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7 October 2020

NS Recommends: New books from Megan Hunter, Bradley Garrett, Safiya Sinclair and James Ball

Hunter's The Harpy, Garrett's Bunker, Sinclair's Cannibal, and Ball's The System.

By New Statesman

The Harpy
by Megan Hunter

In Megan Hunter’s second novel, the image of a harpy – a mythical bird of prey with a woman’s face – shadows the book’s protagonist through a lifetime of banal subjugation by men. Once Lucy learns of her husband’s infidelity, her family life implodes. Hunter’s sombre, visceral prose describes the swelling of Lucy’s anger into irredeemable rites of vengeance, a mythological undertow evoking the harpies, which are misogynistic by design yet darkly empowering. Despite these fantastical references, the forces behind Lucy’s brutal behaviour – she feels her identity has been erased, her life wasted – are disturbingly relatable.

Picador, 256pp, £14.99

by Bradley Garrett

Seeking subterranean protection from disaster is not new, but whereas past bursts of bunker-building were usually spurred by a specific threat – aerial bombs or nuclear attack – the urban explorer Bradley Garrett believes today’s “doom boom” is prompted by a more inchoate disquiet that anticipates a whole range of catastrophes. This is a gripping and timely book about both the “architecture of dread” and its multi-billion-dollar industry, and what the growing appetite for bunkers reveals about the social conditions in which we live.

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Allen Lane, 352pp, £20

by Safiya Sinclair

The word “cannibal”, Safiya Sinclair writes, was originally a reference to the native Carib people of the West Indies. In her first collection, the Jamaican poet reclaims the term; in these precise and provocative poems, it is the female body which is cannibal, and at times uninhabitable. Reaching into her childhood, and back further to confront Shakespeare’s The Tempest on post-colonial terms, Sinclair writes with a thrilling sensibility of the texture of savageness: “the sternum of my body now a relic/in the sand, as grayscale claims this maw/of pelvis, my womb the coiled rock of coral”.

Picador, 128pp, £10.99


The System
by James Ball

“It’s a good rule of thumb in journalism – if not in life itself – to get very worried when people tell you something is so complicated that you shouldn’t worry about it,” warns the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter James Ball. Most people think of the internet as something nebulous and remote, but it is a physical thing, a network of cables and data centres. We cannot transform the internet if we do not first understand it, Ball argues, in this informative and often disturbing guide to the tech gurus and financiers who run the world wide web.

Bloomsbury, 288pp, £20

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This article appears in the 07 Oct 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Long Covid