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The Dictator's Wife: The gripping BBC Two Between the Covers book club pick

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Mary Jordan, a biographer of Melania Trump, found her more ambitious and knowing – more like Donald Trump – than is often assumed. Berry comments: “She’s very good at disappearing, even when she’s right there, behind her sunglasses.” A dictator’s wife, overthrown and awaiting trial, pleads her case to a young female lawyer, while also drawing her into a tangled web of lies and dark, dangerous secrets. This dazzling and devastating debut is a Lead Launch for Headline Review for Spring 2021.

The Dictator’s Wife by Freya Berry | Theresa Book Review: The Dictator’s Wife by Freya Berry | Theresa

Elena's rise to the top ranks of academic chemists was, subsequently, smooth. Publications steadily appeared under the name of Professor Doctor Engineer Elena Ceaucescu. It was easy for her to find scientists to publish studies and books in her name; they did not have much of a choice and were handsomely rewarded for their work. An entire organization was involved in translating and distributing "her" works. She never wrote a thing herself during her entire life. Unfortunately, economic reform threatened the interests of some of Syria’s most powerful people. To change how business was done, Asma would have to go up against Rami Makhlouf, Bashar’s cousin through his mother’s aristocratic clan. By some estimates Makhlouf’s companies controlled over half the Syrian economy. Asma tried to challenge his supremacy in 2007 by creating her own holding company, but was unable to attract enough of Syria's business heavyweights to join her – they largely remained in Makhlouf's sphere. Her plans for the Syrian economy would have to wait.

For months, Asma stopped giving interviews. Former friends describe her as looking emaciated on a rare public outing to a pro-government rally in January 2012. At some point she and her children moved to the family’s summer palace near the coast, far from any shelling or tear gas. Ultimately, when an offer from a Washington-based organization did not appear, she was forced to accept the honorary membership from the IAS. She showed her disgust and vehement anti-semitism by claiming that she had to accept a "low-ranked" degree from the hands of a "dirty Jew," Dr. Emanuel Merdinger, then head of the IAS (Pacepa 181).

Elena Ceausescu: Greatest Scientist Ever — except she was a Elena Ceausescu: Greatest Scientist Ever — except she was a

It is an intriguing prism through which to consider Melania Knauss, a Slovenian model who came to America married Donald Trump in 2005. With his election a decade later, she became only the second foreign-born first lady in American history – and one of the most divisive. No one remembers her showing any interest in the Middle East. On visits to Damascus with her parents she’d spend her time by the pool at the Sheraton hotel. “She was very English and seemed to want to have nothing to do with Syria,” said a family friend.Among those who did well out of Asma’s rise was her own father, Fawaz Akhras. Soon after Asma married Bashar, Akhras established the British-Syrian Society, an organisation in London that drummed up political and financial support for Syria. He co-ordinated the society’s activities with Asma’s organisation, attracting a crowd of rich Syrians. In February 2012, a year into the Arab spring, Syria’s Fourth Armoured Division, under the command of Bashar’s younger brother, Maher, trained its artillery on Homs in western Syria. Asma’s parents had grown up in the city; now protests there were escalating into armed insurrection. Soldiers defected to the rebels and some 7,000 civilians had already died across the country.

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