NS Recommends: New books from Eliot Higgins, Matthew Kneale, Jane Smiley and Sam Mills

We are Bellingcat by Higgins, The Rome Plague Diaries by Kneale, The Strays of Paris by Smiley and Chauvo-Feminism by Mills.

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We are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins

Digital vigilantism – using information available online to distinguish fact from fiction – has become a mainstay of modern journalism. And there is no group doing it more reliably than Bellingcat, the collective of internet intelligence agents. For the first time ever its founder, Eliot Higgins, tells the story of how the group came to be, uncovering the truth behind stories such as Syria’s chemical weapon usage and the downing of flight MH17. We are Bellingcat is an account of real events yet reads like a thriller, with the truth waiting to be discovered online.

Bloomsbury, 272pp, £20

The Rome Plague Diaries by Matthew Kneale

The novelist Matthew Kneale has lived in Rome for 18 years and his response to the news of Italy’s first Covid lockdown was to unburden himself by writing a long email to family, friends and even people he’d lost touch with years ago. As the days passed, compiling his reports on daily life became a habit. He detailed how Trastevere – his part of Rome – was faring, mused on past Roman plagues, on pasta recipes, on the stuff of life great and small. Collected here, his wry and questioning meanderings lace an ordeal with charm.

Atlantic, 304pp, £14.99

The Strays of Paris by Jane Smiley

The latest novel from the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres (1991) details a set of heart-warming friendships that develop on the streets of Paris. Runaway racehorse Paras and eight-year-old Étienne form an unlikely gang with a stray dog, a raven and a couple of ducks. Together they find themselves unburdened by the constraints they once lived by, and discover a new kind of life, built on kindness and understanding. The Strays of Paris – aimed at adults though containing a childlike whimsy – is absorbing and warming.

Pan Macmillan, 272pp, £16.99

Chauvo-Feminism by Sam Mills

“A chauvo-feminist is the abusive man who hides in plain sight,” writes Sam Mills in this short, sharp study of feminism after #MeToo. “Chauvo-feminism” is a neat term describing a careful kind of misogyny; the man who publicly champions women – in a tweet, on a T-shirt – only to treat them differently behind closed doors. Mills provides case studies, some familiar (Eric Schneiderman, Aziz Ansari), some unknown (“R”, a British academic who targets Mills), through which she examines concepts such as gaslighting, public shaming and the cult of charisma. In doing so, she exposes the cruelties of the “charming” man and his cynical politics, and asks why he gets away with it.

The Indigo Press, 144pp, £7.99

[see also: NS Recommends: New books from Fiona Sampson, Samira Shackle, Stella Duffy and Steven Hall]

This article appears in the 17 February 2021 issue of the New Statesman, War against truth

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