Friday, 07 August 2015

Book Reviews: 7 August

OUT NOW

Books-Aug07-Inglorious-176INGLORIOUS: Conflict In The Uplands by Mark Avery (Bloomsbury, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
The ‘glorious’ 12th of August traditionally marks the start of the grouse-shooting season. But in 2014, it also followed the first ‘Hen Harrier Day’. This is a tale of those two birds – prey and predator – and much more besides.

As a former RSPB insider, Avery is unsurprisingly against grouse shooting. More surprising is the revelation that this traditional country pursuit would be economically unviable if hen harriers weren’t also (illegally) slaughtered. But, argues Avery, the routine killing of a protected species is only the tip of the iceberg: the intensive management of grouse moors also releases carbon through the destruction of peat bogs and increases flood risks.

Avery is not afraid to ruffle feathers, but his unapologetically polemical book also happens to be utterly fascinating, whether he is describing the hen harrier’s ‘skydance’ or charting the evolution of conservation policy in the UK.

Pacy and passionate, this is nature writing that insists you sit up and take note.
Stephanie Cross







Books-Aug07-OtherSideOfTheWorld-176The Other Side Of The World by Stephanie Bishop (Tinder Press, £16.99; offer price, £13.99)
Chokingly sad in parts, this novel grapples with the emotionally charged notions of home, parenthood and marriage. It begins in Cambridge in 1963, where young mother Charlotte is exhausted and apathetic, struggling with her new role. Her idealistic husband believes a promotional flyer suggesting a move to Australia will solve his wife’s misery and give the family a new beginning – but Charlotte feels divided.

Torn between nostalgic longing and obedience to her husband, Charlotte sets sail for Australia with her family, towards a new life that will ‘bring out the best [in them]’. Bishop’s prose is stylish, pacy and incredibly visual, making it impossible to put the book down. Her descriptions pulse with feeling, allowing the reader to experience Charlotte’s increasing desperation and paralysing isolation.

A tender portrayal of the power of memory, the pull of place and the fragility of family relationships, this is thoroughly enjoyable.
Lilly Cox







Books-Aug07-KellySisters-176The Kelly Sisters by Maureen Lee (Orion, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
Maureen Lee never fails to impress, and her latest novel is no exception. When three young sisters are plucked from 1920s Dublin by their father Bernie Kelly with the promise of a new life in Liverpool, they couldn’t be more excited. Little do they know, however, that things are about to get complicated.

When Bernie, who is rumoured to be involved in a string of illicit dealings, suddenly ships the family to New York, the girls’ world is shaken. To make matters worse, he vanishes during the crossing and is presumed dead. The three sisters are left alone and thrown head first into a new, exotic life in America with only their uncle for support. Will they thrive in the big city, or will they find themselves being escorted back to Ireland in handcuffs?

An intriguing period novel that sparkles with Irish charm, adventure and wonder.
Amelia White










BOOK OF THE WEEK

Books-Aug07-TheParrots-176Stirring the nest
THE PARROTS by Alexandra Shulman (Fig Tree, £14.99; offer price, £12.99)
The editor-in-chief of British Vogue’s second novel is set in fashionable London society. But far from a frothy fashion-fest, it is an incisive commentary on life in the capital today – its changing demographics, the clash between the traditionally wealthy and the new super-rich.

Katherine, a society calligrapher, appears to have it all. With a rock-solid marriage to art-gallery owner Rick and a late-teenage son she adores, her life is a whirl of lavish holidays, exhibition openings and stylish supper parties. But their comfortable world is sent into a tailspin with the arrival of glamorous siblings Matteo and Antonella, troubled offspring of an Italian fashion dynasty, and Olga, the diamond-hard wife of a Russian oligarch.

As illicit liaisons develop and secrets are spitefully spilt, the multi-stranded narrative unfolds at a well-timed pace towards a shocking denouement. And all the while, Katherine’s friend Flo, a feisty Irish academic who has opted out of the rat race, acts as a one-woman Greek chorus, commenting wryly on the main players’ skewed perspectives.

A shrewd observer of her social milieu, Shulman can shift nimbly between insider knowledge and an outsider’s critical eye. Her characters, though not necessarily likeable, are always compelling, and her pared-down prose has all the clean, unobtrusive elegance of an Armani jacket.
Juanita Coulson

COFFEE TABLE BOOK

Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years by Astrid Franse and Michelle Morgan (The History Press, £25; offer price, £22.50)
Books-Aug07-CoffeeTable--stars-590
This beautiful tome tells the story of Marilyn Monroe’s modelling career at Hollywood’s famous Blue Book agency. Featuring previously unpublished photographs, and drawing on newly discovered letters and documents, it explores the rise of an ambitious young woman under the guidance of Emmeline Snively, head of the agency, who kept a record of her client during their professional relationship and beyond.

Books-Aug07-CoffeeTable-590

This archive was purchased by Astrid Franse, and she and Michelle Morgan have produced a unique book that is a tribute not only to Monroe, but to Miss Snively too. Lovingly executed with stunning photographs, it is a must-have for fans.
Lyndsy Spence

PAPERBACKS
Books-Aug07-Paperbacks-590

KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST by J Ryan Stradal (Quercus, £14.99; offer price, £13.49)
Eva Thorvald is an enigma – and a brilliant chef. Shaped by her love for her father and an obsessive fascination with food, she rises to the top of her culinary game. But the road is not easy: while it brings Eva into contact with the great and the good, it may also bring back the mother who abandoned her as a child. A quirky and sensory novel, this will leave you hungry for more.
Helena Gumley-Mason

SECRETS OF THE ITALIAN GARDENER by Andrew Crofts (Red Door Publishing, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
An English ghostwriter is commissioned to tell the story of Mo, a wealthy dictator in a violent Middle Eastern country. Cocooned in Mo’s world, he strikes up a friendship with Lou, the palace’s Italian gardener. But all is not as it seems and Lou may know more than he is letting on. Under the shadow of a looming rebellion, and while coming to terms with personal tragedy, the ghostwriter has little time before the cracks in the dictatorship start to show. This fast-paced narrative will have you gripped from start to finish.
HG-M

THE LADY'S HOLIDAY READS

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

Books-Aug07-HolidayReads-590

AT THE BEACH

AN EVIL MIND by Chris Carter (Simon & Schuster, £7.99; offer price, £7.59)
Robert Hunter is a homicide detective with the LAPD, but when the decapitated heads of two women are found in the boot of a car following a freak accident, he is seconded to the FBI to interrogate the suspect – his old room-mate from Stanford. Fast-paced, violent and shocking, this will keep you hooked. Just don’t make eye contact with the stranger on the lounger next to you…

IN THE CITY
A BODY IN BARCELONA by Jason Webster (Chatto & Windus, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
Chief Inspector Max Cámara is caught up in a violent plot featuring anarchists, Catalan independence and a mysterious organisation that wants a united Spain. With echoes from the Civil War looming large, Cámara is entangled in a much bigger web when asked to investigate the murder of the young son of a supermarket magnate. Fascinating.

IN THE GARDEN
UP AGAINST THE NIGHT by Justin Cartwright (Bloomsbury, £18.99; offer price, £15.99)
Frank McAllister is a South African now living in London, where he has essentially become an Englishman. After his divorce, he takes a restorative holiday in Cape Town with his new lover and his daughter, fresh from rehab. A story where emotions are inescapably linked to the land of one’s birth and paradise is spoilt by the worm in the bud. Brilliant.

Tweet us your holiday reads @TheLadyMagazine using hashtag #ladyholidayreads

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