Grand Union Stories
by Zadie Smith
This collection of short fiction stories is set in different decades, in no particular order, and the range of styles, and the voices vary widely. Smith’s characters come to life, but at times leave you wanting more. Two stories have really stayed with me. The first is Kelso Deconstructed, which is based on a real event that happened in West London in 1959. Smith captures a snapshot of Kelso’s last day, as we follow his movements before his death at 32. The life of this unassuming man highlights racial tensions in London. Another story, Escape from New York, is about three people trying to get out of New York after 9/11. This story comes from a rumour about three famous people. I love the way Smith writes about each character, making me want more of this story. I think Smith is a wonderful storyteller, even though this book is not my cup of tea.
Panzer Commander Hermann Balck: Germany’s Master Tactician
by Stephen Robinson
This non-fiction book follows little known Panzer commander Hermann Balck in World War II. Alongside Balck’s story, we follow the missions of New Zealand and Australian armed forces. Commander Balck was a man who led by example and fought alongside his men in France, Greece and at the Russian Front. Balck was not only a brilliant tactical commander, but his love of classic literature and antiques is often highlighted. I was surprised to read that in the late 1970s he was invited to become an adviser to the US Military to assist in the post-Vietnam war period. Make sure you read the introduction in this book; I found it helpful as it explains why this book needed to be published. If you are interested in military history, then I highly recommend this book.