Monday, 30 November -0001

Book Reviews: 16 August

The Lady reviews of the best books available to buy and download now


Culture-Books-Aug16-BreathOfNight-176THE BREATH OF NIGHT by Michael Arditti (Arcadia, £11.99; offer price, £10.79)
Modern-day Manila, where some live in luxury and others on landfill sites. The division between rich and poor is obvious to young Philip Seward on his arrival from England but few other distinctions are as clear.

Faith and politics intermingle, truth and fiction blur, and as for the sexes… ‘Don’t assume all pretty girls are female’ Philip’s Philippines guidebook warns. But it’s the boundary between human and divine that interests Philip, charged as he is with investigating reports that a murdered English missionary may have been a saint. Characters as colourful as Manila itself abound in Arditti’s twisting mystery, which is alive with his trademark intelligence and wit.
Stephanie Cross

Culture-Books-Aug16-Coppola-176COPPOLA by Peter Cowie (Carlton Books, £19.99; offer price, £16.99)
A heavily updated edition of a biography first published in 1994 – based on interviews with him over the space of several years – this variable account of celebrated film-maker Francis Ford Coppola’s life and career often reads like it’s officially sanctioned.

Having previously written authoritatively on The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, Peter Cowie is steeped in Coppola’s work. While this leads to several fascinating passages of detailed film analysis, Cowie glosses over the more contentious aspects of his subject’s character and methods. For instance, tensions on the set of The Godfather are alluded to without elaboration, and Cowie never confronts Coppola’s megalomaniacal side.

Nevertheless, one is left with renewed respect for this fiercely independent maverick, whose meticulous yet often reckless devotion to his art emerges as oddly heroic.
Paul Whitelaw

Culture-Books-Aug16-OrchardLostSouls-176THE ORCHARD OF LOST SOULS by Nadifa Mohamed (Simon & Schuster, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
It is 1988, and we observe the fall of the Somalian dictatorship and resultant civil war through the eyes of three women brought together by the war: Filsan, a female soldier from Mogadishu tasked with helping suppress rebellion; Deqo, a nine-year-old refugee; and Kawsar, a solitary widow. Mohamed takes the lives of these women and examines them under the traumatic strain of this powerful historical event that unravels the nation, bringing chaos and suff ering.

It is as beautifully written and constructed as the Somalian tapestries it evokes. And yet, amidst the wonderful metaphors and exquisite imagery there remains a frankness, a simplicity that hearkens to the ordinary, to the untold story of ordinary lives caught up in the storm of history. A love letter to a country torn asunder that remains powerfully affirmative.
Rhiannon Davies

Culture-Books-Aug16-Unbored-176UNBORED: THE ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE TO SERIOUS FUN by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen (Bloomsbury, £18.99; offer price, £14.99)

A collection of inspiring activities involving creativity, intelligence and problem-solving, which will fascinate older children and save them from boredom, and you from resorting to TV or computer games.

Culture-Books-AUg16-BestShortStories-176BOOK OF THE WEEK

Craft union
THE BEST BRITISH SHORT STORIES 2013 edited by Nicholas Royle (Salt Publishing, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
In a publishing world dominated by the often bloated blockbuster novel, I remain an admirer of a sharp and lithe short story and I hope that this third annual collection from Salt becomes a long-running series, as this is exactly the kind of anthology that admirers of the form need. There’s a delightful sense of variety to Royle’s collection both in terms of the mixing of new and established authors and plenty of unusual topics, but what unites them all is that they are excellent examples of the craft of writing. The selection comes from short stories published in diverse sources during 2012, from literary magazines such as Granta to the online 3:AM magazine.

There are stories by Charles Boyle, Regi Claire, Laura Del-Rivo, Lesley Glaister, MJ Hyland, Jackie Kay, Nina Killham, Charles Lambert, Adam Lively, Anneliese Mackintosh, Adam Marek, Alison Moore, Alex Preston, Ross Raisin, David Rose, Ellis Sharp, Robert Shearman, Nikesh Shukla, James Wall and Guy Ware. As Royle is the editor there’s an emphasis on form and endings, as in his own work, and although the stories vary between realism and fantasy, many are about transformations and defamiliarisations, making us rethink everyday life and the relationship between order and disorder.
Steve Barfield


JAZZLIFE by William Claxton and Joachim-Ernst Berendt (TASCHEN, £27.99; offer price, £24.99ž)


When photographer Claxton and musicologist Berendt travelled to the USA in 1960 they created a memorable set of black-and-white photographs and musical recordings – the former are on display here – not only of jazz luminaries, but of obscure small gigs, street musicians and children learning jazz. The photographs provide a fascinating, imaginative insight into aspects of African-American culture before the ƒ owering of the later Civil Rights movement.

This is an expanded update of the original edition from 1960 and includes previously unseen colour photographs from their trip, as well as a new foreword by Claxton, who died in 2008, thinking about the world he witnessed 50 years ago.


THREE FEET OF LIGHTNING by Rita Wilkinson (Hayloft Publishing, £9; no offer price available)
A family tale of life on the Cumbrian fells above Ullswater, this novel provides a quintessential account of country life. Despite injecting some of the harsh realities of a working farm, the light plot provides an easy-paced escape to rural England, following the lives of Ted and Muriel.

MESSAGES FROM A DISAPPEARING COUNTRYSIDE by Robin Page (Bird Farm Books, £14.99; no offer price available)
An acerbic, sometimes GUESS THE COVER Answer on page 80 eccentric defence of the rural community in terms of what Page perceives as the ongoing debate between the ‘townie’ and the ‘country bumpkin’. Divided into short chapters, issues facing the countryside are discussed amidst sharp anecdotes. This book is a fast-paced read that any lover of the British countryside, and of British humour, will appreciate.

THE ELEGANT ART OF FALLING APART by Jessica Jones (Unbound, £9.99; offer price, £9.49)
Jones blogs as Chemo Chic and is acclaimed by The Times as one of 40 Blogs That Really Count. Her humorous narrative – written like a diary of a rollercoaster two years – exceeds expectations for a good summer read as it approaches diffi cult life events courageously.
Ijeoma Onweluzo


BROWNS BAR AND BRASSERIE: Forty Years In The Making by Neil Sowerby (Brazen PR, £10; no offer price available)
An offbeat culinary history of the brasserie/bar chain that juxtaposes selected recipes for favourite dishes and cocktails from their 40 years, against political and cultural events, and which makes for a zany, surprisingly interesting read.


  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Ross Poldark: A Novel Of Cornwall, 1783-1787 by Winston Graham
  • The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley


SEABISCUIT: Three Men And A Racehorse by Laura Hillenbrand, narrated by George Newbern (Audible books/www., £18.99; no offer price) is about the relationship between an American racehorse and its jockeys and owners. Written off by commentators he went on to spectacular success.


Megan Thomas is a writer and a co-director of Full Fat, a cultural and entertainment PR agency
It is a common belief that everybody has a book in them. After years of painstaking editing and countless hours staring at a white sheet, I’m beginning to question whether writing the book is the hardest part. Finding a pair of eyes that are willing to read and pay for my literary craft is a mountain that’s proving diffi cult to climb.

The publishing industry is transforming; no one knows what the literary landscape will look like in a decade and strategies to promote books are equally fl uid. More than a quarter of books sold in 2012 were e-books, thousands of authors are choosing to self-publish hoping that their book will be plucked from a pixelated pile and shoot to the top of the Kindle charts. Sadly, it is not as easy as clicking the upload button.

Luckily, the digital age provides many communication cogs to help create downloads. Methods such as Kindle’s KDL Select, which sees a book promoted as free for a limited time, have seen huge success and there’s no doubt that creating an online persona for a book using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and your own website can increase downloads. Titles are important due to keywords, tags and search engines. Some authors are even returning to Dickens’s original method of releasing a chapter a week online, building a returning fan base.

Digitisation is opening the literary market to thousands of authors and readers. Promotion is evolving as publishing becomes more visceral and the change couldn’t have come quicker. So get uploading, blogging, posting and tweeting, as you never know, you could be the next Amanda Hocking.

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