Mumsnet Book of the Month - December 2007

Last year it was Johnny Vegas, this year, erm, it looks like a toss up between Jason Donovan, Lewis Hamilton and Russell Brand. The must-give biography/memoir is as much a part of Christmas as sprouts and stockings. We’re going to celebrate with our own selection of biogs, but with a bit more of a bookclubby twist. All three titles are about ordinary people who ended up with extraordinary lives. There isn’t a slebby party or rehab session in sight, but there is an astonishing amount of drama, courage and adventure. And for extra festive-ness we’ve added a gift guide for each book - so you can vote for one, and the others might always help get a bit of Xmas shopping sorted.

 

First up, Nella Last's War – or Housewife 49 to those of you who caught the ITV adaptation starring Victoria Wood last year. As part of the Mass Observation project, Nella recorded every day of the six war years, from 1939 to 1945. Her diary reveals one ordinary woman’s experience of air-raids, rationing, fear, love, family, independence and a growing confidence in herself that leads her to question her former life and her marriage. Nella is perceptive and touching, and the intimacy of her journal is utterly absorbing. I seriously missed her once the book was finished. Gift guide: Grandmas and Great Aunts will be hugely grateful. Buy it here
 
Still on the war, Eddie Chapman (aka Agent ZigZag) embarked upon his illustrious career as MI5s most charismatic double agent. Eddie’s tale is so chock-full of capers, dangers, daring escapes, near-misses, double-crosses and high adventures that you keep having to rub your eyes and remind yourself it is all true. Eddie himself is a spellbinding mix of hero and villain, nobility and criminality. The action moves from Soho drinking dens to French prisons, from Lisbon’s spook-filled streets to German secret service training camps. It is a fast paced, hugely entertaining, gasp-out-loud biography. My husband kept trying to steal it off me, but I clung on to it fiercely – it’s a rare thing, a book that truly deserves the term ‘amazing’. Gift: spot on for strapping eighteen year-old boys, slightly paunchy husbands and silver foxes alike - but you'll want to keep it for yourself. Buy it here
 
The truth, as people say, is often stranger than fiction. In Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s case, the truth is of the utmost importance, it is a refusal to be silenced. Ali became front page news in 2004: she and Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh worked together on a film about Muslim women; Theo was consequently shot dead and his murderer left a warning letter to Ali pinned onto the corpse with a butcher knife. Infidel is her startlingly honest, barefaced autogbiography. Ali was born in Somalia, grew up in various African countries and then escaped from a forced marriage to become a politician in the Netherlands, and eventually a campaigner against the abuse suffered by Muslim women. Her bravery and her intelligence are present all the way through – hers is a clear-sighted account of a most extraordinary survival, a testament to her immense dignity and will-power. She continues to fight for a reform of Islam and for the rights of women everywhere, despite continued death threats. She is remarkable and her story is captivating and terrifying in equal measure. Gift guide: an inspiring, important read for young women and political animals. Buy it here

That’s your lot for December – vote here for the title you’d like to pick as Yuletide Book of the Month…

Last updated: over 1 year ago