Friday, 08 January 2016

Book Review: 8 January

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

OUT NOW

books-gothic-tourismGothic Tourism by Emma McEvoy (Palgrave Macmillan, £60; offer price, £55) From the London Dungeon and Madame Tussauds to Alton
Towers and Alnwick Castle, this is a darkly fascinating spin round the strange appeal of gothic tourism – visiting sites for their terrifying, ghostly or gory connotations. It is also an accessible and lucid history of how the pleasures of the gothic lie as much in visitors seeking to be scared and thrilled as it does in the material culture of books, films and TV shows.

It is a gripping story, from Horace Walpole’s famous ‘castle’ at Strawberry Hill, a ‘real life’ Castle of Otranto, where he delighted in giving his guests a vertiginous turn – by way of the Victorians’ passion for perambulating spectres and spooky locations – to our contemporary throngs of ghost-walks, haunted attractions and scare rides.

Nowadays, a ghostly visitant means a landlord can charge extra for a room and, as McEvoy concludes, the gothic is still a surprisingly integral aspect of British tourism.
Steve Barfield





books-napoleons-wifeNAPOLEON’S OTHER WIFE: The Story Of Marie-Louise, Duchess Of Parma, The Lesser Known Wife Of Napoleon Bonaparte by Deborah Jay (Rosa’s Press, £14.99; offer price, £12.99)
Although she was married to one of history’s most famous men, Marie-Louise de Habsburg-Lorraine, the eldest child of the Habsburg Emperor, is now largely unknown. Napoleon’s second wife has been overshadowed by his infamously tempestuous relationship with Josephine.

When he’d had enough of her adultery and extravagance, he divorced her and married Marie-Louise to secure peace between France and Austria. Following in the footsteps of her tragic great-aunt Marie- Antoinette, Marie- Louise left Vienna for Paris aged 18. She found Napoleon romantic and loving.

Theirs was a happy marriage and from 1810 until Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814 she was Empress of France and bore him a son, who briefly became Napoleon II. But Marie-Louise was eclipsed by Josephine because she didn’t follow Napoleon into exile. After his death, she ruled the Duchy of Parma, where her portrait still hangs in many houses, next to the Pope’s. She went on to have many lovers, two further marriages and three children. Her subjects overlooked her colourful private life as she was a good ruler, defending women’s rights and funding schools and hospitals.

A compelling debut historical biography that reads like a novel, with lively opening chapters. It restores Marie-Louise to her rightful place in history.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

BOOK OF THE WEEK

books-book-of-the-weekDANCING ON THE OUTSKIRTS by Shena Mackay (Virago, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
The author of 15 works of fiction, Shena Mackay is – as this collection of short stories confirms – a national treasure. Funny and sympathetic, she writes of forgotten poets and faded celebs, her magpie eye seizing delightedly on the tinsel and tat of lives that have passed their peak.

Comic gems abound, such as The Day Of The Gecko, in which a publisher’s patience is tried to the limit by her brazen young assistant; or Family Service, in which a harried mother endures the trials of a typical Sunday, from the bombsite of the family breakfast table to a laddered pair of tights. But elsewhere opportunities are missed and the march of time proves merciless.

Again and again, however, the reader is brought up short by images that surprise and beguile: sea horses in a pet shop, for instance, are ‘as ancient and mysterious as fragments of sculpture found after centuries in the ocean’, while plane trees are rendered ‘dappled benign giraffes’ by the gilding of an autumn sun.

These are not new stories – the most recent date from 2013 and a number have been broadcast on Radio 4 or drawn from previous collections. But the delight that they offer is, like Mackay’s writing, continually fresh.
Stephanie Cross

COFFEE TABLE BOOK

KBEJEWELLED TREASURES: THE ALTHANI COLLECTION by Susan Stronge (V&A Publishing, £25; offer price, £22.50)
Star-rating-4-stars-590

This glittering, luxurious book gives a close-up of 100 jewelled and enamel objects from one private collection, exploring themes of tradition and modernity in Indian jewellerymaking. Feast your eyes on everything from Mughal jades to intricately carved daggers, while learning about their origins in the Mughal and Hindustani imperial courts.

books-coffee-table-book

The author also examines India’s infl uence on modern European jewellery, from Cartier’s early 20th-century avant-garde designs to contemporary pieces by JAR. With stunning photography and insightful essays, this is a must for jewellery lovers. And if you’d like to see the jewels in all their splendour, the exhibition of the same title is at the V&A until 28 March.
JC

PAPERBACKS

books-paperbacks

THE NATURAL HISTORY OF SELBORNE by Gilbert White, edited by Anne Secord (OUP, £8.99); offer price, £8.54)
The 18th century was a golden age of nature writing, and this timely reissue of White’s infl uential classic is a prime example. Written as a series of letters over two decades, it chronicles his observation of animal behaviour and seasonal changes in his rural Hampshire parish of Selborne, south of Alton. As fresh and conversational in style as correspondence between friends, but elegantly and skilfully executed, it is easy to see why it has inspired writers from Darwin to Virginia Woolf. With contemporary illustrations, a new introduction and an appendix charting responses by naturalists and writers over two centuries, this scholarly edition is also an invitation to slow down and pay attention to our natural surroundings. The perfect balm for our hectic, often unexamined urban lives.
Juanita Coulson

HIS MONKEY WIFE by John Collier (Daunt Books, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
First published in 1930, this classic satire of British society and the modern independent woman has been unjustly overlooked. It truly is a rediscovered gem. Collier’s prose is complex and descriptive, but at the same time lively and colourful. On the surface, this may appear to be a rather strange novel about an explorer who marries his female chimpanzee – but Collier artfully manages to make that unlikely set-up feel plausible. Emily (said chimpanzee) has been written with such humility and intelligence that she becomes a believable and relatable character. Her antics are often absurd, but her ‘humanity’ shines through. Brimming with wit, this is a fantastic novel.
Lilly Cox

THE LADY'S RECIPE READS

More than pretty pictures, every week we will be casting a culinary and critical eye over the new batch of cookery books. By Juanita Coulson

books-recipe-reads

A YEAR IN CHEESE by Alex and Leo Guarneri, with recipes by Alessandro Grano (Frances Lincoln, £20; offer price, £17)
Brought to you by the team behind artisan cheese shop Androuet (established in Paris in 1909, with a branch in London’s foodie mecca Spitalfields since 2009) this brilliant recipe book introduces the idea of cheese as seasonal produce. It’s all about provenance, grazing cycles and maturing times, with certain cheeses being at their best at different times of the year. Yes, it ticks all the hipster buzzword boxes, but the recipes are inventive, accessible and delicious – using cheeses you can actually find in shops (and if you get stuck there is always the Androuet fromagerie). Comfort food of the highest order.

GUITTARD CHOCOLATE COOKBOOK by Amy Guittard (Chronicle Books, £15.99; offer price, £13.99)
Guittard, San Francisco’s oldest continuously family-owned chocolatiers, are also all about provenance and sustainability: single-origin bars for baking and eating, fair-trade initiatives for farmers. The author is the great-great granddaughter of the company’s founder, Frenchman Etienne Guittard, and her passion for artisan chocolate and cookery are infectious. The mouth-watering recipes are ideally suited to the home baker. For more sophisticated confections there is a chef’s chapter, by resident pastry chef Donald Wressell, and in the toppings section, the most effective ganache recipe I’ve ever come across. Heavenly.

Tweet us your recipe reads @TheLadyMagazine using #ladyrecipereads


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Set in the same
uncanny universe as his
novel The Bone Clocks,
Mitchell’s novella takes
us to a world where the
boundaries between life
and death, mortality
and immortality, are
not so much trespassed
upon as trampled over
with gusto.
It begins in 1979,
with a boy called
Nathan and his mother,
both on Valium, visiting
the house of the title:
accessed through a
shabby dark alley and
an iron door with no
handle and too
grand for its
location, it is
both enticing
and ominous.
The narrative
then moves in
nine-year
increments until
a shocking
conclusion around
Halloween 2015.
Home to sinister
twins with a predatory
strategy for immortality,
the house is haunted by
nightmarish visions and
the ghosts of ‘guests’
who are summoned
there every nine years…
never to emerge again.
A sequence of
unexplained events
attracts the attention
of Detective Inspector
Gordon Edmonds,
‘local crank’ Fred Pink
and a veritable tableau
of eccentrics.
For too long David
Mitchell has been
known as the ‘author of
Cloud Atlas’. Hereafter
it should be ‘author of
Slade House’, given the
marvellously horrific,
sharp and concise
masterpiece he has
delivered. Its brevity
should not lead the
reader to underestimate
just how much punch
Mitchell’s prose packs.
His fiction is
intoxicating and his
ideas are hauntingly
vampiric.
Martyn Colebrook



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