the personal and the political overlap – and how women’s bodies too often become the terrain on which a struggle for male power is fought.

Corsair, 384pp, £14.99

Doctors Dissected
Jane Haynes and Martin Scurr

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In this book of interviews with doctors, the psychotherapist Jane Haynes and the GP Martin Scurr examine the changing role of the family practitioner and the motivations of medical professionals. What is striking is how little defence medical knowledge offers in the face of illness, depression and death. As Scurr writes, “There is a tacit agreement that doctors do not get ill . . . We carry on.”

Quartet, 392pp, £20

Voices From Labour’s Past
David Clark

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The former MP David Clark’s collection of conversations with Labour pioneers dates from the 1970s, when those concerned were in their eighties or nineties. They reinforce the importance of religion, temperance and the unions in the history of the party and highlight the role of suffragism in pushing women into front-line politics.

The book is also a reminder of how many conscientious objectors had to move into self-employment when they were, in effect, blacklisted after the First World War. One resourceful interviewee delivered chickens and eggs from his smallholding by motorbike and sidecar.

Lensden Publishing, 208pp, £14.99