Friday, 29 July 2016
Book reviews: 29th July
The latest reviews of the latest books available to buy or download now.
OUT NOWHAPPINESS: 25 Ways To Live Joyfully Through Art by Christophe André (Rider, £16.99)
The French psychiatrist and bestselling author invites us to share the paintings of 25 great artists, including van Gogh, Rembrandt and Chagall, and contemplate how they capture the many shades of happiness. Beautifully illustrated in colour throughout, with a clear and concise writing style, this inspirational book teaches us to live happily in the moment.
On analysing Rembrandt’s The Return Of The Prodigal Son, André writes: ‘To cultivate our happiness, we must direct our efforts to the present, enriching it with our past, rather than weighing down or blocking it with things that are gone. We must make peace with ourselves.’ These paintings encourage us to feel, meditate and reflect, and are a visual and tangible first step to understanding how we can make immediate, meaningful and permanent changes to our wellbeing.
Be prepared to shed tears at the sheer emotion this unique book arouses. With reproductions of some of the world’s most exquisite works of art, accompanied by life-enhancing lessons, this would make a wonderful gift for art lovers and self-help enthusiasts. Nothing less than a masterpiece in itself, this is a captivating book to return to again and again.
SQUIRREL PIE by Elisabeth Luard (Bloomsbury, £16.99)
Elisabeth Luard’s delightful memoir is a truly scrumptious accomplishment. With several cookbooks to her name and a career as a respected food journalist, Luard writes with warmth, humour and intelligence about the cuisines she has tried and tasted on her travels around the world.
Recipes and anecdotes are interwoven with historical insights and fascinating trivia. Stories are peppered with Luard’s own illustrations and about 50 authentic recipes she has acquired while travelling. These include a Hawaiian bouillabaisse and the unappetisingly named silk weavers’ brains (a curd cheese and crème fraîche concoction served with bread).
Luard has encountered extraordinary ingredients in some unusual places and it is a pleasure to share in her comical accounts of these experiences. The staple ingredient of Squirrel Pie is Luard’s belief that the food we eat defines who we are – she emphasises the importance of its role as an expression of culture and identity worldwide. Luard’s love of food and passion for the people, landscapes and culinary traditions that she has encountered on her travels radiates from every page. A real treat for foodies and globetrotters.
BOOK OF THE WEEKChinese Whispers
SHANGHAI GRAND by Taras Grescoe (Macmillan, £20)
During the 1920s and 1930s, the Chinese port of Shanghai was a playground for adventurers, socialites and chancers of all nationalities – Wallis Simpson spent her notorious ‘lotus year’ there. But far from the flippant, gossipy read suggested by its theme, this hefty tome is a multilayered story, focusing on various real-life characters, each with their own secrets to hide.
On the run-up to the Second World War, American journalist Emily ‘Mickey’ Hahn arrives in Shanghai to lick her wounds after a turbulent affair, and checks into society hotelier Sir Victor Sassoon’s Cathay Hotel. She throws herself into the hedonistic expat social whirl, mingling with the likes of Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. There she meets the Chinese poet Zau Sinmay, and the two begin a forbidden liaison, through which Mickey discovers the real Shanghai: a city of contrasts, where wealthy colonial types rub shoulders with opium addicts, treacherous agents and refugees. Through this clever juxtaposition we are immersed in Mickey’s thrilling antics and the dangerous undercurrent of political unrest.
This is an intriguing account of a fascinating time and place, which often reads like fiction. It exposes a lost world, before war and revolution changed the country beyond recognition. And despite the riches and luxury at the heart of his story, Grescoe reminds us that all that glitters is not gold.
COFFEE TABLE BOOKLIVING IN THE COUNTRYSIDE by Barbara and René Stoeltie, edited by Angelika Taschen (Taschen, £17.99)
Escape to the country with this gloriously illustrated survey of the most appealing rustic retreats across Europe. Not your usual ‘country house’ book, it features properties ranging from a cosy Irish cottage to a sprawling estate in the Tuscan Hills, taking in an artist’s studio in Majorca and Le Corbusier’s bolthole on the Côte d’Azur. Whether stately and grand or snug and quirky, these houses are steeped in local culture and exude a comforting sense of home – even when they are just holiday dwellings. Whether you really are thinking of heading for the hills, or just crave a visual respite from city strictures, this book is full of inspiring interiors and uplifting images.
SOMETHING TO HIDE by Deborah Moggach (Vintage, £8.99)
Most of us hide things, even from our loved ones and ourselves. Moggach’s latest novel is a collection of seemingly unconnected stories about four women, exploring this theme. Sixty-something Petra feels depressed by the boring men she meets online and falls for her best friend’s husband. Lorrie, a young mother from Texas, accidentally loses the family savings and thinks up a crazy way of getting them back while her husband is on active service. Over in China, Li-Jing longs for the baby her older husband can’t give her. These stories are drawn together in a fastpaced and fascinating study of the tangled webs people weave.
The characters are likeable, yet they are all willing to go to remarkable lengths to hide their secrets, making you wonder if anyone can be trusted. Moggach brilliantly captures the complexity of later-life relationships, just as she did in her acclaimed novel The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. An excellent read, laced with the author’s trademark dark humour. Rebecca Wallersteiner
GENGHIS KHAN: The Man Who Conquered The World by Frank McLynn (Vintage, £12.99)
To understand how Temüjin, son of a minor chieftain, rose from fugitive outcast to become Genghis Khan, legendary conqueror and emperor, requires intimate knowledge of early 13th-century Asian politics, diverse obscure languages, horsemanship and warfare. In a detailed review that combines contemporary sources with the most recent research, McLynn attempts to do just that. But sadly the result is not as successful as Genghis’s armies. McLynn’s prose alternates between overblown and casual with all the consistency of a Mongol peace treaty, while an attempt to force a Marxist class struggle on to an extended brawl between Steppes herdsmen makes for heavy campaigning. Conquering the world must be easier than having to read this. Stephen Coulson
THE LADY'S RECIPE READSThe summer holidays are the perfect time to get children involved in the kitchen and these books make it easy and fun. By Juanita Coulson
THE KEW GARDENS CHILDREN’S COOKBOOK: Plant, Cook, Eat! by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig (Wayland Books, £12.99)
This lovely, cloth-bound hardback takes children on an educational and practical food journey from soil to plate. Starting with chapters on the basics of horticulture, each recipe is centred on a vegetable and preceded by instructions for growing it at home. Colourful and beautifully illustrated, it is a great aid for fostering a love and understanding of fresh produce and an awareness of a healthy diet – essentials in an age when fast food and child obesity are on the rise. If you have the grandchildren to stay, this is a brilliant source of worthwhile activities – and dishes that are good enough for the whole family to eat.
AROUND THE WORLD WITH THE INGREEDIES: A Taste Adventure by Zoe Bather, Joe Sharpe and Chris Dickason (Laurence King Publishing, £12.99)
A godsend for parents and grandparents of fussy eaters, this quirkily illustrated cookbook-cumstorybook and geography lesson will spark children’s curiosity about ingredients and dishes from around the world. Recipes for the likes of Mexican street wraps and Persian jewelled rice and lamb are interspersed with the tale of a jolly gang of characters on a voyage to explore different types of food – taking in the Americas, China, Iran and Europe. Jam-packed with interesting historical and culinary facts, the layout is at times quite strident and busy, but the yummy dishes more than make up for this
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