Friday, 22 April 2016

Book reviews: 22 April

The Lady reviews of the latest books to buy or download


books-cabinet-curiositiesA CABINET OF PHILOSOPHICAL CURIOSITIES by Roy Sorensen (Profile Books, £14.99; offer price, £12.99)
As the title suggests this is a dizzying, surprising and amusing compendium of fascinating and odd examples of logic that can be found outside of the standard fare of philosophy classes. Its territory is the bafflement produced by some of the greatest human minds as they have investigated the nature of reality.

The colourful cast of characters includes Plato, Aristotle and various Greeks, through the great philosophers of the Middle Ages and into the modern period of Descartes, Hume, Kant and our contemporaries.

While it may be gently humorous in its tone, it is secretly serious in its intention to illustrate philosophical thinking, insofar as all of the paradoxes, riddles, aporias, problems and puzzles are compiled from the history of philosophy. After all, it was Wittgenstein himself who argued that a serious philosophical book could be created which contained nothing but jokes. The reader will learn rather more about philosophical thinking than they might have envisaged as they stroll through its more eccentric byways.
Steve Barfield

books-camilleCAMILLE: And The Lost Diaries Of Samuel Pepys by Bob Marshall-Andrews (Whitefox, £14.99; offer price, £12.99)
Politicians usually love a good conspiracy theory and Marshall- Andrews, a former MP, is no exception: he has penned a historical drama that involves secret treaties, a swashbuckling actress and a famous diarist.

One morning in 1670, Camille Lefebre, a young actress making a living impersonating a man impersonating a woman in a Parisian theatre, kills a drunken nobleman in a fight. Fleeing the scene, Camille escapes to England where she meets Samuel Pepys, who is looking for someone to help write coffee table book his diary. Pepys is also on a secret mission for Charles II , who is eager to make an alliance with Louis XIV .

The dialogue, often the hardest part of historical fiction, is less convincing than the prose. So too is the heroine’s almost suicidal fencing technique, which sadly fails to kill her off in chapter four.
Stephen Coulson


books-book-of-the-weekThe Bard and his Spanish counterpart
LUNATICS , LOVERS AND POETS: Twelve Stories After Cervantes And Shakespeare by various authors (And Other Stories, £10; offer price, £9.50)
This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and – less widely reported in the Anglophone world – of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s, author of Don Quixote. Six Spanish-speaking and six English-speaking writers were asked to create stories taking these hugely influential literary figures as their starting point.

The book takes its title from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: ‘the lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact’ – and the creative imagination occupies a central space in all the stories. Some transport well-known scenes to a different time and place; others refer to the subjects in more indirect ways. Rhidian Brook cocks a snook at the literary world with self-referential twists deployed to bombastic effect. Deborah Levy and Nell Leyshon revisit the conceit from Cervantes’s The Glass Graduate, while Caesar and Mark Antony are reimagined in Bogotá in Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s The Dogs Of War.

Salman Rushdie’s introduction and the editors’ notes provide a historical context. But detailed knowledge of the original texts is not a must: these tales stand up in their own right as elegant and intelligent short fiction.
Juanita Coulson


books-coffee-table-bookRICHARD AVEDON AND ANDY WARHOL: Outside/In by Larry Gagosian, essays by Michael Bracewell and Ara H Merjian (Abrams, £60; offer price, £50)
Avedon and Warhol became famous in postwar America, and their images are among the most instantly recognisable in 20th-century visual arts. They shared a passion for portraiture, but their style couldn’t have been more different.

This arresting book is the first to explore their work side-by-side, juxtaposing images from the 1950s to the 1990s, emphasising common themes and contrasting approaches.

Pop stars, presidents and politicians all come under the lens in images that have come to define a century.

With a bold design and brilliant essays, it is visually striking and intellectually insightful.


A LADY AND HER HUSBAND by Amber Reeves (Persephone Books, £14; offer price, £12)
The ‘uncompromising’ and ‘brilliant’ Oxford graduate Amber Reeves had an affair with married writer HG Wells when she was 21 and he was 43, and they eloped. Although he continued to enjoy free love after she gave birth to a daughter, he expected monogamy from her.

This beautifully written, pioneering feminist novel, first published in 1914, explores the compromises women make to keep their men and how they can effectively challenge them.

Reeves’s middle-aged heroine, Mary Heyham, finds herself at a loose end after her daughters marry. She becomes involved in her wealthy husband’s chain of tea shops, and decides to improve conditions for the underpaid waitresses – to her husband’s horror. A little detached and slowmoving, this entertaining book is particularly topical right now with our government’s recent introduction of the new National Living Wage.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

THE MISTRESSES OF CLIVEDEN: Three Centuries Of Scandal, Power And Intrigue In An English Stately Home by Natalie Livingstone (Arrow Books, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
Opulence, sex, scandal and political intrigue have ensured that Cliveden, the Italianate palace overlooking the Thames, has rarely been out of the news for 300 years. Although owned by powerful men, it is their flamboyant wives and mistresses who dominate its history.

Cliveden’s current chatelaine, Natalie Livingstone, has written an enthralling history as seen through the eyes of five racy predecessors. The house was built by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham as a love nest for his mistress, whose husband he had killed in a duel. Other lady incumbents were King William III ’s mistress, Elizabeth, Countess of Orkney, and King George III ’s mother. But the most famous lady of the house was Nancy Astor, the first woman MP.

In the 1960s, the swimming pool made international headlines as the setting for the Profumo affair, a political scandal that brought down the government.

Some stories are familiar, but it is certainly a delicious read.


Childhood memories and family life inspire the recipes in this week’s cookbooks. By Juanita Coulson

FLAVORWALLA by Floyd Cardoz (Artisan, £20; offer price, £17)
Indian-born Cardoz emigrated to the United States in 1988, and became a chef and owner of several successful New York City restaurants. His cooking is a melting pot of influences. The suffix ‘walla’ means a seller of a particular item or master of a trade, hence his nickname: ‘I have made my mark as a creator of bold, exciting food with balanced layers of flavours and textures,’ he writes. Aimed at the home cook, his nuanced recipes bear this out. You may wish to skip the lengthy introductory chapter – but don’t miss the excellent section on spices. Vegetable dishes are a feast in themselves: roasted cauliflower with candied ginger, pine nuts and raisins – the humble cauli goes Bollywood-fabulous.

COOKING WITH LOULA by Alexandra Stratou (Artisan, £20; offer price, £17)
Welcome to a modern Greek kitchen, with all its Mediterranean warmth and vibrant domestic life. Named after the woman who cooked for three generations of Stratou’s family, this gorgeous book features recipes for weekdays, Sundays and summer holidays. Miles away from touristy taverna fare, this is flavoursome family cooking imbued with the nostalgic tang of childhood memory. Classics such as dolmades and spanakopita sit alongside less obvious choices like chickpea soup and a cracking chocolate mousse. The author’s reminiscences about her grandmother Giagia Sofia, high priestess of Sunday lunch, are moving and evocative.

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