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BOOK REVIEWS: 10 July

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

OUT NOW 

Books-Jul10-DeeperThanIndigo-176Deeper than Indigo by Jenny Balfour Paul (Medina Publishing, £22.95; offer price, £21.95)
Central to this outstanding book’s conception is the forgotten Victorian explorer and indigo planter Thomas Machell, and the remarkable effect his journals and sketches had on the author and indigo expert Jenny Balfour Paul.

By chance, Machell’s trail causes him to witness a number of significant turning points for the British Empire, including the First Opium War and the Indian Mutiny. But as well as tracing Machell’s life, Balfour Paul also creates a narrative of her own, often highlighting bizarre coincidences with her travels as a carefree teenager.

Through the process of her research, Balfour Paul develops a deep sense of friendship and even love for the late explorer. She approves of the way in which he isn’t the stereotypical Victorian Englishman in the colonies.

Towards the end, the book takes a surprising turn, which is sure to leave a lasting impression on the reader. A complex and painstakingly researched story.
Alastair Brent






Books-Jul10-TheDress-176The Dress by Kate Kerrigan (Head of Zeus, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
From the bright lights of 1950s New York to fast-paced, present-day London, Kerrigan’s novel charts the loves and lives of three women across generations. Her protagonists are connected by their shared passion for a dress so legendary, it is said to be unmatched in beauty and workmanship.

Lily, a young fashion blogger in London, is spurred by personal tragedy to recreate a mysterious dress from 60 years ago. Joy is a delicate and damaged socialite in 1950s New York, who commissions the unique piece of couture in a last-ditch attempt to salvage her marriage – and her sanity. Honor is a homesick and talented seamstress, whose handcrafted creations conjure up the wild landscape of the west of Ireland. All of them realise too late that the dress is as dangerous as it is beautiful.

The interwoven narratives and beautifully realised characterisation make for a captivating read.
Helena Gumley-Mason







BOOK OF THE WEEK

Books-Jul10-BookOfTheWeek-176Worldwide web of secrets 
Something To Hide by Deborah Moggach (Chatto & Windus, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
Secrecy masters rational thinking in this account of doubt breeding doubt. Yet such situations can end surprisingly. Deborah Moggach is never predictable in her latest novel: she keeps it nail-biting all the way through.

This is the story of four women: Petra, Lorrie, Li-Jing and Bev. Spanning four continents, it is about the deceiver and the deceived, and the endless accompanying emotions. All of the situations described are quite exotically complicated, but they are eerily plausible – although perhaps less so when taken together. Gradually, the links between them become plain. From the longing for a baby in China to underhand goings-on in Africa, a most complex chain is formed.

Behind the secrets are behaviours ranging from mysterious elusiveness to downright treachery. And, of course, some of the characters are largely dislikable. Yet Moggach evokes a strange sympathy for them. They are vulnerable in their respective set-ups, and act out of a mixture of determination and desperation. Their ulterior motives are not always cruel. But the constant question is: how far will they go?

It is a tense and thrilling plot. Moggach keeps us guessing, and reminds us that the intention to hide something – or, in turn, to find it out – can really know no bounds.
Philippa Williams


COFFEE TABLE BOOK

Albertus Seba: Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities by Irmgard Müsch, Jes Rust and Rainer Willmann (Taschen, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)

Books-Jul10-CoffeeTable-02-590

In his lifetime, Amsterdam-based pharmacist Albertus Seba (1665-1736) won international fame as a collector of natural specimens. His seminal work, the Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities, is one of the most important natural history books of all time, with detailed illustrations of every item in his collection.

Books-Jul10-CoffeeTable-590

The exquisite reproductions showcased here are from a rare, handcoloured original manuscript. Both scientifically accurate and vibrantly attractive, they depict exotic plants, insects, colourful birds and butterflies, and species that are now extinct. It is an intriguing snapshot of a lifetime’s obsession – and of natural science in one of its most fascinating periods.
JC


PAPERBACKS

Books-Jul10-Paperbacks-590

Peking Picnic by Ann Bridge (Daunt Books, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
As a well-travelled diplomat’s wife, Ann Bridge had a real knowledge of colonial China and its inhabitants. Set in 1930s Peking, her enthralling first novel captures the breathtaking beauty of the Chinese landscape in spring and the diplomatic whirl of cocktails and picnic parties. Little happens for 150 pages, but then the group are taken hostage by murderous bandits and unsuitable love affairs flourish.

Laura Leroy, the pearls-and-breecheswearing heroine, reminds me of Vita Sackville-West. She misses her children, back in school in England, and although ‘fond’ of her husband, the British attaché, she considers taking a lover for excitement. Though it has an unlikely plot, I enjoyed this novel, which captures the delicious ambience and decadence of a vanished era.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never would Ha ve Let You Go by Judy Chicurel (Tinder Press, £7.99; offer price, £7.59)
Comanche Street on Long Island has been home for Katie for three years, and in that time she has watched the world as through someone else’s eyes. As the summer days grow longer, Katie senses the future may be far closer than she and her young friends anticipated. Illegal abortions, drugs and the return of a childhood sweetheart from Vietnam make her realise that change is not always for the better. Chicurel’s novel has its dark moments, but the overriding sentiment is one of acceptance, resilience and the enduring power of friendship. A coming of- age tale with a haunting quality.
HG-M 

Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss (Granta Books, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
Contrasting cultures and a tested relationship are at the heart of Moss’s fourth novel, a sequel to Bodies Of Light. Newlyweds Ally and Tom are separated for six months: while he sails to Japan in search of better fortunes, she becomes a resident physician at a women’s asylum in Cornwall. Will their marriage survive such different life experiences? Presenting a beautiful contrast between the landscapes, traditions and food of late-19thcentury Japan and England, this is an absorbing read with an unconventional plotline.
Amelia White


Holiday Reads

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

                                  Books-Jul10-HolidayReads-590
AT THE BEACH

The Quality Of Silence by Rosamund Lupton (Little, Brown, £14.99; offer price, £13.49)
Yasmin and her profoundly deaf daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska to join her wildlife photographer husband. They are met by police who tell them he has died in a freak fire, which has destroyed the Inupiat village where he was staying. Numbed with disbelief, Yasmin embarks upon a terrifying journey to find him. Gripping, bleak and sensitive.

IN THE CITY
How To Be French by Alex Quick (Old Street Publishing, £8.99; offer price, £8.54)
If you are heading for Paris this will guide you through the more eccentric aspects of French life. From their elaborate gesticulation to their layered slang, this book has an entry on everything that separates France and Britain, except the Channel. This manual may not turn you into an authentic Frenchman, but it will allow you to enjoy a more soigné visit.

IN THE GARDEN
The Summer Of Kim Novak by Håkan Nesser (World Editions, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
With his mother dying and his father working long hours, 14-year-old Erik needs looking after in the summer holidays. Thus he finds himself in his family’s lakeside shack with his friend Edmund and his older brother Henry. Isolated and hormonal, the two invest heavily in Henry’s affair with Ewa, a Kim Novak lookalike. A suspenseful novel, combining rites of passage with murder.

Tweet us your holiday reads @TheLadyMagazine using hashtag #ladyholidayreads



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