Friday, 19 June 2015

Book Reviews: 19 June

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

Written by Melonie

OUT NOWBooks-Jun19-ReadersOfBrokenWheel-176

THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND by Katarina Bivald (Chatto & Windus, £12.99; off er price, £11.69)

When bookish Sara, who has never left her native Sweden, is invited to Broken Wheel, Iowa, by her literary pen pal Amy, she jumps at the chance to experience a taste of adventure. But on arrival, she finds that Amy has died.

Alone in the desolate town, and keen to repay its inhabitants for their kindness, she decides to open a bookshop: an avenue of escapism for the downcast residents. Bivald encourages us to look for adventure in both literature and life, and reminds us that ‘there’s always a person for every book, and a book for every person’.

The result is heartwarming: the town’s residents begin to draw strength and courage from the characters in their books, and rediscover the power of the imagination.

Charming, witty and light, this is perfect lazy-Sunday reading – or would be, had it been classified according to the unorthodox filing system of Broken Wheel’s bookshop.
Lilly Cox

Books-Jun19-SongOfTheSeaMaid-176SONG OF THE SEA MAID by Rebecca Mascull (Hodder & Stoughton, £17.99; off er price, £14.99)

A woman’s unconventional life choices are at the centre of this captivating historical novel.

Dawnay Price is a foundling who, after being educated by a philanthropist, goes on to become a scientist – rare for a woman in 18th-century Europe. In her mid-teens, Dawnay is told she must abandon her studies to find a husband, but the prospect of marriage and children does not appeal. She sails to Portugal, where she finds an undiscovered civilisation – and the repressed secrets of her own heart.

The slow-burning tale transports us from the slums of London to the tranquillity of the Mediterranean, soon to be disrupted by war.

With a plot rich in description, written in a straightforward style that reflects the no-nonsense attitude of its heroine, this is an inspiring read.
Lyndsy Spense


A Poet’s Pilgrimage

WALKING AWAY by Simon Armitage (Faber & Faber, £16.99; offer price, £13.99)

As fantasy walking partners go, I’m willing to bet that poet Simon Armitage would be high on many lists. His dry wit, off beat riffs and mildly curmudgeonly companionability are all in evidence here. But there’s also his handy ability to sing for his supper: a quick verse, a swift stanza or two, and hey presto! Offers of food and lodging are soon forthcoming.

Armitage’s adventures as a modern-day troubadour have already produced one bestseller, Walking Home (2012), in which the author busked along the Pennine Way. But then the Hudders eldborn Armitage was on home turf, whereas here he is relying on the kindness of strangers as he navigates the South West Coast Path.

It’s a journey of ups and downs,  guratively and literally (the valleys take a disastrous toll on Armitage’s back), full of gentle irony and colourful characters. A sand artist and a limpet expert crop up; there’s a coffee date with Dame Margaret Drabble and a night spent billeted in Boscastle’s Museum of Witchcraft. And there’s also a deeply felt tribute to Seamus Heaney, whose death Armitage learns of en route.

Even if hiking isn’t your thing, the hours spent in Armitage’s company are every bit as pleasurable as his numerous fans will have hoped.
Stephanie Cross


HIROSHIGE: One Hundred Famous Views Of Edo by Melanie Trede and Lorenz Bichler (Taschen, £12.99; off er price, £11.69)


The ukiyo-e tradition, developed in Japan between the 17th and 19th centuries, came to define how we think of Japanese art in the West. Meaning literally ‘pictures of the floating world’, it lavishly depicted the glitz, glamour and landscapes of Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) was one the finest artists of this genre. The series of woodblock prints reproduced here captures the city in all its vibrant and delicate beauty: tiny figures crossing a bridge in torrential rain, lace-like cherry blossom, busy streets and sumo wrestlers. His pictures went on to inspire generations of artists – in the West.



WHISPERING HOPE by Nancy Costello, Kathleen Legg, Diane Croghan, Marie Slattery, Marina Gambold and Steven O’Riordan (Orion, £14.99; off er price, £13.49)

This harrowing but important book tells thestories of five women who were confined in Ireland’s notorious Magdalene laundries during the 1950s-1970s.

Their ‘crimes’ ranged from having a baby out of wedlock to being orphaned. These state-supported institutions subjected their inmates to forced labour – and in many cases physical and psychological abuse.

A heinous remnant of Ireland’s history, the Magdalene laundries are a reminder that such inhumanity once lurked at the heart of society and was largely viewed as an acceptable form of punishment – and redemption.

Although scarred by their past, these women fought for justice and forged friendships that enabled them to move forward and have their voices heard. A courageous tale of human resilience.

ALL THE RAGE by AL Kennedy (Vintage, £8.99; off er price, £8.54)

The pitfalls of intimacy and the sheer difficulty of connecting with others are the palpably and at times arrhythmically beating heart of these finely crafted, deeply moving stories.

A young pair having an awkward, first-date lunch stare at each other across the abyss of their mutual incomprehension – and end up bridging it with a kiss. A couple tiptoes on the thin ice of near break-up during a foreign holiday. A woman contemplates the death of her much older lover while queuing at a bank.

Kennedy’s razorsharp prose cuts through the surface of these seemingly ordinary scenarios to reveal the myriad nuances of human interaction: romantic love in all its tenderness, foolhardiness and less palatable layers of anger and bitterness. An arresting collection that blends poetic imagery, raw emotion and cerebral insight.
Juanita Coulson

GOODBYE EAST END: An Evacuee’s Story by David Merron (Corgi, £6.99; off er price, £6.64)

This insightful memoir charts the author’s story as the son of a Jewish family evacuated from London’s East End to the country. Peppered with snatches of conversation, there is something of the novel about it. When Buckingham Palace was hit during the Blitz, the Queen Mother famously said, ‘I am glad we have been bombed. Now I can look the East End in the face.’

Merron’s account of his personal story is vivid, poignant and humorous.
Robin Dutt


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

AT THE BEACH THE BOOK OF LOST AND FOUND by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins, £7.99; off er price, £7.59)

Kate Darling rattles around the house where she was raised by her ballerina mother and adoptive grandmother. After their deaths she discovers a clue to her mother’s real parentage, and the novel follows her search and the intertwining tales of three generations. With beautiful descriptions of Corsica, wartime Paris and dreamy 1930s summers, this is a real page-turner.

IN THE CITY STROLLING THROUGH ROME by Mario Erasmo (IB Tauris, £12.99; off er price, £11.69)

This comprehensive and Classically driven guide is slightly misnamed. Only the extremely fit and energised are going to manage these ‘yomps’ without detouring into a trattoria en route. It is encyclopedic in its knowledge and full of enthusiasm for its subject, and completing these walks would be deeply satisfying. Still, when in Rome…

IN THE GARDEN THE PUMPKIN EATER by Penelope Mortimer (Penguin Classics, £8.99; off er price, £8.54)

First published in 1962, this is a scouring, deeply aff ecting read, charting a woman’s loss and subsequent finding of herself. Mrs Armitage (we never learn her first name) collapses with uncontrollable weeping while in Harrods. From that moment, her life and emotions spiral out of control as her carefully constructed worlds begin to shatter. An absorbing short novel that’s sure to grip.

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