Friday, 03 June 2016

Book Review: 3 June


books-MandiblesThe Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver (The Borough Press, £16.99; offer price, £14.99
Shriver’s ambitious, scary new novel is set in America in the near future – a future in which the once-mighty US is facing financial meltdown, the dollar is in free fall and food and water are scarce. In this bleak world, few people buy books, journalism is a dead profession and children are named after internet search engines. Perhaps most terrifyingly, Ed Balls is England’s Prime Minister. Putin is still Russia’s President and, in a satirical wink to Donald Trump, a fence is built between Mexico and the US – to keep out the Americans.

As the stock market crashes, the uppermiddle- class Mandible family finds itself almost penniless: rampant inflation makes their savings worthless. All four generations must squeeze into one small Brooklyn house that belongs to Florence, the only family member to hold a job – at the city’s overcrowded homeless shelter. Only Willing, her teenage tech-geek son, predicts the crisis and can save them. Faced with the collapse of civilisation, the Mandibles are forced to assess what they truly value.

Chilling, funny and confusing in places, the book should appeal to fans of Shriver’s Orange Prize-winning bestseller We Need To Talk About Kevin, which also explores the death of the American dream.
Rebecca Wallersteiner
books-Cheer-Up-LoveCHEER UP, LOVE: Adventures In Depression With The Crab Of Hate by Susan Calman (Two Roads, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
In this compelling memoir, the Glasgowborn ex-lawyer exposes her battle with depression – or, as she describes it, the ‘Crab of Hate’, a constant companion in her life. ‘Cheer up, love’ is one of the least caring things anyone can say to a depressed person, and this book offers an engaging insight into better ways to show compassion and understanding. As a teenager, Calman was sectioned and sent to an adolescent psychiatric hospital, which she shared with ‘some incredibly disturbed people’.

The experience taught her to pretend everything was fine so she wouldn’t have to go back. But after years of suppressing her feelings, she eventually found a therapist who ‘gets her’. Now a talented stand-up comedian, Calman deals with depression by sharing her emotions with her audiences.

She recalls, ‘Performing [personal material] every night at the Fringe in 2012 felt amazing. Not just in terms of comedy, but in my own personal life. I finally had an outlet for all of the things that were in my head.’ Although it’s dark in places, Susan’s outstanding sense of humour shines through to create an uplifting survival handbook.
Patricia Merrick


books-book-of-the-weekA NATURAL HISTORY OF THE HEDGE ROW by John Wright (Profile, £16.99; offer price, £14.99)
‘Quite how unique hedges are to Britain is not sufficiently appreciated,’ says naturalist John Wright. It is often only as we return from our holidays and gaze down from our descending planes that we are struck by the gorgeous patchwork they make of our land. That this tapestry isn’t what it was is beyond dispute: according to some measures, we have lost 50 per cent of our hedgerows in the last 60 years.

Nevertheless, we are still blessed with approximately 700,000km of ‘woody linear features’ – enough to reach to the moon and back. Wright has another, even more mind-boggling statistic up his sleeve: in 2015, a Devon-based naturalist established that his 90m-long hedge was home to 2,070 species of plant, animal, lichen and fungus. Wright covers a respectable amount of ground in this hybrid field guide, which includes colour plates to aid identification.

He also traces the history of the British hedgerow from Mesolithic times to the present, and outlines its various permutations, including the Cornish stonefaced hedge (‘Should anyone refer to them as walls in Cornwall, the error of their ways will be politely but firmly pointed out’). Often humorous and richly informative, this a perfect book for dipping into.
Stephanie Cross


coffee-table-bookHER MAJESTY by Christopher Warwick, edited by Reuel Golden (Taschen, £27.99; offer price, £24.99))
To celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, Taschen has published this glorious photographic record of her life.

Featuring official portraits alongside more intimate snapshots, this is a visual journey from Her Majesty’s early years, via her coronation and meetings with JFK, Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles, to more recent state occasions and tours – and that unforgettable appearance on film with James Bond for the 2012 Olympics.

In a rapidly changing world, it is a delight to see our magnificent Queen maintaining her inimitable style through the decades, like her namesake Elizabeth I: semper eadem.




SPARE ME THE TRUTH by CJ Carver (Zaffre Books, £7.99; offer price, £7.49)
An amnesiac with no memory of his past as a spy, a disgraced policewoman with razor-sharp wits and a mercurial temperament and a young GP mourning her mother’s sudden death are brought together by a tragic chain of events in this high-wire act of a thriller, with a plot as ingeniously constructed as a sudoku puzzle. But the suspenseful narrative also stretches its probing fingers into wider issues: big pharma, mind-altering drugs, the ethics of assisted suicide and the very nature of memory, identity and consciousness. Add a serial killer with the weirdest of motives, a fedora-wearing villain of icy cruelty and vivid vignettes of police life, and you have an intriguing page-turner with a deftly explored psychological dimension. A multilayered novel that goes beyond the usual limits of the genre.
Juanita Coulson

LADY IN WAITING by Lady Victoria Hervey (Totally Entwined, £7.99; no offer price)
The first instalment of a three-book series, The Wristband Diaries, this light-hearted and endearing story details the adventures of young aristocrat Lady Frederica Felton. As the book begins, Frederica – Freddie to her friends – is about to enter her boarding school’s sixth form. From the heat and glamour of Monaco to the tuck boxes and school dances of the exclusive Mapleton Manor, she navigates the tumultuous path of these formative years, collecting wristbands along the way. Frothy and frivolous, if a little slow-moving, this debut novel by model and socialite Lady Victoria Hervey is deliciously entertaining. As with most guilty pleasures, we’re already looking forward to the next one! A perfect summerweekend read.
Helena Gumley- Mason


From the American South to East-West fusion, these books bring global flavours to your summer table. By Juanita Coulson

PICNICS, POTLUCKS & PORCH PARTIES by Aimee Broussard (Quail Ridge Press, £13.77; no offer price)
The American South conjures up images of beauties in pristine dresses and relaxed conviviality. Broussard draws on the flavours and traditions of the region to present an enticing array of ideas for al fresco feasting. Some dishes, like pimento cheese poppers, are perhaps lost in translation crossing the pond – as is the very notion of porch parties. But apple cider brown butter honey-kissed wings, or a dip made of caramelised onion, Gruyère and bacon, sound heavenly, especially if washed down with tipsy peach tea. As immaculately presented as any Southern belle, these dishes are perfect for potluck suppers or chic picnics at Glyndebourne

SAVOUR: Salads For All Seasons by Peter Gordon (Jacqui Small, £25; offer price, £21)
If you think of salads as a boring bit on the side, or what you eat when you’re on a diet, this luscious book will make you think again. An internationally acclaimed chef and doyen of fusion cooking, Gordon turns the salad from humble handmaiden into versatile, exotic diva. He pays as much attention to ingredient combinations as he does to textures, dressings and show-stopping presentation – so his dishes have a multisensory appeal and are conceived as main courses in their own right. There is an excellent section on ‘Adding Crunch’, with notes on nuts, seeds and croutons. He is a master of contrasts: ‘the shock of a roast grape that highlights sharp citrus notes’. Stylish, innovative and effortless – perfect for summer parties.

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