I only read two books in May and that should make the ‘book of the month’ choice easier, but it doesn't. Although I enjoyed Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow enormously, I will choose Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can't Happen Here, simply because it's a more powerful story of the impact of a totalitarian regime on an individual. This book was written in 1935, during the rise of European fascism, and tells of the rise to power of a populist politician called ‘Buzz’ Windrip. Buzz is a rabble-rousing demagogue who promises poor, angry voters that he will make America proud and prosperous once more. The parallels between Buzz and Donald Trump are disturbingly prescient at times:
“The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic”
I found it a challenging book to read. The pace in the early sections is slow and, I felt, could have been more tightly edited. The final section of the book is very dark and disturbing and reminded me that at the time it was written America led the world in Eugenics and the nation’s efficiency was admired by the Nazis. While it's not 1984 or A Brave New Word (at least for British readers), this is an effective warning of a possible dystopia, and the parallels with current affairs in the United States are very powerful.
On a lighter note, my film of the month is Paddington 2 which was simply great fun. I also watched The Last Man on The Moon this month and it was interesting but sometimes having fun wins! To my surprise, Paddington 2 is also the best reviewed film ever on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
As background music for my reading I have often been listening to The Lost Songs of St Kilda, haunting, simple tunes that were rediscovered when a visitor to an old folks’ home heard one of the residents playing a piano and decided to record the music. The last permanent residents of St Kilda left the archipelago in 1930 and, as a 10-year-old, Trevor Morrison now an old man had been taught piano by a former inhabitant of St Kilda. This is lovely meditative music, both in its original form and the new arrangements and compositions that are included on the album.