Friday, 15 January 2016

Book Review: 15 January

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


books-Wildes-WomenWILDE’S WOMEN : How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped By The Women He Knew by Eleanor Fitzsimons (Gerald Duckworth & Co, £20; offer price, £17)
Hailed as a gay icon and a genius wit, it is less well known that throughout his life Oscar Wilde was very popular with women. This is the first book to explore his friendships with actresses and society hostesses, whose literary soirées provided him with publicity and material for his work.

Luxury loving Wilde hated hunting, shooting and cards, preferring gossip, clothes, champagne and sensuality.

But Fitzsimons’s book presents a less decadent and superficial Wilde: a devoted husband and father alongside his complex and parallel gay life. He inherited his literary gifts from his bohemian, outspoken mother, Lady ‘Speranza’ Jane Wilde.

Her belief that a wife should overlook her husband’s ‘indiscretions’, particularly if he was ‘a genius’, helps explain Wilde’s later behaviour and choice of wife (Constance Lloyd, a feminist who remained ‘hugely supportive’ of him). A defender of gender equality, Wilde collaborated with many influential women, including socialite Lillie Langtry and actress Sarah Bernhardt, for whom he wrote Salome.

Even if you think you know all about Wilde, this highly entertaining book, packed with fascinating detail and anecdotes, will still surprise you.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

books-Dark-Matter-and-the-DDARK MATTER AND THE DINOSAURS: The Outstanding Interconnectedness Of The Universe by Lisa Randall (Bodley Head, £25; offer price, £21.50)
We are made of stars. The atoms forming everything on Earth were forged in the crucible of long-dead stars. But only very recently have scientists appreciated how events on Earth are influenced from the farthest reaches of the galaxy and beyond.

Over 64 tonnes of material, the equivalent of about 12 elephants, enters the atmosphere every day – 4,400 elephants a year, quite a herd. Most of this falls as dust particles from comets and asteroids, which reside mainly in the Oort Cloud – a massive graveyard of icy bodies in the coldest depths of the solar system, beyond Pluto.

Some of these bodies are very large indeed.

Under the gravitational pull of the galaxy, on occasion they can hit the Earth’s surface, causing widespread destruction and leading to the extinction of whole species, such as dinosaurs. In a whistlestop tour of modern physics, Randall attempts to link the extinction of the dinosaurs to the latest thinking on the source of the greatest mass in the universe – dark matter.

An ambitious undertaking that contains a few minor mistakes, but is still a fascinating read and as convincing as the arguments for dark matter itself.
Stephen Coulson


books-book-of-the-weekTHE OUTRUN by Amy Liptrot (Canongate, £14.99; offer price, £12.99)
Amy Liptrot is not your average nature writer. ‘I never saw myself as, and resist becoming, the wholesome “outdoors’ type”,’ she firmly states at the end of this compulsive and at times electrifying memoir. And yet at the age of 30 she found herself returning to her father’s farm on Orkney, the very place from which she had fled as a teenager, having shunned island life in favour of big-city glamour.

It was the latter, however, which was her downfall: in London, Liptrot’s hedonistic existence spiralled into full-scale alcoholism.

In The Outrun (the title refers to a rough pasture) Liptrot documents not just her experience of rehab, but also her daily struggle to overcome her craving for drink. She explores the roots of her addiction and comes to realise that island life can offer its own intoxications – wild swimming in freezing water, marvelling at the Northern Lights.

Yet this isn’t a contrived exercise in getting ‘back to nature’: Liptrot revels in modern technology and argues that it can in fact bring us closer to the natural world, citing as examples the Facebook alerts notifying her of orca sightings, or the Sky Map app that allows her to identify the constellations above her head.

Courageous and clear-sighted, this is a memorable debut.
Stephanie Cross


THE FABRIC OF INDIA by Rosemary Crill (V&A Publishing, £35; offer price, £30)

Tipu Sultan’s tent and an 18th-century temple hanging are among the important historical objects explored in this lavishly illustrated overview of textiles from the Indian subcontinent. But there is more to it than period masterpieces: from Mughal velvets to contemporary couture, it examines a rich textile heritage.


Specially commissioned photography showcases its unique blend of opulence, expression and highly disciplined skill – the weaving, embroidery, prints and use of colour that give Indian fabrics their distinct identity and make them worldwide objects of desire. If you missed the exhibition at the V&A, here’s your chance to catch up with these textile treasures. Juanita Coulson


Have the January blues hit yet? New Year resolutions already faltering? Our in-house agony aunt, Patricia Marie, picks two of the best and most uplifting new books for self-improvement.
A MINDFULNESS GUIDE FOR THE FRAZZLED by Ruby Wax (Penguin Life, £14.99; offer price, £13.49)
The comedienne, writer and mentalhealth campaigner shows us how to achieve calm in a hectic world. Drawing on her own experience of depression and a Masters degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, she offers an easy-tofollow, six-week course. Wax describes mindfulness as the most effective tool available for understanding yourself and others. Her passion and dedication to mental health are evident in every page. With advice for relationships, parents, children and teenagers, this gem of a read will point you towards a more contented way of life.

DETOX YOUR EGO by Steven Sylvester (Headline, £12.99; offer price, £10.99)
Psychologist Steven Sylvester’s inspiring book offers a unique approach to achieving your goals. He shares seven easy steps that will increase your understanding of your ego – the ‘natural defence system’ that is activated when you feel anxiety or fear – to help transform yourself. If you’re willing to enter a personal metamorphosis in the way you think, feel and act, I would encourage you to pick up this book. Although uncomfortable and challenging at times, it will motivate you to be the best that you can be. A perfect New Year’s catalyst to help you be freer, happier and more successful

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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
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
Martyn Colebrook

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