Monday, 30 November -0001

Book Reviews: 30 January

The Lady reviews of the latest books available to buy or download now

OUT NOW

Books-Jan30-ThankYouForThisMoment-176THANK YOU FOR THIS MOMENT by Valérie Trierweiler (Biteback Publishing, £18.99; offer price, £15.99)
As most of the world now knows, journalist Valérie Trierweiler was the partner of socialist French president François Hollande for nine years after he left the mother of his children, fellow politician Ségolène Royal, to live with her.

All changed a year ago after Hollande was snapped visiting the Paris home of the actress Julie Gayet, unimaginatively disguised in a motorcycle helmet. ‘In just a few hours… my life was devastated and my future shattered into a million tiny pieces,’ she writes in typically histrionic language. She sets out to wreak vengeance on Hollande and expose his heartlessness, hypocrisy and snobbery, but her attempt backfi res as it mainly reveals how self-obsessed she is.

Trierweiler describes Gayet as a partnerstealing ‘snake in the grass’, conveniently forgetting her own aff air with Hollande. As Jimmy Goldsmith famously said, ‘a man who marries his mistress creates a job vacancy’.

Not so much a memoir as an emotional and overlong break-up letter by a furious woman scorned, it fl ew off the shelves in France but may perhaps not be quite so well suited to English tastes.
Rebecca Wallersteiner



Books-Jan30-Lancaster-176THE LANCASTER AND THE TIRPITZ by Squadron Leader Tony Iveson DFC and Brian Milton (Andre Deutsch, £18.99; offer price, £17.99)
RAF lore dictates that whichever of 9 Squadron or 617 (The Dambusters) Squadron is in possession of the last remaining fragments of the German battleship Tirpitz is the squadron that must have sunk the vessel in 1944. Seventy years on, ownership of the remains, and the associated glory, are still actively fought over by both squadrons.

Iveson, who took part in the Tirpitz raid, offers an account free of such controversy, awarding full honours to his own squadron, 617. Rather than give copious details of the operation, he focuses on honouring those men still living, the last witnesses, who flew the iconic Lancaster bomber. This mix of aeronautical development and personal reminiscences is more veterans’ reunion in an RAF mess than dry, scholarly history.

The stories of the men, the aircraft and the legendary raid are made hauntingly poignant by the fact that many of the subjects, Iveson included, passed away prior to publication.

With its moving human perspective, this thoroughly engaging book will appeal to a much broader readership than the usual military history buffs. A last celebratory drink with some very brave men.
Stephen Coulson


BOOK OF THE WEEK

Books-Jan30-Illuminations-176Virtual reality
THE ILLUMINATIONS by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber & Faber, £17.99; offer price, £15.99)
­At the age of 82, Anne Quirk’s mind is failing, the ‘flotsam’ of her eventful, secret-filled history rising to the surface as dementia takes hold. Once a renowned photographer, her life was shaped by a long-ago love aff air. Now, however, her closest bond is with her beloved grandson Luke, an army captain in Afghanistan.

Moving between the Scottish sheltered housing complex where Anne now lives and the brutal heat and caustic banter of Helmand, this is a powerfully empathic narrative. As Andrew O’Hagan shifts fluidly between points of view, he draws the reader deep into the intricate knots of family life as well as into visceral scenes of desert combat, before moving at last to Blackpool, a central place in Anne’s past. It’s there that Luke plans to take Anne, to see the Illuminations one last time. But will the trip also shed light on the mysteries with which Anne has always surrounded herself?

Truth is perhaps the central concern of this fine, elegantly crafted novel, from the camera that fails to tell it, to the simulations of computer gaming, to the virtual reality that we all create for ourselves as we spin our life stories. Ultimately, O’Hagan reminds us, we are all our own unreliable narrators.
Stephanie Cross

COFFEE TABLE BOOK

A FRAME FOR LIFE by Ilse Crawford (Rizzoli, £35; offer price, £30)
Books-Jan30-CoffeeTable-02-590
Ilse Crawford is a big name in the design world: the inaugural editor of modern design magazine Elle Decoration, she now heads Studioilse, a design, interiors and brand strategy company. She also founded the Man and Well-Being department at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, which is essentially what this book is about.

Books-Jan30-CoffeeTable-01-590

It’s not full of glossy, statement images, indeed some pictures are small and in black and white, but she writes convincingly and appealingly about why, for her, good design is about human qualities and priorities, not the latest look.
Hugh St Clair

PAPERBACKS
Books-Jan30-Paperbacks-590

MARCH, WOMEN, MARCH by Lucinda Hawksley (Andre Deutsch, £8.99; offer price, £8.54)
Lucinda Hawksley guides us through the long, gruelling journey of establishing rights for women – including the vote – in Britain, from events that led to the beginning of the movement in 1792 (with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women) to the 1929 general election.

The roles played in this struggle by Florence Nightingale, John Stuart Mill, Mary Shelley, Emmeline Pankhurst and even Queen Victoria, are brought together to provide a concise and often shocking summary of the fight for gender equality.

The selection of letters and diary extracts that outline the defeats and victories of the campaigners will leave you appalled, awestruck and wanting to fi nd out more.
Sarah Fortescue

MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING by Ann Mah (Pamela Dorman Books, £11.99; offer price, £10.79)
Echoing the title of Julia Child’s seminal cookbook, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, Ann Mah’s charming book charts her own journey of culinary and personal discovery across France. Just like Child, Mah is a Francophile and foodie American who finds herself in Paris as a diplomat’s ‘trailing spouse’ – and discovers a new sense of purpose and a new career through her love of the country’s food.

Left alone when her husband is sent to Iraq, Mah sets out to explore 10 regions of France and the stories behind their signature dishes: from steak frites in the cafes of Paris to the malodorous andouillette sausage of Troyes. Both self-aware and a perceptive observer of her environment, her writing is an appealing blend of memoir and travelogue.

And although Mah’s emphasis is more on consumption than preparation, she does off er some brilliant recipes, too. Juanita Coulson

TALES FROM ACROSS THE POND

New short story collections by an American and a Canadian will delight fans of the genre. By Juanita Coulson
Books-Jan30-3rdpage-590

HONEYDEW by Edith Pearlman (John Murray, £16.99; offer price, £13.99)
Following the success of her last collection, Binocular Vision, these 20 tales by the newly crowned doyenne of the American short story are again in a class of their own. Pearlman's exquisitely precise prose brings to life whole lives and whole intricate, convincing worlds. With a profound understanding of her characters' inner life, elegant style and
painterly visual imagery, her work has drawn comparisons with Chekhov and Alice Munro. From the deathbed romance of an anaesthetist and his patient, to a father who draws pictures of deformed children as a talisman to keep his off spring safe, these moving, multilayered tales condense a novel's scope and insight into just a few pages.

WALLFLOWERS by Eliza Robertson (Bloomsbury, £14.99; offer price, £12.99)
At only 27 years old, Vancouver-born Robertson already has a string of awards to her name, including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her stories display a startlingly original way of looking at the world, finding magic and mystery in ordinary life. A boy's imagination collides with a grandparent's death. Painted flowers on a wall acquire a life of their own, and stand as a metaphor for hidden desires in a suburban community. Under an almost whimsical playfulness, there is always a dark undercurrent – and the tide can turn at a moment's notice. These shifts are handled expertly, packing a powerful emotional punch. An exciting new voice in short fi ction.

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