Browser: An analysis of Western diplomacy from Richelieu to Kissinger

Brief reviews of The Ambassadors, Everyone is Still Alive and Creatures of Passage

The Ambassadors: Thinking about Diplomacy from Machiavelli to Modern Times
By Robert Cooper
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99
History is made by people, and accidents often decide its course, Robert Cooper believes, and in this analysis of Western diplomacy from Richelieu to Kissinger, he focuses on where problems, personalities and ideas intersect. Today's European outline appeared in Richelieu's France, and with Metternich, Talleyrand and the 1815 Congress of Vienna, modern diplomacy emerged. Almost two-thirds of the book deal with post-second World War Western diplomacy, especially in the Cold War context, where American George Kennan is seen as playing a pivotal role. He gets a full chapter, in contrast to George C Marshall and Dean Acheson; in Europe, Jean Monnet is treated similarly, in contrast to Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt while, overall, Henry Kissinger gets star billing. Thoroughly researched, skilfully written, immensely readable. – Brian Maye

Everyone is Still Alive
By Cathy Rentzenbrink
Orion
The debut novel from Rentzenbrink, bestselling author of The Last Act of Love and the acclaimed memoirs A Manual for Heartache and Dear Reader, is a unique and timely exploration of marriage and parenthood in this age of social anxiety. Set on an affluent suburban street in London, the narrative interweaves the stories of several families who reside there, as they attempt to sustain the illusion that everything is fine. They each battle to find purpose, peace and connection in a life that feels more like unhappily ever after than they'd ever imagined possible. A thought-provoking novel, full of empathetic insight, Rentzenbrink asks what really matters amidst the complexity of the contemporary world and guides the reader towards a discovery of what the answer could be. – Helen Cullen

Creatures of Passage
By Morowa Yejidé
Jacaranda, £16.99
Like the Taíno people who once lived in the Caribbean, the characters in Creatures of Passage believe that those who have died are still within reach and that "death is another kind of living". Using heightened language, Morowa Yejidé evokes a world in which her central character, Nephthys Kinwell, has a preternatural awareness of the needs of the afflicted to be ferried in her otherworldly car towards moments of inescapable destiny. All of her family has been affected by maltreatment which repeats ceaselessly through the generations. At key moments she always reminds us that characters "had no way of knowing this". Such a pity then that so much well-wrought writing is diminished by an ending that is contrived and unconvincing. – Declan O'Driscoll