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Book Reviews: 10 April

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


Books-Apr10-LadyFromZagreb-176THE LADY FROM ZAGREB by Philip Kerr (Quercus, £18.99; offer price, £15.99)
It is 1942 in Nazi dominated Europe and Bernie Gunther is approached by Goebbels to deal with a little problem: Dalia Dresner, an actress who has caught the propaganda minister’s eye and ensnared his heart, has downed tools. Believed to be hiding in Zurich, she is refusing to act in her next film until she finds out the fate of her father, last heard of in a monastery in the chaos of Yugoslavia. Goebbels feels Bernie is the man for the job, but he doesn’t know the old Kripo detective as well as Philip Kerr’s devoted fans. No sooner has Bernie introduced himself to Dalia (sunning herself naked on the lawn of her mansion) than the two of them are off up the stairs together.

With death and violence dogging his footsteps, Bernie whizzes around Europe cracking his inimitable and risky anti-Nazi jokes, stumbling upon plots and solving murders. This is a return to form for Kerr: it will keep diehard admirers of the Gunther novels happy and will also garner new supporters. As an alternative view of the Nazi world order, it’s hard to beat.
Victoria Clark

Books-Apr10-TheBostonGirl-176THE BOSTON GIRL by Anita Diamant (Simon & Schuster, £16.99; offer price, £13.99)
Diamant’s characters are presented with such depth and realism that it’s hard to think of them as fictional. Written as a faux memoir, her latest offering tells the story of Addie Baum, a young Jewish girl born at the turn of the 20th century in Boston in the US, to immigrant parents who have escaped poverty and violence in Russia.

Her domineering mother suppresses her, but provides comic relief with her amusing Yiddish insults, and her father harbours an enormous inferiority complex. Against a backdrop of perpetual bickering, in her bleak childhood in a coldwater flat, Addie sees everything with a startling clarity that her cynical parents lack.

Coming of age during the First World War and Prohibition, Addie adapts to fit in with the changing world. Following the pattern of the American dream, she works her way up from typist to successful columnist – in spite of adversity and the menfolk who try to drag her down. One for fans of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Diamant’s narrative is as confident as its plucky heroine.
Lyndsy Spence


Books-Apr10-Threads-176Stitches in time
THREADS: The Delicate Life Of John Craske by Julia Blackburn (Jonathan Cape, £25; offer price, £20)
John Craske was born in Sheringham, Norfolk in 1881. A  sherman by trade, he enlisted in the Army in 1917 but soon fell ill. Diagnosed as an ‘imbecile’, he spent the rest of his life in the kind of suspended animation that illness imposes. But his hands and his imagination stayed busy, and he began painting and then embroidering evocative scenes of the sea.

This book is a work into which many stories are woven, not least that of its author Julia Blackburn, who came to recognise similarities between Craske’s life and her own. Like a tapestry’s reverse, her book has its loose ends and tangles; it is also full of the unexpected, from an account of Albert Einstein’s stranger-than-fiction sojourn in 1930s Cromer to a history of the real-life ‘Norfolk giant’. And, ultimately, it is a reminder of how thin the thread of life itself is: Blackburn’s sculptor husband died suddenly during its writing.

At the end of her book, Blackburn admits that she still isn’t sure if Craske is an ‘important’ artist. ‘I am not sure if it matters… his work made life meaningful for him.’ In the midst of her grief, Blackburn finds that the same is true for her. The result is a beautifully illustrated, wry, empathic and deeply moving triumph.
Stephanie Cross


EXPANDING UNIVERSE: Photographs From The Hubble Space Telescope by Owen Edwards et al (Taschen, £44.99; offer price, £39.99)
It is 25 years since the launch of the Hubble telescope. Its unprecedentedly detailed images of deep space have answered some of astronomy’s most pressing questions about time and space, but as this book reveals, as well as being a technological and scientific breakthrough, they are photographic masterpieces in their own right.


Marbled abstract shapes in dazzling colours, towering swirls of particles and gas against the blackest of backdrops – these ultra-high-resolution images are reproduced here in exquisite quality. A must for stargazers, this is also a visually striking meditation on our place in the universe.
Juanita Coulson


ADA LOVELACE, BRIDE OF SCIENCE: Romance, Reason And Byron’s Daughter by Benjamin Woolley (Pan, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)

She was born in 1815 to the sound of bottles being smashed by her father, Lord Byron, ‘a dissolute Regency libertine’. Her mother, Annabella, who left him soon afterwards, was a priggish mathematician with strict morals.

Inheriting her mother’s passion for maths, Ada channelled her brilliance into work, which led to the invention of computer programming, while her troubled personal life veered between Romantic excess and Victorian control.

A fascinating account, but with more about her achievements and less about her famous parents, it would have been better.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

THE ALL-GIRL FILLING STATION’S LAST REUNION by Fannie Flagg (Vintage, £6.99; offer price, £6.64)
The latest novel from the author of bestsellerturned- blockbuster Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe tells the story of four irrepressible women reimagining their boundaries and capabilities during the Second World War.

Flagg is a master of her craft, weaving life in Alabama in 2005 with Wisconsin in the 1940s, in a family saga that can be heartbreaking at times but remains overwhelmingly heart-warming. Her talent for storytelling radiates from the page, along with her ability to create quirky characters who are both immensely entertaining and reassuringly human. A thoroughly enjoyable tale of girl power.
Lilly Cox

THE RED NOTEBOOK by Antoine Laurain (Gallic Books, £8.99; offer price, £8.54)
Two strangers living in the same Parisian arrondissement are brought together by an abandoned mauve handbag and the red notebook of the title.

Part eccentric romance, part detective story, this tale is expertly told through diary extracts, inner monologues and brief but enlightening conversations between an endearing group of characters.

The simple but engaging plot unravels from the cold, cowardly act of a mugging to the benefi ts reaped as a result of ‘a fine act of citizenship’.

This book makes perfect holiday reading.
Sarah Fortescue


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