Friday, 27 May 2016

Book reviews: 27 May

OUT NOW

books-Waking-LionsWAKING LIONS by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (Pushkin Press, £12.99; offer price, £10.99)
Thriller, detective story and morality tale, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s highly anticipated second novel is a gripping drama of survival, guilt and shame.

Having hit and abandoned an African migrant on a desert road in present-day Israel, neurologist Eitan Green finds his life turned upside down. Should he tell his devoted wife, a police detective, that he has killed someone? What would we do in similar circumstances?

Fleeing the scene, Eitan decides to keep quiet – reasoning that everyone has uncomfortable secrets. But his life shatters when the dead man’s wife knocks on his door holding his wallet, and seeks to blackmail him with a strange demand. Desperate to preserve his family, career and reputation, the medic agrees to an odd pact.

Although the writing is less assured than in One Night, Markovitch, the author’s awardwinning debut novel, this is a tense pageturner that should appeal to fans of film noir. It provides a fascinating look at the secrets and the darkness inside us all, how they can distance us from our loved ones and even destroy us.
Rebecca Wallersteiner

books-Invincible-SummerINVINCIBLE SUMMER by Alice Adams (Picador, £12.99; offer price, £10.99)
In the summer of 1995, best friends Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien graduate from university and set off into the world. Eva becomes a successful city analyst, Benedict undertakes a physics PhD, Sylvie is an aspiring artist and Lucien becomes a nightclub promoter.

We then see snapshots of their lives through the next 20 summers: at times they have drifted apart, and at others they have come back together to argue, fall in love or support each other through difficulties such as losing a job and even going to prison.

Adams’s enthralling debut novel is an insightful look at how time affects friendships, what happens when one COFFEE TABLE BOOK friend falls in love and how, even across the years and significant lifestyle differences, friends can rally round in times of extreme hardship.

The action is seen mostly through the eyes of Eva, survivor of a tough childhood, who can be mature beyond her years or as fragile as her friends – but all four characters are engaging and relatable. Eloquent and gripping, this is an immersive, easy read with just a hint of the literary – the title comes from an Albert Camus quote. Ideal holiday reading.
Rebecca Maxted

BOOK OF THE WEEK

books-book-of-the-weekAnatomy of a friendship
THE GUSTAV SONATA by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
Towards the end of Rose Tremain’s captivating novel set in Switzerland, its characters gather for a farewell meal in a comfortable hotel. ‘This day was supposed to come years ago,’ one pauses to reflect, ‘when we were all young.’

The Gustav Sonata is a book in which life repeatedly fails to follow the script, in which hearts are painfully out of sync and timing tragically off. It could, in fact, have been unbearably sad, but if this is a novel about suffering, then it is also about consolation, valued perhaps even more by virtue of its belatedness.

At the centre of the novel is the friendship between the titular Gustav, the sole child of a distant, widowed mother, and Anton, a musical prodigy afflicted by crippling nerves. The Second World War is scarcely over, and just as Switzerland maintained its neutrality, Gustav’s mother urges him to ‘master himself’: ‘You have to hold yourself together and be courageous, stay separate and strong.’

It’s not bad advice, since one of Tremain’s themes is the cost of compassion. But it’s advice that’s impossible for the loyal, kind-hearted Gustav to follow, especially where Anton is concerned.

Illuminated throughout by Tremain’s own empathy, this beautiful book holds the reader effortlessly in its thrall. Stephanie Cross

COFFEE TABLE BOOK

books-coffee-table-bookA WHALE OFF THE COAST OF NORWAY AND OTHER ENCOUNTERS by Alexander Voitsekhovsky (Fontanka, £24; offer price, £21)
This gorgeous book showcases the magical pictures of Alexander ‘Petrovich’ Voitsekhovsky. The Moscowborn grandson of a polar explorer, Voitsekhovsky originally worked for 10 years as a doctor, and began drawing as a medical student – at lectures, on the train, in queues. He gave his sketches to friends, who held an exhibition – which proved so successful that six years later he quit medicine to travel the world. His warm and unpretentious illustrations depict everyday scenes – walking in the park, feeding squirrels, sweeping yards. Whimsical and tinged with irony and absurdity, they show a depth of imagination yet are instantly familiar. A must for art lovers.
RW








PAPERBACKS

books-paperbacks

 

ICE-CANDY MAN by Bapsi Sidhwa (Daunt Books, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)The vibrant city of Lahore in the last days of the Raj and the run-up to Partition is seen through the eyes of an inquisitive, precocious Parsee girl in this affecting novel.

Crippled by polio, Lenny endures painful treatment to correct a deformed foot, but her childhood is a happy one, anchored by her beloved Ayah and larger-than-life godmother – until mounting religious tensions and political unrest boil over into her idyll. Domestic life, class anxieties, servants' squabbles, simmering sexual tensions and religious
hatred are perceptively spied from beneath dinner tables, between grown-ups' legs and sari folds.

In the local park, male admirers cluster around the nubile Ayah – Hindu, Muslim and Sikh, they are a microcosm of a society on the verge of explosion. Among them is the ice-cream seller of the title, also a poet, agent provocateur and doomed lover.

Family homes, the city's notorious Hira Mandi quarter, earthy humour and heartwrenching tragedy, political insight and childish wonder – all of these are stirred into a heady mix.
Juanita Coulson

SHAME by Melanie Finn (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £8.99; offer price, £8.49)
Not for the fainthearted, this unsparing tale captivates and intrigues in equal measure. Exploring guilt, despair and atonement, its vivid prose draws the reader into a powerful web of tragedy.

Set mainly in a remote village in Africa, the novel charts the travails of Pilgrim Jones, a one-time contented lawyer's
wife whose fall from grace after a freak accident is reminiscent of Greek tragedy. Escaping her traumatic past, Ms Jones assumes she is safe, only to find that it catches up with her, and fast.

Readers may wince at explicit scenes of murder, rape and suffering, but Finn's astute observations and bracing
candour make this eerie and atmospheric story oddly compelling. Elizabeth Fitzherbert

THE LADY’S RECIPE READS

A national treasure and the humble pudding are at the heart of two great British cookbooks. By Juanita Coulson
books-recipe-reads

MARY BERRY: FOOLPROOF COOKING (BBC Books, £25; offer price, £21)
The nation’s favourite baker needs no introduction – we never seem to tire of her no-nonsense approach and reassuring presence, be it on the TV screen or the pages of her many cookbooks. In her latest, a tie-in with the BBC series of the same title, she reminds us that cooking ‘should be enjoyable, fun and rewarding’. Her recipes are true confidencegivers, with all the right tips to guarantee success. Whether it’s entertaining, whipping up quick weekday suppers or baking decadent treats, this book has it covered. The chapter on sharing platters and nibbles is great for stress-free party food. Rhubarb Eve’s pudding is a brilliant variation on the British classic. What’s not to love?

PRIDE AND PUDDING by Regula Ysewijn (Murdoch Books, £20; offer price, £17)
Social history meets cookery writing in this delightful, beautifully illustrated book on the versatile, wonderful and quintessentially British concept of ‘pudding’. Not pudding in the modern sense of any old dessert, but mixtures prepared in animal skins, like haggis, or wrapped in cloth, or made in a mould or tray. Drawing on original sources from as far back as Roman Britain, Ysewijn points out that it was a Frenchman in the 17th century who first praised the British pudding in writing – and it has taken a Belgian girl to pen a modern paean. From a hearty beef pudding to sculptural jellies, exoticsounding flummeries and a lace-like quince tart, there are over 80 historical recipes adapted for today’s kitchen.

Tweet us your recipe reads @TheLadyMagazine using #ladyrecipereads

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