Tuesday, 07 June 2016

Book reviews: 10 June

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


books-quietQUIET POWER: Growing Up As An Introvert In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Penguin Life, £12.99)
As a child, Cain was taunted by her classmates for reading instead of playing, and constantly ridiculed for her shyness. But then she realised that her thoughtful, quiet personality was actually her hidden superpower. Instead of trying to fit in, she adapted her social life accordingly: ‘I made some really great friends, and I noticed that I wanted to hang out with them one or two at a time... I decided that I wasn’t going to have the largest number of friendships, but I was going to have plenty of deep and excellent ones.’ In this follow-up to her bestseller Quiet, Cain empowers insecure children, adolescents and young adults, and explores how some children can feel inferior to their more outgoing peers.

There are great tips for parents on understanding and supporting an introverted child in a society that encourages extroverts. Introverts, she emphasises, are not people with flaws: they recharge their batteries by being alone, while extroverts recharge theirs by socialising.

Quiet Power speaks volumes, demonstrating that those with the quietest voice can achieve incredible things because of their reserved nature, not in spite of it. Patricia Merrick
books-nestTHE NEST by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (The Borough Press, £12.99))
Money is the pivot around which everything revolves in Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel. If this apparently uninviting theme leaves a sour taste at first, it proves surprisingly engaging.

Among the apartments, bars and waterfronts of New York, the Plumb siblings anxiously watch their promised inheritance dwindle following a car accident involving the eldest, Leo, the consequences of which are disastrous.

Resentment quickly surfaces; ambitions have not been met; children have to be considered. But the most profound effect on the Plumbs will ultimately be on their characters, depending on whether they will allow the financial situation to poison or redeem them.

The subject may be a tad unimaginative, but D’Aprix Sweeney explores it with great insight. She’s disarming with it, relating with warmth how the cold, hard dollar looms large as a priority for her fictional everyday family – and how they eventually learn some hard lessons. A lovely family drama that turns out to be more complex and moving than you would expect. Philippa Williams


books-Order-OrderORDER, ORDER! The Rise And Fall Of Political Drinking by Ben Wright (Duckworth Overlook, £16.99)
Alcohol has always oiled the wheels of politics. ‘It paces the day like the chimes of Big Ben,’ writes BBC correspondent Ben Wright in this highly entertaining account of political imbibing, drawing on interviews with leading politicians.

For prime ministers burdened by difficult choices, drink can be a seductive friend. Britain’s first PM, Robert Walpole, smuggled wine up the Thames with the aid of the Navy. Winston Churchill always kept a whisky and soda to hand. And, despite her ‘teetotal Methodist’ background, whisky was also Mrs Thatcher’s favourite tipple. David Cameron is a whisky drinker too: his Desert Island Discs luxury item was an Isle of Jura single malt. Tony Blair confessed that booze helped him deal with the pressures of running the country (and perhaps living next door to Gordon Brown, whose secret favourite is champagne). Both Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson like being pictured holding a pint.

But far from purely glamorising alcohol, Wright shows how it can also destroy: the disintegration of Richard Nixon, Boris Yeltsin, Charles Kennedy and countless others was largely down to booze. Fast-paced and witty, although some anecdotes will be familiar. Unputdownable.
Rebecca Wallersteiner



20th CENTURY FASHION: 100 Years Of Apparel Ads by Alison A Nieder, edited by Jim Heimann (Taschen, £12.99)

This compact but lavishly illustrated book tells the story of 20th-century fashion through 400 advertisements from the Jim Heimann collection.

Emblematic of each decade, the images chart changing silhouettes and social mores, and the absorption of fashion into popular culture, while the introduction explores the way fashion houses, designers and celebrities have all played their part to influence what people wear.

From Vionnet gowns to mass-market jeans and Mary Quant’s miniskirts, this is an evocative and insightful visual history of a century.
Juanita Coulson




THE COLLECTED POEMS OF DYLAN THOMAS: The Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £16.99))
Dazzling, hellraising and anarchic, Dylan Thomas was one of the brightest stars of the interwar years and remains the best known of all Welsh poets. This collection of his poetry brings together old favourites such as The Hunchback In The Park and lesser-known gems such as the haunting ‘lost’ poem A Dream Of Winter (1941).

There are verses written for his wife Caitlin, and several for his unborn son, Llewelyn, which reveal a great tenderness but are rather neglected today. Thomas wrote passionately about all the pleasures and pains of life – Fern Hill is a meditation on childhood and lost innocence, while Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night deals with his father’s death.

Goodby writes that Thomas’s ‘meteor-like passing’ lit up the grey Cold War world. Like Lord Byron, Dylan had a rock-star quality and caught the popular imagination. Fittingly, his memorial in Westminster Abbey lies next to Byron’s.

LOVE, NINA by Nina Stibbe (Penguin, £7.99)
Fans of the BBC series Love, Nina will enjoy the book it’s based on, telling the true story of 20-year-old Nina Stibbe, who moved to Camden Town from rural Leicestershire in 1982 to work as a nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review Of Books.

Although neighbours included Alan Bennett, opera director Jonathan Miller, biographer Claire Tomalin and film director Karel Reisz, Nina knew nothing about the London arts scene and had never heard of any of them. She began writing letters home to her sister Victoria, comically detailing life at Gloucester Crescent and the idiosyncrasies of the celebrity visitors. Bennett (who dislikes his portrayal) was forever popping over for meals, ungraciously criticising Nina’s cooking.

Charming, sweet, lightweight and funny. Pack it for your summer holiday.


Whether super-healthy or unashamedly indulgent, these two books deliver seriously good puddings. By Juanita Coulson

Puddings by Johnny Shepherd (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The former Great British Bake Off contestant knows a thing or two about puddings: his St Albans businesses, The Pudding Stop and the Pudmobile, do a roaring trade. Food critics and chefs have heaped praise on his confections.

The photography alone in this book is mouth-watering, but the recipes themselves are rather brilliant too: accessible and imaginative, they mix family classics with more elaborate ideas, and are arranged by type: ‘Sticky’, ‘Creamy’, ‘Refreshing’, ‘Chocolate’. Opening with a potted history of pudding and general pud-making tips, Shepherd also writes endearingly about resurrecting his grandfather’s business. Moreish.

LIVIA’S KITCHEN by Olivia Wollenberg (Ebury Press, £20)
If you want all the joys of divine desserts, but without the guilt or the sugar spikes, here at last is a book that delivers the hitherto impossible: recipes made without dairy, gluten or refined sugar that don’t taste like a vegan nun’s yoga mat. Wollenberg launched Livia’s Kitchen in 2014, selling crumbles to the likes of Selfridges and Daylesford. Her puds have to be tried to be believed – if you’ve had the pleasure, you’ll love to recreate them at home. With over 100 recipes for all manner of indulgences, baked or raw, from breakfast muffins to celebratory cakes and after-dinner bites such as pecan, orange and chia truffles, you can literally have your cake and eat it.

Tweet us your recipe reads @TheLadyMagazine using #ladyrecipereads


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