Friday, 28 October 2016
Book Reviews: 28 October
The Lady reviews of the latest books to download now
OUT NOWNEW YEAR'S DAY IS BLACK by Nicky Loutit (Propolis, £14.99)
Graphic novels are all the rage right now, and here is a painted memoir from the hands of a Cork Street artist. The exquisite artworks are a ‘visualisation of memory’. Both words and brushstrokes are poetically concise: sometimes painfully, sometimes joyfully expressive.
Nicky Loutit, born in 1943, was the daughter of the much- admired and much- married Janetta Woolley, a recurring figure in the diaries of Frances Partridge and in the world of high culture, artists and intellectuals of the calibre of George Orwell, Cyril Connolly and her second husband, Robert Kee (the other two were Pamela Mitford’s ex, Derek Jackson, and aristocratic interior designer Jaime Parladé).
Silent and shy, Nicky sheltered in the shadows as the spotlight blazed onto her glamorous mother and the galaxy of bohemian grandees around her. The prep school, Hanford, became her home away from this sometimes louche and confidence- undermining world. Outside the safety of school she suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse. What followed the sorrowful childhood and the Indian ashram was a 30-year happy marriage to another dazzling and glamorous person, the writer Jonathan Gathorne- Hardy. But that’s another story…
It took Nicky Loutit years of psychotherapy to develop the courage to create this book – a beautiful object in its own right, which you finish with a feeling of triumph.
WELLINGTON'S DEAREST GEORGY: The Life and Loves Of Lady Georgiana Lennox by Alice Marie Crossland (Universe Press, £14.99)
‘Confident’, beautiful and ‘fun-loving’, Lady Georgiana Lennox (Georgy) had many suitors and enchanted the Duke of Wellington, who had served under her father in India. She and the duke cherished a flirtatious and close friendship, which stretched over 37 years.
Georgy’s mother threw a legendary ‘lavish’ and ‘glittering’ ball in Brussels the night before the Battle of Waterloo – with the sound of gunfire in the distance. Many of the dashing young soldiers who danced with Georgy and her sisters hurried back to their regiments at the front, never to return. Seated next to Wellington at dinner, Georgy, the belle of the ball, had a front seat to the unfolding events.
As a token of his deep affection, Wellington gave her a valuable miniature and lock of his hair, which she treasured for the rest of her life. At 29, Georgy married the future Baron de Ros, had three children and lived to the grand age of 96.
Based on unpublished material, this elegantly written book challenges Wellington’s enduring reputation for being dry and humourless; his letters addressed to ‘my dearest Georgy’ are tender, funny and intimate.
Although I enjoyed the early chapters building up to Waterloo best, the book as a whole is riveting: a must for history lovers.
BOOK OF THE WEEKCareful whispers
THE LOW VOICES by Manuel Rivas (Harvill Secker, £14.99)
The Spanish writer and journalist recalls his childhood and coming of age, and looks back at his family’s history, in this affecting, impressionistic novel-cum-memoir.
Like all great autobiographical writing, it pulls the magic trick of making the specific and personal universally appealing, and capturing the texture of life in a particular time and place: mid to late 20th-century Galicia, a sea-whipped, storm-tossed land steeped in poetry, where the elements mirror the ever-present threat of political unrest, where even language fractures under Franco’s oppressive regime with things ‘one cannot say’.
Opening with his ‘first fear’, hiding in a bathroom during a storm, Rivas explores the key dramatis personae of his childhood. His father, a construction worker who kept his vertigo secret. His mother, a ‘verbivore’ whose monologues stirred his first literary impulses. A cast of aunts, uncles, teachers and priests. The most visceral connection, to his sister Maria, an artist and anarchist, is touchingly portrayed through telling domestic scenes and acutely observed body language.
Shimmering sketches trace his working- class childhood, intellectual awakening at school, first job in journalism. A meditation on memory and the power of storytelling, it is also a celebration of Galicia’s heritage and the quiet resilience and wit of its ordinary people.
COFFEE TABLE BOOK1920s JAZZ AGE FASHION & PHOTOGRAPHS by Martin Pel (Unicorn, £25)
Calling all budding flappers and 1920s enthusiasts: swoon alert! This exquisite book features the most lavish selection of fashions and images from the period, drawing on the holdings of museums and private collections around the world. A peach robe de style by Jeanne Lanvin with art deco embellishments, a pair of Marshall & Snellgrove brocaded silk heels, a close-up of a Shawl’s chinoiserie embroidery… not to mention images of Nancy Cunard, Clara Bow and Mistinguett.
Once you get over the fashion feast, you can read the eloquent essays on the cultural and social influences that shaped the Jazz age, ‘the world’s first youth movement’. divine decadence. JC
TWELVE VOICES FROM GREECE & ROME: Ancient Ideas For Modern Times by Christopher Pelling and Maria Wyke (OUP, £18.99)
In this engaging and accessible book, the authors make a powerful case for the enduring relevance of the classics, ‘forceful and affecting voices to which we should still be listening and responding’. It came about after their involvement in a BBC Radio 2 series where prominent figures from the arts, religion and science talked about their engagement with these texts. The authors draw on their own reading experiences too, inviting us to approach the classics in a critical and dynamic way, as a ‘conversation’ rather than a search for ‘eternal truths’. From the impact of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey on young men in the trenches of the Great War, to Sappho’s intriguing and passionate verses, Cicero’s eloquent political speeches and Juvenal’s satires, Pelling and Wyke take us on an enlightening journey. JC
THE WITCHES: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff (W&N, £9.99)
Examining the brief but significant event in American history in which a group of hysterical girls accused innocent victims of being witches, this book is a combination of literary styles. Presented as biography, the rich narrative and the imaginative scenarios could easily pass for fiction. The detailed research into 17th- century Massachusetts is apparent, as each page is a history lesson and an emotional insight into the complexities of the Salem townsfolk, the power of religion, the nonconformists, the web of lies and the women on trial. Many books have been written on the Salem witch trials, but this one stands out as the best. Lyndsy Spence
THE LADY’S RECIPE READSVirtuous grains or comforting Italian home cooking – both are perfect winter fare. by Juanita coulson
THE GRAIN BOWL by Nik Williamson (Phaidon, £19.95)
From superfoods like quinoa to saintly porridge oats, grains are having a culinary moment. But the question is, can grain-based dishes actually be enjoyable, beyond their somewhat joyless, hipsterish image? The man behind Shoreditch’s pop-up Porridge Cafe (yes, I know, but bear with me) has produced a spirited response with this cookbook, featuring 90 recipes, sweet and savoury, for all times of day. Oats and rye with baked plums, cherries and pickled hazelnuts dispelled my misgivings. Hearty combinations such as farro with goat’s curd, fava beans and pancetta are perfect winter warmers. And if you don’t know your chia from your amaranth, there’s a handy illustrated grain guide.
MAMMISSIMA: Family Cooking From A Modern Italian Mamma by Elisabetta Minervini (Bloomsbury, £20)
Few things evoke a sense of home and nourishment like the idea of an Italian family kitchen. In this zingy, upbeat book, minervini shares the fail-safe recipes with which she recreates this in her London home. Drawing on the flavours and ingredients of her native Puglia, this is fuss-free, rustic and delicious cooking that will fit neatly into a busy family’s life. While the likes of orecchiete pasta with broccoli or tomato and olive focaccia are what you might expect, there are also surprises like a peach yogurt cake, a simple recipe children can make. Warm family reminiscences accompany each recipe, with images that are attractive but not overstyled. Bravissima!.
Tweet us your recipe reads @TheLadyMagazine using #ladyrecipereads