Monday, 30 November -0001

Book Reviews: 22 May

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


Books-May22-ShoesForAnthony-176SHOES FOR ANTHONY by Emma Kennedy (Ebury Press, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
When the Second World War arrives at a placid Welsh mining village, the locals rise to the occasion magnificently. At first the area remains relatively distant from any great upheaval, but when a German plane crashes on the nearby mountain, loyalties are tested as never before.

Drawing on family experiences, Kennedy writes from the perspective of energetic grammar school hopeful Anthony, unfurling a fine narrative that can be profoundly sad, yet optimistic and funny in parts. Despite limited means, stalwart figures of all ages and several nationalities show great determination and fi erce patriotism.

With plenty of thoroughly British humour, this is a guaranteed enjoyable read.
Philippa Williams

Books-May22-Palmero-176PALERMO, CITY OF KINGS: The Heart Of Sicily by Jeremy Dummett (IB Tauris, £18.99; offer price, £17.09)
Following his previous book on Syracuse, Dummett turns his attention to the island’s capital, one of the great melting pots of Europe. Founded by the Phoenicians and subsequently occupied by the Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and even the British before Sicily joined the Italian nation, Palermo’s diverse history is attractively reflected in its art, architecture, language and food. Yet beyond the grandeur and uniquely fascinating culture, there are deep-seated problems – not least organised crime, with the turnover of mafi a enterprises estimated at 7% of Italy’s GDP.

Both an historical overview of Palermo and a visitor’s guidebook to the city’s great monuments – though the sumptuous hardback edition makes it rather unwieldy for the latter purpose.
Richard Tarrant

Books-May22-InMyHouse-176IN MY HOUSE by Alex Hourston (Faber & Faber, £14.99; offer price, £13.49)
At 57, divorcée Maggie lives a self-contained and rather solitary existence. Her job as a medical transcriptionist grants her anonymity and even her friends are kept at arm’s length. But when Maggie plays a minor part in rescuing a traffi cked Albanian woman, Anja, everything changes. As Anja inserts herself into Maggie’s life, she stirs up memories and emotions that have been firmly suppressed. Meanwhile, for the reader, the mysteries multiply: how did Maggie come to be estranged from her daughter? What led to the end of her marriage and why, exactly, has she guarded her privacy so fiercely for so long?

A less sensational novel than many recent thrillers in a similar vein, this tense debut still delivers plenty of twists, while Hourston demonstrates an impressively keen eye for small but telling details.
Stephanie Cross


Books-May22-AllOverIreland-176Yarns from the Emerald Isle
ALL OVER IRELAND: NEW IRISH SHORT STORIES Edited by Deirdre Madden (Faber & Faber, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
Short stories to me have always had instant appeal, but they do not always thrill publishers. Thank heavens, then, for this little tome – a veritable smorgasbord of variety and talent.

The mixture of new and established Irish authors, including Colm Tóibín, Mary Morrissy and Eoin McNamee, is more than satisfying in its imagination and depth. Each tale is a well-crafted gem and leaves the reader wanting more. By their nature, short stories are purposefully concise and this selection is direct, to the point, startling and endearing by turns.

In The Comets by Eoin McNamee, a girl who has recently lost her mother is ostracised by domestic savagery and drawn to a mysterious man at an amusements arcade. Although dark, as many of the tales are, it is handled with authority.

The loss of old love is dealt with in Belinda McKeon’s For Keeps, which is full of compelling lines such as: ‘How you can blunt the heart. She knows this now. How you can take the edges off it, so that it cannot catch itself on things the same way.’

Sharing the common themes of Irish locations or aspects of Irish life, but varying in subject and style, these are 14 brilliant excuses to investigate other works by these talented writers.
Robin Dutt


REDOUTE: Selection Of The Most Beautiful Flowers by Pierre-Joseph Redouté, H Walter Lack and Werner Dressendörfer (Taschen, £99.99; offer price, £89.99)
Flower painting is often dismissed as a minor genre, but this book proves that, in the right hands, it can be everything but. Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840) was an official court artist who specialised in botanical art, trawling through the gardens of the Parisian elite to capture plants from around the world.


His exquisite watercolours combine mindful observation and accuracy with a delicate, poetic tenderness. His mastery of colour, tone and texture makes the flowers come alive on the page.

If you can’t make it to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, this is a brilliant alternative – minus the crowds.


THE CROW EATERS by Bapsi Sidhwa (Daunt Books, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
What a delight to discover this 1978 gem by one of Pakistan’s best-loved writers through Daunt’s timely reissue, with a foreword by Fatima Bhutto. Bustling with vivid descriptions and humour, it charts the life of a Parsee family in pre-partition India.

Faredoon ‘Freddy’ Junglewalla leaves his village to make his fortune in Lahore, with his wife, baby and larger-than-life motherin- law (and arch enemy) Jerbanoo in tow. From that fraught journey by ox cart to Freddy’s ascent to wealth and respectability, via the odd law-bending misdemeanour, a rich portrait emerges of an irrepressible and quirky self-made man, and a society where Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Parsees mix happily – as long as their children don’t try to marry each other. An earthy, honest and often hilarious novel, packed with characters so lifelike and engaging you’ll be sad to leave them when you turn the last page.
Juanita Coulson

A DANDY IN ASPIC by Derek Marlowe (Silvertail Books, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
Tom Stoppard’s foreword recalls his surprise at hearing his fl atmate was writing a spy novel. He felt that Marlowe had missed the bandwagon by 1966, but something about the book captured the imagination.

Double agent Alex Eberlin is not the traditional heroic Brit, but a Russian posing as a quintessential English dandy. With his love of bespoke tailoring and fi ne Sèvres porcelain, he is a sought-after, if elusive, member of society. But beneath this veneer is a tired Russian assassin who just wants to go home. A slick and thoughtful novel, it challenges our perceptions of the Russian thug so popular in the genre. Eberlin has lost none of his glamour but, with the luxury of hindsight, has become a more challenging hero.
Victoria Clark


Our pick of this summer’s essential reading, no matter where you are enjoying a well-deserved break. By Victoria Clark

THE SUDDEN DEPARTURE OF THE FRASERS by Louise Candlish (Penguin £7.99; offer price, £7.59)
When Christy and Joe Davenport succeed in buying a seemingly unobtainable house in coveted Lime Park Road, they look forward to a life of suburban contentment. But all too soon they discover that the dream house holds a secret – one nobody will share with them. Who was the glamorous Amber Fraser? And why did she sell?

DISPATCHES FROM THE KABUL CAFE by Heidi Kingstone (Advance Editions, £10.99; offer price, £9.89)
This is a memoir of four years in Kabul spent mixing with the military, journalists and NGOs, security boys and the Afghans themselves. Atmospheric and fascinating, it charts both Kingstone’s experiences and her opinions of the campaign. This is a riveting account of life in the Afghan capital, which comes alive under the author’s care.

WORLD GONE BY by Dennis Lehane (Little, Brown, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
Once again we meet Joe Coughlin, the respectable face of 1940s Florida gangsterdom. Amidst the humid atmosphere, Joe finds life as he knows it turned upside down. There is a contract out on him and a rat in his organisation. He needs to protect his son and to do so must revisit the swamp of his criminal past. Lehane transports his readers to a dark place in the human soul.

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