Friday, 12 February 2016

Book Review: 12 February

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


books-peggyPeggy Guggenheim: The Shock Of The Modern by Francine Prose (Harvard University Press, £16.99; offer price, £14.99) Flamboyant, manipulative and eccentric, Peggy Guggenheim was one of the most colourful personalities of the 20th-century art world. This new biography explores her life, loves and obsessions. It reads like an encyclopedia of art-world luminaries: Max Ernst, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray – she championed them all.

Her outrageous private life has tended to overshadow her achievements as an art patron, dealer and discerning collector. She wrote about her hundreds of lovers in her scandalous memoirs, published in 1946. Prose speculates that losing her beloved father on the Titanic when she was 14 may have sent Guggenheim into ‘emotional shutdown’ and promiscuity. Art and romantic liaisons enabled her to deal with her demons.

Several of Guggenheim’s relatives went mad: an aunt conducted a love affair with an imaginary pharmacist, and an uncle survived on a diet of ice and charcoal before killing himself aged 56. Guggenheim loved to shock and her defiant sexuality helped create her art-world persona. Neither of her parents had paid her much attention – so this was one way of getting it. She was oblivious to slights and overlooked criticism (usually from men). This is an entertaining if not very analytical book that will help blow away your winter blues.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

books-summer-at-seaA SUMMER AT SEA by Katie Fforde (Century, £12.99; offer price, £10.99)
In yet another supremely engaging book from the doyenne of contemporary romance, a single, independent woman finds all her certainties challenged by the prospect and perils of new love. Emily, a midwife, spends a summer working as a cook on her pregnant friend Rebecca’s boat, sailing around Scotland’s Western Isles.

She meets local doctor Alasdair, and gets to know him and his daughter. She also helps to deliver Rebecca’s baby when they’re prevented from reaching a hospital. And when the time comes to leave, she’s torn between her feelings for Alasdair, her newfound love of Scotland and a promotion at home. This tale is light and entertaining, with the ideal mix of drama and happiness.

The reader is instantly drawn into the idyllic world of the ‘puffer’ steam boat, and Scotland makes for a suitably charming setting. But it is Fforde’s characters that give this book its irresistible emotional pull: Emily is warm and easy to like, while Alasdair takes the form of the handsome and slightly mysterious suitor. A thoroughly modern tale of love, career and family, perfect for a relaxing afternoon on the sofa. Rebecca Maxted


books-book-of-the-wekkIN OTHER WORDS by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
At the start of this brief, dual-language memoir, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jhumpa Lahiri confesses that she had no ‘need’ to learn Italian, to immerse herself in the language to such an extent that she even moved with her family from America to Rome. And yet it becomes increasingly clear that she was motivated by something more than mere whim. Born in India, Lahiri’s first language was Bengali. After her parents emigrated she learned English but continued to feel like a ‘linguistic exile’, her sense of estrangement compounded by the assumption – made on the basis of her name and appearance – that she was a ‘foreigner’ in America.

By learning Italian, Lahiri recognises that she is asserting her independence, making a bid to leave behind the heavy baggage that her mother and stepmother tongues carry with them. But it is her reflections on the opportunities that her new language affords her as an author that form perhaps the most fascinating part of this book. ‘How is it possible that when I write in Italian I feel both freer and confined, constricted? Maybe because in Italian I have the freedom to be imperfect… Maybe because from the creative point of view there is nothing so dangerous as security.’ Stephanie Cross


JAPANESE ART AND DESIGN: The Collections Of The Victoria And Albert Museum by Gregory Irvine (V&A Publishing, £25; offer price, £21.50)

The V&A holds the UK ’s largest permanent collection of Japanese art, displayed in its Toshiba Gallery, which was refurbished and reopened last November. This comprehensive and beautifully illustrated book showcases the collection’s impressive range, including objects from the 6th century to the present day.


Chapters are structured around key themes in Japanese heritage, such as religion and ritual, samurai culture, the tea ceremony and fashions from the Edo period. From delicate prints and silk screens to ornate lacquered boxes and sumptuous textiles, the high-quality images are a visual feast and source of inspiration.



NORA EPHRON: The Last Interview And Other Conversations by Nora Ephron (Melville House, £11.99; offer price, £10.49)
The late, great Nora Ephron was America’s best-loved screenwriter, with film credits including When Harry Met Sally and Julie & Julia – a ‘feminist with a funny bone’. Part of a series featuring literary and artistic luminaries, this thoughtfully edited book brings together four encounters at different stages of Ephron’s life, from her early days as rebel journalist to her final interview, published in The Believer shortly before her death in 2012. With razor-sharp wit and self-deprecating humour, she navigates topics from a freelance writer’s life to surviving and succeeding in an often spiteful, maledominated industry: ‘living well is the best revenge’. A fitting epitaph for an inspiring woman.
Juanita Coulson

THE MURDERED BANKER by Augusto De Angelis, translated by Jill Foulston (Pushkin Vertigo, £7.99; offer price, £7.49)
Translated into English for the first time, this is the gripping debut by Italy’s answer to Agatha Christie. Regarded as the father of Italian crime fiction, De Angelis blazed into his country’s literary scene in the 1930s, with a series featuring Inspector Carlo De Vincenzi (he later fell foul of Mussolini and was killed by a Fascist). Here, in his first outing, the cultured, urbane sleuth must unravel a mystery while facing a conflict of loyalties, as a heavily indebted stockbroker is found dead in an old friend’s apartment. Alive with period detail of 1930s Milan, and taut with psychological tension, this is a rediscovered gem that deserves a wider audience.


Add a touch of Scandi style and flavours to your cooking repertoire with these beautiful books. By Juanita Coulson


THE SCANDI KITCHEN by Bronte Aurell (Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
If you are a stranger to Scandinavian food you may think it’s all about meatballs and pickled herring – but this attractive introduction to the region’s cuisine, by the owner of London’s ScandiKitchen Cafe, shows there is so much more to it. Aurell celebrates its elegant simplicity and wholesomeness with 80 recipes, taking in pastries and bakes, savoury snacks, indulgent suppers, healthy salads and delicious puddings. She also writes vividly about traditional events in the Nordic calendar and the food that accompanies them, from crayfish parties to the Midsummer celebration – showing how the best way to a country’s heart is through its kitchen.

THE NORDIC COOKBOOK by Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon Press, £29.95; offer price, £26.95)
The celebrated chef from Sweden’s Fäviken restaurant takes us on a culinary tour of the Nordic regions in this beautifully illustrated cookbookcum- travelogue. The 700 recipes he collected during his travels through Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland and Norway, as well as his native Sweden, reflect each nation’s authentic cuisine. They are accompanied by stunning photography of the area’s landscapes and people, and interesting essays on its culinary history, ingredients and techniques – for total immersion in all things Nordic. A smorgasbord of delicious ideas, from Scandi staples like gravlax to a delicate rose-hip soup and a herring and pickled beetroot salad.

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