What to read

📚 No Way Out | 🗽 The New York Trilogy

10 May 2024


No Way Out by Tim Shipman

Tim Shipman’s No Way Out, a “700-page epic” on Theresa May’s battle over Brexit, is packed with “tasty vignettes and morsels of gossip”, says Sam Freedman in The Times. Hardcore Brexiteer MP Mark Francois is depicted “wobbling around Westminster”, declaring: “I was in the army. I was trained not to lose.” The fogeyish attorney-general Geoffrey Cox is described by a colleague as “an acquired taste, particularly if you’re a woman”. But what’s most striking is May’s “astonishing passivity” as prime minister, and total absence of persuasive power. In a call to try to stop her first Brexit secretary, David Davis, from resigning, she sounded, in the words of someone listening in, “like someone ringing to say your Hoover bag’s ready for collection”.

Shipman’s style is what used to be known as the “powder-blue Rolls Royce” school of reportage, says Andrew Marr in The New Statesman. That is, it relies on “the remorseless accumulation of incidental detail” to give the impression that the writer, “and hence the reader”, was in the rooms where things happened. At one Chequers meeting, for example, the then health secretary Jeremy Hunt jokes about confiscating a packet of Haribo sweets being passed around the table. This can make for an “exhausting read” – we’re frequently confronted with indecipherable sentences like: “At 9.30am da Costa went to see David Davis and Raoul Ruparel in 9 Downing Street, home of DExEU, and got their approval for King Pong.” But it adds up to a definitive, illuminating work that future historians “will lean on” heavily. “If you are interested in politics, you have to be interested in this.”

No Way Out by Tim Shipman is available to buy here.

Vintage fiction

Paul Auster at his home in Brooklyn. Timothy Fadek/Corbis/Getty

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

Paul Auster, who died last week aged 77, was the first writer to make detective fiction cool, says Jake Kerridge in The Daily Telegraph. His defining work was The New York Trilogy, a collection of three novellas released in 1985 and 1986. The first instalment was rejected by 17 publishers before eventually becoming a “huge success”: Auster ended up being “so popular with hard-up intellectuals” that one Manhattan bookshop had to keep his work locked in the basement because it was so frequently stolen. The trilogy, inspired by a mysterious man ringing Auster’s apartment and asking for “the Pinkerton detective agency”, upended the detective genre with surrealism and self-parody – “some mysteries”, it seemed to say, “are not just insoluble but indefinable”.

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster is available to buy here.

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