Friday, 18 September 2015

Book Reviews: 18 September

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


Books-Sept18-MoreLivesThanOne-176More Lives than One: The Extraordinary Life of Felix Dennis by Fergus Byrne (Ebury Press, £20; offer price, £16.50)
Outrageous, colourful and eccentric, multimillionaire publisher Felix Dennis first hit the headlines as co-editor of the counterculture magazine Oz, and was jailed for nine months in 1971 for charges of obscenity relating to a priapic Rupert Bear.

After his release from Wormwood Scrubs, Dennis went on to build his magazine empire. Journalist Fergus Byrne got to know him well and there isn’t a dull moment in this first authorised biography of the party-loving publisher, who died of cancer last year, aged 67.

Byrne takes us on a roller-coaster ride through the eccentricities and excesses of Dennis’s cocaine-fuelled life. His voracious sexual appetite could rival Caligula’s – he once boasted ‘14 naked hookers catering to my every whim’.

In later years Dennis quietened down, bought David Bowie’s Mustique home and became an environmentalist and poet, generously using his fortune to save woodlands.

A compulsively readable look back on a life led in full. Riveting and repulsive!
Rebecca Wallersteiner

Books-Sept18-Kauthar-176KAUTHAR by Meike Ziervogel (Salt Publishing, £8.99; offer price, £8.54)
A girl swings headdown from a monkey bar in a playground, fantasising about becoming a top gymnast, and takes a heart-stopping risk – an intriguing opening for this powerful novella about a Western woman who becomes a radicalised Muslim.

Lydia grows up in an unremarkable, middleclass family in Norfolk. She yearns to impress her emotionally distant father, an ex-army officer and accomplished athlete – but is hopeless at sport. She does have an intense sense of mysticism and disappointed by a life of drinking and a failed affair, she discovers Islam and embraces it with single-minded determination. She converts and takes the name Kauthar, meaning ‘river of abundance’ – a painful irony, given she is later unable to conceive. But her increasing fundamentalism ends up alienating her devout and sensible Iraqi husband, as they travel to Iraq in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Ziervogel’s strength lies in the incisive portrayal of a woman’s psychological journey. Lydia does not fall prey to brainwashing – she studies Arabic and the Qur’an independently in a blind attempt to fill a draining, spiritual void. The shift between first and third person as Lydia/Kauthar narrates the present and her pre-conversion past, though disconcerting, works well in conveying her fragmenting sense of self, leading to a grim denouement.

Visceral and compelling, Ziervogel draws on the traditions of Islamic and Christian mysticism, and on sharp observations of contemporary society, to give a deeply uncomfortable glimpse into the mind of a misfit-turned-extremist.
Juanita Coulson


Books-Sept18-BookOfTheWeek-176A study in survival
WHERE MY HEART USE D TO BEAT by Sebastian Faulks (Hutchinson, £20; offer price, £16.50)
As well known for his novels of wartime France as he is for his tributes to James Bond and Bertie Wooster, the supreme literary ventriloquist Sebastian Faulks has delivered another haunting, elegant meditation on love, memory and trauma. The story focuses on the life of English doctor Robert Hendricks, and it is partly set against the backdrop of the Second World War. Retraining after the horror of the trenches, Dr Hendricks practises in the study of life-inhibiting psychological events, and takes a sabbatical in Italy to write up his studies. His recollections and life thereafter become a sequence of encounters that border on emotional engagements, but from which he withdraws, seemingly in self-preservation, to remain ‘an habitué of loneliness’.

Fast forward to the 1980s and Hendricks receives a mysterious invitation from neuroscientist Dr Pereira and embarks on a journey to the southern Mediterranean, where his own recollections will be challenged and questioned.

Faulks attempts, with limited success, to detail the mundane – yet without question his strength remains the grand canvasses of the war and the flinch-inducing proximity with which he depicts its casualties. The carefully researched detail fits well with the psychological intricacies that form the basis for this fascinating character study.
Martyn Colebrook


100 INTERIORS AROUND THE WORLD by Angelika Taschen (Taschen, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
Who can resist a chance to take a sneak peek into some of the most original and beautiful homes on every continent? From clean lines and minimalist concrete in Berlin to bold colours with an oriental flavour in Hong Kong and a blend of period details in London, this exciting visual journey takes us as far as Argentina and Morocco.


Images by leading interiors photographers showcase how our desire to express ourselves through our living spaces takes shape in different cultures. A brilliant source of inspiration for your next refurb, this is a high-quality book at an affordable price.

Books Sept18-Paperbacks-590

PRIVATE VIEWS by Frederic Raphael (Peter Owen Publishers, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
Full of twists and turns, Frederic Raphael’s novel is a darkly erotic love story about a mysterious artist, Katya Lowell.

Dedicated to his daughter Sarah, an artist who died aged 41, the book has a painting of hers on the cover. Beautiful and cool, Katya attracts obsessive lovers: Aristocrat banker Charlie Marsden and multimillionaire from Essex Jarvis Green. But instead she is drawn to depraved low-life predators, who have no interest in her art.

Original but also dark and disturbing, it perfectly captures the decadence of the 1970s London art world.

THE WINSPEARE LOT by Pamela Howarth (TSL Publications, £8.99; no offer price)
In 1945, the 12th Baronet of Winspeare Hall is forced to adapt in order to keep his ancestral home: he opens up the estate to all Winspeare kin from far and wide.

Polly, an orphan born in 1972 and adopted into the Winspeare fold, records the progression of the family. The influx of characters in the opening chapters is a little overwhelming, but you will learn to love them all for their flaws and peculiarities.

This charming novel grapples with the difficulties of family ties formed as a result of Baronet Winspeare’s social experiment. An endearing read.
Lilly Cox


More than pretty pictures, every week we will be casting a culinary and critical eye over the new batch of cookery books. By Victoria Clark
Kenko Kitchen by Kate Bradley (Hardie Grant Books, £20; offer price, £18)
Kenko is Japanese for health and this book is a paean to a cleaner vegan lifestyle free from the gutclogging, lethargy-inducing foods we all consume daily. With recipes ranging from the overtly health conscious (macrobiotic balancing bowl), to a vegan low-carb, dairy-free, low-sugar banoffee pie, this book attempts to demystify veganism and promote a more mindful approach to what we eat. Sadly, unless one has already made the mental leap, the white flour, refined sugar route still looks more tempting – egg-and-cream-free lemon tart? The substitute ingredients (lucuma, maca?) require an investigative level of shopping. A book for the brave.

The Royal Heritag e Cookb ook by The Hon Sarah Macpherson (The History Press, 15; offer price, £13.50)
At the other end of the cookery spectrum lies this book replete with recipes for groaning roasts and creamy, eggy, sugary puddings. Light lunches include chicken and leek pie, salmon and oyster pie and rabbit pie and just go to show how food tastes have changed over the centuries. Drawing upon manuscripts found in a box at Lacock Abbey, Macpherson reveals old royal favourites (sirloin and apple and apricot pie, Charles II ), and the dishes that fed a household in the years 1685-1745. Until 20 years ago many would still seem familiar, but times have changed and this book is more likely to be a curiosity than a family favourite.

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