Book news

  • Suncatcher by Romesh Gunesekera review – coming of age in Sri Lanka
    Barney Norris

    This lightly sketched tale moves towards an inevitable conclusion – but it’s dangerous to court comparisons with Fitzgerald when the writing is paint-by-numbers

    Kairo is growing up in 1960s Sri Lanka at a moment of gathering political repression and destabilising social change. His father is a dyed-in-the-wool communist, in an armchair sort of way. His mother is trying to work out what to do about her son’s education now the schools have been suspended. But Kairo doesn’t care too much about all this. He’s just met Jay – be warned, it’s never a coincidence when the glamorous, wealthy character with the gilded life is called Jay – and he’s going to appear in a coming of age tale.

    Jay has a life that Kairo finds intoxicating. His family are rich and live in a beautiful house; he has an attractive, unstable mother and a gangsterish uncle with a farm and a classic car collection; he likes to cycle, drive, shoot, build, skinny-dip, defend the helpless and all the other things boyhood heroes do. His bedroom is filled with metaphors for the contained experience of childhood – fish tanks, in this case, which also give us a hint of Jay’s possible fetish for control – but Jay and Kairo are growing up, and need a new, more apt metaphor for the half-freedom of adolescence. So they build a cage for Jay’s budgies, where Jay also keeps a sutikka, a bird native to Sri Lanka that he’s caught, which he calls his “Sunbeam”. The title of Romesh Gunesekera’s novel invites us to draw parallels between this bird and Jay. And if you haven’t worked out how the book ends already from the character’s name, you’ll have a second opportunity to see the story’s destination heavily foreshadowed in the fate of the bird.

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  • Impeach by Neal Katyal review – the case against Donald Trump
    Sarah Churchwell

    A US supreme court lawyer, writing with Sam Koppelman, makes a highly persuasive case for Trump’s impeachment

    One of the most contentious issues during the 1787 debates about the US constitution was the subject of presidential impeachment. A Virginian named George Mason ultimately swayed the room: “No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above Justice? Above all shall that man be above it, who can commit the most extensive injustice?” It was precisely the extensive power of the presidency that necessitated impeachment as the final remedy against a corrupt executive. “Shall the man who has practised corruption and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance,” Mason added, “be suffered to escape punishment, by repeating his guilt?”

    Neal Katyal, a law professor and former acting US solicitor general, has set out “the case against Donald Trump” in his book Impeach. An experienced trial attorney who has argued before the US supreme court, Katyal knows how to present evidence and convince a jury. The result is essentially a primer for impeachment: first its basic rules and logic, and then why he considers the publicly available evidence to be so damning.

    Katyal believes that the survival of American democracy depends on holding this president accountable

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  • Peter Pan review – Barrie classic staged with plenty of pixie dust
    Mark Fisher

    Hull Truck
    Making Wendy younger gives a different dynamic to Deborah McAndrew’s engaging adaptation, with Baker Mukasa’s spontaneous Peter

    She’s a theatrical sort, is Vanessa Schofield’s Wendy. At the start of the show, we find the 10-year-old directing her mother and brothers in a bedroom staging of the story of Tiger Lily and the lost boys. By act two, she’s doing the same in reverse: casting the inhabitants of Neverland in a play about her departure from postwar Hull, where Deborah McAndrew’s clearly plotted adaptation of the JM Barrie novel is set.

    It’s as if this compulsive storyteller can’t help but impose order on a world in flux. While her father sets about rebuilding a blitz-devastated city, she is coming to terms with her own burgeoning maturity. With change and uncertainty all around, she finds herself entranced by a boy who won’t grow up.

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