Friday, 14 August 2015

Book Reviews: 14 August

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


Books-Aug14-Moving-176Moving by Jenny Eclair (Sphere, £13.99; offer price, £12.49)
Edwina is selling her London family home, which holds a whirl of memories as well as clanking skeletons in the cupboard. Her own recollections include her two marriages, the shaky lives of her twins and her dislike of her stepson Lucas, who has his own tale to tell. Then there is the journey of would-be actress Fern, privileged but self-questioning, whose formative years divided between Manchester, as a student, and her home town of Godalming will affect her life forever.

From the beginning there is no stopping this story. Real enjoyment comes from the eclectic cast of characters, who are amusing, unpredictable, troubled and classconscious. They appear over several decades, an aspect that Eclair handles somewhat casually, preferring to shape a personality in order to sum up a time rather than go into period detail.

She is a tremendously lively novelist, able to juxtapose easy humour and forceful emotion perfectly in a tiny paragraph. Prospective readers mustn’t be fooled by the rather bland title: a real treat awaits.
Philippa Williams

Books-Aug14-BlackEyedSusans-176Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin (Michael Joseph, £12.99; offer price, £10.99)
It is 1995 and Tessie, a confident teenager and gifted track athlete, disappears while running. She is found alive in a mass grave in a field of black-eyed Susans – a yellow flower with a black centre. With only fragmentary memories of that night, Tessie has a long and painful journey ahead. Meanwhile, Terrell Darcy Goodwin has been arrested for the serial murders and Tessie’s abduction, and his trial looms.

Cutting to the present day, Tessie finds the flowers planted outside her house and fears that her abductor is still at large; the wrong man may be in jail as a result of her testimony. When an anti-death-penalty lawyer attempts to get a stay of execution for Goodwin, her past and present collide.

A brilliant novel that explores the psychology of the victim, the cruelty of the death penalty and the  miracles of forensic science, whilst remaining an utterly gripping read.
Victoria Clark


Books-Aug14-BookOfTheWeek-176Anatomy of a phobia
EVERYTHING IS TEETH by Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner (Jonathan Cape, £16.99; offer price, £13.99)
In 2013, Wyld was named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists. This, however, is not a conventional work of prose fiction, but a semi-autobiographical graphic novel drawing on the author’s childhood terror of sharks.

Wyld’s early life was split between south London and coastal New South Wales in Australia, and it is in the latter that her book opens – a place of mangrove-lined rivers, redolent of ‘eucalyptus, watermelon and filter mud’. In this febrile atmosphere, six-year-old Wyld is mesmerised by the dangers lurking beneath the water’s surface, and as fascinated as she is appalled by accounts of shark attacks. But as her narrative progresses, it becomes clear that her phobia serves to embody other, less tangible anxieties that swirl around her and her family.

The evocative potency of Wyld’s writing is matched by her restraint, allowing the frames of Joe Sumner’s often startling illustrations to fill with all that is unsaid. But what really marks this book out is the way in which it speaks not just to the fears we grow out of, but to those we grow into – and which, ultimately, we have no choice but to confront. If you have never read a graphic novel before, this powerful and moving example is the perfect place to start.
Stephanie Cross


SHOES: Pleasure & Pain by Helen Persson (V&A Publishing, £25; offer price, £22.50)
Accompanying the exhibition at the V&A, this gorgeous book celebrates the enduring allure of shoes throughout history. Iconic shoes from films and embellished couture heels sit alongside statement pieces worn by Persian and Indian rulers of centuries past. Paininflicting creations have a long pedigree, too: from the raised chopines of medieval Italy to the extreme heels on today’s catwalks.


Essays by various authors explore the relationship between shoes and identity, power and sexuality. With high-quality images of the exhibits, plus designers’ sketches, depictions of footwear in art and fashion photography, this is a visual feast for shoe lovers.
Juanita Coulson


The Silent Ones by William Brodrick (Little, Brown, £13.99; offer price, £12.59)
The sixth novel in the Father Anselm series tackles the sticky subject of sexual abuse in the Church. An anonymous man asks Anselm to find a missing priest. While Anselm’s detecting has made some in the priory uncomfortable, his Prior still sees that he has an obligation to use his talents.

In the search for Father Littlemore, Anselm uncovers the abuse of a boy whose family Littlemore had been counselling. But the victim refuses to speak and there is no way to either clear Littlemore or convict him. Anselm navigates this dark terrain with his usual gentle yet erudite skill, and a conspiracy is revealed that shakes his convictions to the core. Another masterpiece.

Spinster: Making A Life Of One’s Own by Kate Bolick (Corsair, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
Forty-something New York-based writer Kate Bolick could have married, but instead consciously decided to stay single. Attractive and party-loving, she finds her relationships tend to last six months before mounting pressure causes violent explosions. Her book challenges the idea that a woman needs marriage to be fulfilled, and takes an intriguing look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single, as well as its negative side (no one to help with tough decisions or hug you when you feel blue). She draws inspiration from literary heroines such as Edith Wharton and Maeve Brennan, who challenged traditional roles.

If you feel indifferent about the pram in the hall and often crave to be alone, this book will help you feel less guilty. A much-needed facelift for spinsterhood.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

Between Gods by Alison Pick (Tinder Press, £13.99; offer price, £12.59)
Twenty-something writer Alison Pick is engaged and battling depression. Determined to reconnect with her Jewish ancestry, she unearths the tragic fates of her relatives during the Holocaust. Besieged by setbacks in her conversion to Judaism, she weathers the frustration with wit and humour. A gripping memoir of a woman who sets out to discover her heritage and finds her identity along the way.
Lyndsy Spence


Our pick of this summer’s essential reading, no matter where you are enjoying a well-deserved break. By Victoria Clark
THE WAITING GAME by Jessica Thompson (Coronet, £7.99; offer price, £7.59)
Nessa’s husband Jake is on tour in Afghanistan, while she struggles with her teenage daughter and unrewarding job. When Jake’s patrol is hit by a mine and only he survives, she is even more desperate for him to come home. But when Jake disappears between his flight and the family meeting point, there is only Will, Nessa’s childhood friend, to support her…

READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN by Azar Nafisi (Penguin Classics, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
This is an absorbing book, part memoir, part literary criticism. When she resigns from her university post, Nafisi starts a reading group in her house as an act of defiance. Within the covers of books, she and her students find liberation and friendship – and a fellowship that transcends the oppressive world of the Ayatollahs. Wonderful and uplifting.

WORD PLAY by Gyles Brandreth (Coronet, £14.99; offer price, £12.99)
For any lover of the English language this is a must, and those who aren’t will soon become addicts. Filled with all sorts of oddities – from lipograms (you’ll have to read it to find out) to telegrams, anagrams to rhyming slang – it is a treasure trove of facts and debunked fictions surrounding English. A book you will happily dip into and out of all summer, improving your knowledge and impressing your friends!

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