Monday, 30 November -0001

Book Reviews: 12 June

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


Books-Jun12-LivingInTheSound-176LIVING IN THE SOUND OF THE WIND by Jason Wilson (Constable, £20; offer price, £16.50)
‘You love him or ignore him,’ writes Jason Wilson of his subject, the novelist and naturalist WH Hudson. But whether or not you know anything much about Hudson’s life and work, this is an entertaining read.

Born in 1841 in Buenos Aires, Hudson grew up on the windblasted pampas with the tales of gauchos and the sound of ‘cow-music’ in his ears. A self-taught ornithologist, he corrected Darwin on a point of detail regarding a woodpecker, and had his own opinions on natural selection. When he finally moved to London in 1874 he fell in love with English birdsong – as well as a flame-haired opera singer – and became a staunch supporter of the newly founded RS PB (it is a testament to his devotion that the bird sanctuary in Hyde Park is dedicated to him). It was also in England that Hudson began to write in earnest, earning admirers including John Galsworthy and Ford Madox Ford.

Wilson’s own story, which has similarities with Hudson’s, is threaded through this biography, adding another layer to what is a fascinating and colourful tale.
Stephanie Cross

Books-Jun12-Glory-176Glory by Rachel Billington (Orion, £19.99; offer price, £15.99)
Rachel Billington’s grandfather was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. From his letters and diaries, she has drawn a sense of his courage and discipline, and gained valuable first-hand information on this campaign of the First World War, which becomes the focal point of a highly personal and pertinent novel.

Precise and kindly, her grandfather appears in his role as a brigadier general. His vivacious daughters try to adjust to the turmoil and wrestle with new feelings. The eldest, Sylvia, becomes a nurse. On the other side of the social spectrum there is Fred, fresh from the country, fighting alongside Sylvia’s fiancé and being quickly stripped of his cheeriness. The dashing, aristocratic Rupert, also there, knows all too well the reality of the war that first galvanised such patriotic fervour.

Concentrating principally on the Gallipoli conflict, Billington has in these few voices pinpointed the alienation felt by millions as the war ground on, leaving carnage and irrevocable change in its wake. From the troops amidst the horrors of battle to those at home forced to look on helplessly, people suffered but performed great deeds.

Their stories, and the precious written legacy of Billington’s grandfather, are beautifully preserved in this fine and frank evocation of British wartime spirit.
Philippa Williams

Book of the week

BookOfWeek-Jun12-176Behind closed doors
FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinsella (Doubleday, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
The bestselling author has turned her hand to fiction for young adults with a moving novel about the crippling effects of anxiety, and how to survive it. This brave and topical subject matter is sensitively handled – and it’s quite a departure from Kinsella’s deliciously frothy Shopaholic series. It is bound to appeal just as much to not-so-young adults.

Audrey is a 14-year-old girl suffering from social anxiety disorder, unable to leave the house, where she hides behind her sunglasses. She is convalescing at home when she meets her brother’s friend Linus. As their relationship develops, Audrey finds she can talk to him in a way she can’t talk to anyone else – and so begins her road to recovery.

There is something about Kinsella’s characters that draws a powerful and warm emotional response. Audrey is a strong, determined protagonist, complemented perfectly by the nononsense Linus and her neurotic yet loving mother.

With stress and related mental-health issues on the rise among teenagers, Kinsella’s new book is highly relevant. Her compassionate, insightful take on what it’s like to live with anxiety is an eyeopener, but her trademark lightness of touch and gentle humour make it hugely entertaining, too. A welcome contribution to reducing the stigma attached to mental illness.
Rebecca Maxted

Coffee table book

The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde And Sargent In Tite Street by Devon Cox (Frances Lincoln, £25; offer price, £20)
Some of the best painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – Whistler, Sargent, Augustus John and Julian Barrow – lived at 33 Tite Street in Chelsea and seduced their muses in its great-windowed studio. A few doors down, Oscar Wilde entertained ‘Bosie’, and Swinburne slid naked down the banisters of Rossetti’s nearby house.


Until this year, 33 Tite Street had been continuously occupied by artists. It hadn’t changed much when I visited Barrow’s studio last year – you could almost hear the ghosts. This beautifully illustrated history of London’s answer to the Left Bank would make a wonderful present for art lovers.


Fresh Hell by Rachel Johnson (Penguin, £7.99; offer price, £7.59)
The third novel in Rachel Johnson's trilogy chronicling the lives of her rich and spoilt fictional neighbours returns to Notting Hill – where adultery, intrigue and shenanigans around private garden squares abound.

The central plot involves basement digging, an issue that has preoccupied Johnson in real life, after a mature tree in her garden square collapsed without prior warning earlier this year. Her observations on marital breakdown and the difficulty of maintaining a spark in long-term relationships are incisive: 'Nobody tells you that splitting up can take years.'

Although all her main characters are rather obnoxious, status-obsessed, size-zero yummy mummies, this fastpaced, fizzy book would make fun beach reading. It certainly doesn't make you feel envious of alpha females' lives.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

The Good Priest by Gillian Galbraith (Polygon Books, £7.99; offer price, £7.59)
Father Vincent Ross is a parish priest with a penchant for cheap red wine. While in the confessional, he hears of the murder of his very own bishop. But, constrained by the rules of the Church, he cannot voice his suspicions.

Meanwhile, his prosaic yet comfortable life is interrupted by accusations of adultery, and suddenly he is broken-boned, relieved of his parish and haunted by the murder of three ex-priests. Could the crimes be linked? And what happened to the records of diocesan misdemeanours that the bishop kept?

Galbraith constructs a character who, despite his very human flaws, is a good man and a good priest. Accused and
out of his depth, he takes matters into his own hands.

An excellent read with a deeply sympathetic and charming protagonist.
Victoria Clark

Holiday reads

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

I TAKE YOU by Eliza Kennedy (Jonathan Cape, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
A racy take on the romance and a far cry from tradition. It is witty, sparkling and a dissection of monogamy and happiness.

Lily is a successful lawyer on the eve of her wedding, but she has fidelity issues. Can she keep her career, fiancé and the other men in her life? An interesting idea embedded in an entertaining novel.

LONDON OVERGROUND: A Day’s Walk Around The Ginger Line by Iain Sinclair (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
This turns the grime and cracked cement normally associated with an urban railway into luminous poetry. Sinclair traces the route of the new London Overground, during which he comes across poets, legend, painters and memories. A train route has never seemed so curious, so obvious and so audible.

LONDON RAIN by Nicola Upson (Faber & Faber, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
The sixth outing for Josephine Tey as detective rather than author. Set amidst the celebrations of George VI’s coronation with its crowds, bunting and early BBC reportage, Tey champions the wife of Anthony Beresford, BBC reporter extraordinaire, after he is murdered at his post on the coronation route. Balancing detecting with emotion, it recaptures the sounds and feelings of the time.

Tweet us your holiday reads @TheLadyMagazine using hashtag #ladyholidayreads

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