Bob Gaffey reviews this year’s Baillie Gifford nominees and predicts the winner
The Baillie Gifford Prize rewards excellence in non-fiction writing, bringing the best in intelligent reflection on the world to new readers.
It covers all non-fiction in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.
This award was set up in 1999 for the best of non-fiction and today the winner gets £50,000.
The former mayor of Mold, Bob Gaffey has reviewed all six shortlisted books and he gives his prediction on the winner which will be announced today, November 16th.
The first of the 6 books I review is THINGS I HAVE WITHHELD by K. Miller who is very big, very black and very gay, his own words. The main point of the book is that there are a million situations where you are not allowed to speak the truth. This is normal as it would be extremely embarrassing to point it out, also it can be from the danger of doing so. There are several reasons for black people being forced into behaving in a particular way. He gives a lot of anecdotes of his own life to clarify this. Miller at the last chapter takes on the characters of : Aubrey, George Floyd and other black people who are killed mainly by the authorities for being black. I give this book 3 stars.
FALL is the upbringing, rise and fall of Robert Maxwell, in other words a biography. It tells of his extreme poverty as a child in Czechoslovakia, to his bravery and fearlessness fighting for the British Army in WW2, to getting decorated by Monty, to his incredible wealth and his controversial death. 4 stars.
AFTERMATH is the period after a war has ended; here it’s World War 2. I have always wondered how bad things were in Germany from 1945 to 1955. Most of their adult male population dead, the country devastated by bombing, incredible poverty, the country occupied and run by 4 other countries. This book goes into all this as the author is a German who is a Professor of Cultural Journalism in Berlin. The rubble from the war is not finally cleared until the 70s.This deserves 4 stars.
ISLANDS OF ABANDONMENT is by a Scottish woman, Cal Flyn. This looks at areas of the earth which have been devastated for a variety of reasons, from wars to volcanoes, but mainly due to man-made destruction. It’s a quite unique book as I’ve never read anything like this before which gives it an extra dimension. The main point is that nature seems to manage to fight back no matter how much we damage it. Again a very good book and another 4 stars. She may well win the award for her sheer bravery going into situations I wouldn’t as a man.
FREE by Lea Ypi is an auto-biography by an Albanian woman. She talks about how it’s an extremely authoritarian state although as a child you don’t realize this. Parents have to pretend a life that is normal to protect themselves and their kids. The children are brainwashed into thinking that their leader Enver Hoxha, and Stalin are virtually gods. When Stalin dies there is mourning throughout the land. Ypi tells of her journey from very humble beginnings to the LSE as a professor in the UK. When the civil war takes place in Albania there is mayhem and chaos throughout the land. Thousands escape by emigrating seeking FREEdom. Excellent and 5 stars.
EMPIRE OF PAIN reads like a thriller based on the Sackler family in the USA. They are highly respected as philanthropists with their names on galleries and museums in the UK and USA. For decades they are feted for their wealth and generosity but then the brown stuff hits the fan. More and more information comes out of their dealings in the legal drug market and people begin to realize it’s all based on blood money. Their names are taken off buildings, they finish up in law courts and are now recognized as a crime family and not as a free enterprise family with any moral principles. As I write this today (15-11-21) this family has such parallels to the Trump family with their names being taken off buildings, lots of law courts, and the Senate Committee interviewing people regarding Trump’s involvement on the January 6th insurrection to try and bring down a lawfully elected government. A TV series is coming out on the Sacklers, ie DOPESICK and also THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY. Excellent and 5 stars.
So which one do I think they will go for? I believe it will be EMPIRE as the information is an entire tsunami of the family’s dirty dealings and illegalities. There was no limit, nothing they would not stoop to, to enrich themselves, no matter how many lives they cost 2/3 of a million up to now and rising. Also making millions of Americans drug addicted and destroying communities. The book is very long as it goes into so much detail and is recommended by B Obama.
Which book do I hope will win? It’s FREE. The journalist/author of EMPIRE is on the outside looking in. With FREE she’s on the inside looking out. She lives through the entire house of cards and for her it’s personal. When the civil war takes place and the nightmare starts it rips off the rose-tinted glasses all the kids have worn. Every mantelpiece has a photo of Hoxha on it. As Ypi states in her book, “one day I was someone, then I became someone else”.
About Bob Gaffey
Bob Gaffey was mayor of Mold between 2017 and 2018.
He spent six years as a town councillor in Mold, raising more than £10,000 towards the restoration of Bailey Hill in the town as part of a project to turn the former Norman settlement into an outdoor attraction.
The funds were raised by holding events during his time as mayor in 2017/18.
The former union representative is currently chair of the Wrexham, Denbighshire and Flintshire branch of Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and the Delyn branch of Plaid Cymru.
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