Bringing Reading to Life Summer 2011 #1
In this issue AN EERIE SHORT TALE BY DAVID MITCHELL TONY BLAIR ON ADMIRING TROTSKY FORENSIC CRIME FICTION DISSECTED THE TRAGEDY OF THE CHEERLEADER JEFFERY DEAVER’S BOND UNBOUND KIDS’ ADVENTURES IN THE AFTERLIFE
FORBIDDEN t Frui
SEX, LIES AND LITERARY TRYSTS, FROM ALAN HOLLINGHURST’S NEW MASTERPIECE TO FICTION’S GREATEST MISTRESSES
LAUNCH ISSUE Plus ALL THE BEST FICTION, NON-FICTION AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS TO READ THIS SEASON, REVIEWED BY THE UK’S SPECIALIST BOOKSELLERS, LIBRARIANS AND READING GROUPS
Contributors Matthew De Abaitua is editor-at-large of The Idler and author of The Red Men and The Art of Camping Megan Abbott is the Edgar-winning author of novels including Die a Little and the new The End of Everything Sean Black is a screenwriter and author of thriller novels including Lockdown Tony Blair was prime minister from 1997 to 2007. He is Quartet Representative to the Middle East, founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and author of A Journey
Josh Lacey is a children’s author whose books include the Grk series (written as Joshua Doder) and The Island of Thieves Adam Mars-Jones is a freelance literary critic and the author of books including Pilcrow and Cedilla David Mitchell is the four times Man Booker Prize-nominated author of books including Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet Adele Parks is the author of novels including Husbands and About Last Night
Tamar Cohen is a journalist and author of The Mistress’s Revenge
Clare Pollard is a poet whose books include Changeling
Evan Davis is presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme and BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den, and is the author of Made in Britain
Caroline Sanderson is a freelance reviewer, writer and editor
Barry Forshaw is a journalist, editor of Crime Time and author of books including British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia
There's a moment of glorious expectation, when you turn to the first page of a book, as you wonder what lives are yet to be conjured into existence. Authors don't just represent life, they create it. And it's those literary lives that we step into that keep us addicted, that we tell our friends about and that keep us returning to a book again and again. We Love This Book is all about bringing reading to life, in both meanings of the phrase: bringing books of all kinds to life; and bringing reading into people's lives – just like the writers, booksellers, librarians, literary festivals and local reading groups that make this magazine what it is. And it's about passion – that is why we are proud to declare that We Love This Book. Ed Wood, Editor
Also Danny Dorling, Tom Hall, Graeme Neil, Philip Stone, Tom Tivnan, Charlotte Williams, Felicity Wood EDITOR ED WOOD REVIEWS EDITOR SUSAN OSBORNE WEBSITE EDITOR KATIE ALLEN SUB-EDITOR JENNY HINVES EDITORIAL ASSISTANT STACEY BARTLETT ART DIRECTOR JONNY HUGHES HEAD OF SALES BRETT WALKER SALES DIRECTOR MARZIA GHISELLI PRODUCTION DANIELLE SIEBERT EVENTS AND DISTRIBUTION LOUISE LENZI MARKETING SAM MISSINGHAM EVENTS AND MARKETING ASSISTANT ASHLEY BAUGH FINANCE MANAGER SARAH FOLEY MANAGING DIRECTOR NIGEL ROBY
switchboard 020 3358 0360 editorial enquiries 020 3358 0374 advertising 020 3 358 0382 subscriptions 01604 251 040 Bookseller Group Ltd, Endeavour House 189 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8TJ. Printed in Great Britain by Headley Brothers Ltd, The Invicta Press, Ashford, Kent. © 2011 Bookseller Media Ltd, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
16 FORBIDDEN LOVE
Alan Hollinghurst follows up his Man Booker-winner to talk secrets and sexual liberation with Adam Mars-Jones; Tamar Cohen writes in praise of the other woman; Adele Parks' top ﬁve ﬁctional mistresses; Anne Sebba on the woman who caused a right royal scandal
Anne Sebba is a biographer, lecturer and journalist. Her latest book is That Woman Jenny Wingﬁeld is a screenwriter and author of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
Beryl Bainbridge, Aravind Adiga and Ann Patchett, plus all the best ﬁction, crime, sci-ﬁ, fantasy and horror
Philip Marsden, A.N. Wilson, Simon Stephenson and more. Plus, reading group choices
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
4 DESERT ISLAND BOOKS
26 CARTE BLANCHE
70 HAPPY HOLIDAYS
6 THE LATEST
30 MIDWEST PRINCESSES
72 AN AWFULLY BIG ADVENTURE
Former PM Tony Blair chooses the books that deﬁne him What's going on in the world of books right now
8 BEHIND THE HEADLINES
Jeffery Deaver reinvents James Bond for the 21st century Venture to the dark side of that all-American ideal of picket-fence perfection
Books to explain all the latest news, culture and sport events, from Libya to Wimbledon
34 THE DREAM FACTORY
9 THE WORLD IN VERSE
37 WE LOVE THIS GENRE
Poet Clare Pollard spins a new take on Twitter
11 PAST MASTER
Debut novelist Jenny Wingﬁeld on her inspiration, Mark Twain
13 THREE-COURSE CRUSH
Three new food books provide sweet and spicy recipes
14 SUMMER LIFE
Where to head out to enjoy the British countryside this season 3
Evan Davis examines Britain’s thriving creative industries Barry Forshaw on everything you need to know about the most gruesome of genres: forensic crime ﬁction
45 IN THE BIKE SHEDS
An exclusive new short story by David Mitchell – just for us
50 THE BOOK TREE
What connects Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Radiohead and King Lear? Find out in our regular feature
Activity books to keep the kids happy – with added Wally
How children’s books tackle death, from high romance to quests in the afterlife
77 CHILDREN'S BOOK REVIEWS
Books for children of all ages, from Lydia Monks and Caroline Lawrence to Mal Peet and Carlos Ruiz Zafón
82 THE CHILD IN ME
Mr Gum author Andy Stanton goes misty-eyed over his Mr Men-loving childhood
JOIN IN HERE… FIND OUT MORE ONLINE welovethisbook.com
DESERT ISLAND BOOKS
TONY BLAIR The former Prime Minister on the books that mean the world to him, from a communist icon to a shoe designer and classic fantasy
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson I’ve just been rereading this with Leo. We take it for granted now, so familiar is the genre of pirates, hidden treasure and adventure on the high seas. We forget what a groundbreaking novel it was at the time. It still has a pace and a life to it that makes it a joy to read. What makes it so special, however, is its portrayal of the central characters. These are not simple one-dimensional ﬁgures but complex, shifting in their behaviour between the noble, the treacherous and the misguided. Long John Silver is not a plain, simple baddie, but a man capable certainly of badness but also of a certain code of honour. Captain Billy Bones, Squire Trelawney and even Jim Hawkins himself have strengths and weaknesses that Stevenson describes in a way that makes each character memorable. Above all, even today, it’s a great story, beautifully written. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien In my view, for the scale and majesty of the invention, the details of the imaginary world created by Tolkien and the rich and deep themes of good and evil, nothing compares to The Lord of the Rings. It is, of course, ﬁrst and foremost an epic tale. Though Tolkien was always dismissive of
the parallels with the Nazis, their rise and defeat, you can’t help believing that in some degree the darkness of the times through which he was living reﬂected itself in the book. It has its wicked force – Mordor. It has its ideology that drives it – symbolised by the Ring. It has its share of wizards who become collaborators, good people who fall from grace, and those who are in some sense redeemed, like Gollum. And in the end, the mighty are defeated by the ordinary folk – the Hobbits. Most of all, The Lord of the Rings draws you into the world of the Shire, Middle Earth and Mount Doom; of orcs, balrogs, ents and elves; and of the quiet courage and determination of Frodo to do his duty and destroy the Ring. You become engrossed; the imaginary world becomes real – surely the mark of the great fantasy novel. Germinal by Emile Zola I read Germinal, a novel about the struggles of 19th-century coal-miners in northern France, having grown up in County Durham, also famous for mining and its miners. I read it in French to improve my French. The tale is, in one sense, conventional. The miners live and work in dreadful conditions. A new employee, Etienne Lantier, comes to work at the mine, gains the respect of his fellow workers and then, shocked at the way miners
"For all of Trotsky's faults and inconsistencies, the range of his thinking and the energy of his creativity were remarkable" in politics. It is in three volumes. deep and penetrating criticisms It was, for its time, hugely of the Judaism of his time, though signiﬁcant. In that era, the Soviet many of those criticisms were Union was supreme: Stalinism shared by previous prophets and had crushed all dissent in the his basic call – for Jews to return communist empire; Trotsky, one to what their faith truly means of Lenin’s original lieutenants in – stands ﬁrmly in the prophetic the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, tradition. The joy of the book is was an outcast. Deutscher’s trilogy in the clear and accessible way was a powerful counterblast. It it is written, in its scholarship and described Trotsky as the true its objectivity. revolutionary who stood out against the cruelty and oppression The Crusades with which communism came to Through Arab Eyes be associated. Trotskyism and its by Amin Maalouf ﬁght with the official Soviet-style and Jon Rothschild left deﬁed student politics in the As the title suggests, this is not 1960s and 1970s, and no one who meant to be an account from lived through that period can both sides of the Crusades, but forget it. But the most interesting speciﬁcally a subjective account thing for me is the character of of how it seemed to the Arabs. Trotsky that Deutscher reveals. For As a result, and because it is well all his faults and inconsistencies, written and well researched, the range of his thinking and the it has had a real impact on a energy of the creativity were number of levels. It shows how remarkable. And ultimately, despite the Crusades look to Muslims: his rigid adherence to Marxism, he as a brutal invasion for motives was moved by an impulse far more of religious persecution. It neatly moral than scientiﬁc. corrects the myth prevalent in the way that history used to Jesus Was a Jew be taught in the West – that we by Arnold G. were the civilised folk struggling Fruchtenbaum against the barbarians. It describes This is a fascinating how the scientists and the medics book, engrossing but also troubling of the time, who were at the for Christians. Because of the forefront of advanced medical way we Christians are brought thinking, were Arabs. There are up and because of the way the great stories about how the early Church distanced itself Christian doctors of the day from Judaism, we can sometimes with their spells, leeches and overlook this simple fact: Jesus blood-letting, appalled their was a Jew. What savvy and cultured Fruchtenbaum Muslim counterparts shows, is that he was who then frequently not only a Jew by were called upon ethnicity, he was a to heal Christian fully practicing Jew, knights and kings. a rabbi who saw So it’s an instructive A Journey himself absolutely in read, but Maalouf by Tony Blair the line of the great is also a great writer. Arrow PB prophets of Israel. Of Thus it is an enjoyable Out now course, he also had one, too.
Shoemaker of Dreams by Salvatore Ferragamo This is a real speciality and I don’t even know if it is in print or wide circulation. A few years ago I met the widow of Ferragamo, who gave me his autobiography. I was on holiday then, otherwise I don’t suppose I would have had the time. Now, what I know about fashion could be written on the heel of a shoe. But I know something of motivation, determination and ambition bordering on obsession. This book is a gem, an extraordinary story of one person’s fascination. In this case, it was an obsession with creating the perfect shoe. For Ferragamo, the pain and discomfort of poorly made shoes was an outrage; preventing it was a lifetime's mission. From the age of nine, through many ups and downs, he dedicated his life to that mission, inventing along the way the cage heel and wedge. He was a designer to the famous but his drive came from nothing to do with power or wealth; it was a love of artistry for a purpose. It is his description of that purpose that makes the book so special. Muhammed by Martin Lings This is also an unusual book. Martin Lings wrote a biography of the Prophet based on the most early sources of information, some shortly after the Prophet’s death. The result is a fascinating account of the life of a man who changed history and changes the world still. It describes the way he was brought up, the extraordinary revelations that began when he was 40 and led him on a mission to both modernise his region and return it to what he thought was its true faith. He was disowned by his home city, fought constant battles against the interests and ideas aligned against him but ﬁnally triumphed by the simple, direct but profound force of ideas. The authenticity of the text makes the book both moving and instructive.
Photography: Silverﬁsh Media
are treated, incites them to strike. The strike continues for months. Starvation sets in. The travails of the families are seen through the eyes of the Maheu family, which loses its children, and ﬁnally the father is shot at a protest rally. What makes the book remarkable is the vivid description of not just the life of the miner but also of the mine itself – a bestial place of misery of many, for the proﬁt of a few. Yet though harrowing, the title implies that out of the struggle, a better world will come. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott It was my old housemaster at school, Eric Anderson, who went on to become headmaster at Eton, who introduced Sir Walter Scott to me. I was resistant at ﬁrst. His novels can take time to engage you. The language and descriptions are in a style far from the staccato bluntness of today’s writers but the reader should persevere – it’s worth it. Once hooked, you realise these are the words of genius. Ivanhoe is actually the most readable Scott novel, a fabulous adventure, love story and moral tale. It is set in the time of Richard the Lionheart, when there was a battle still raging between Saxons and Normans. There are jousts and tournaments, ﬁghts and action to satisfy those wanting a thriller, but for me, the depth of the book is revealed in the love triangle of Ivanhoe, Rowena, the Saxon princess, and Rebecca, the beautiful Jewess. Read it and see if, like me, you are sure he should have deﬁed convention and eloped with Rebecca! The Prophet: Trotsky 1887-1940 by Isaac Deutscher This book may seem an odd choice for an originator of New Labour, which is about as far from Trotskyist politics on the progressive political wing as you can be, but it was, curiously, the ﬁrst political book I read and the one that got me interested
THE LATEST WORLD BOOK NIGHT
MAKE LITERARY HISTORY… AGAIN
Have your say on which books will feature in World Book Night 2012 Fancy being part of literary history? If so, get voting for the titles that you would like to see given away on World Book Night 2012. The second annual World Book Night will take place on 23 April, when 500,000 books of 25 titles will be given away for free by a team of volunteers. The decision for what those titles will be begins with a public ballot. A World Book Night panel will then whittle a top 100 down to the ﬁnal 25, to be announced in mid-October. Created to raise the proﬁle of books, especially for people who might not be big readers, the ﬁrst World Book Night saw 20,000 volunteers hand out one million free books in March this year, while special programmes ran on the BBC and events took place across the UK. Those titles included Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the
OF THE ISSUE
Dog in the Night-Time, Marian Keyes’ Rachel's Holiday and David Nicholls’ One Day. To vote for your top ten books to be given away, or to volunteer to be a giver, go to worldbooknight.org
AWARDS ROUND-UP ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION The Tiger's Wife, the acclaimed debut of 25-year-old Téa Obreht, won the Orange Prize for Fiction on 8 June, beating bookies’ favourite Emma Donoghue's Room. Judges lauded the humanity of the myth-infused, Balkans-set novel. She is the women-only award's youngest winner. ORWELL PRIZE The late Tom Bingham's The Rule of Law picked up the Orwell Prize in May. Judges hailed its "incisive, wise and clear" arguments as to why the law matters. INTERNATIONAL IMPAC DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD Colum McCann beat nine other luminaries including Colm Tóibín and David Malouf to win the IMPAC award with his 9/11 novel Let the Great World Spin on 15 June.
Lifehack A strategy for managing your time and daily activities more efficiently. Comes from the world of computer programming, where one of the meanings of hack is ‘to program roughly or quickly’. A lifehack is like a shortcut that makes life easier. For more on language trends, visit oxforddictionaries.com
2011 CILIP CARNEGIE MEDAL On 23 June, Patrick Ness won the most prestigeous children's book award with Monsters of Men, the third volume in his Chaos Walking trilogy. See p72 for the lowdown on his latest novel.
MOMENT IN THE SUN
A new campaign reveals great authors you might have missed
Robert Edric's The London Satyr, set in the seedy London underworld of 1891; The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall (pictured left), which follows events in a Lake District village following the rescue of a girl by a young mathematician; Night Waking by Sarah Moss, charting the fortunes of a Scottish family; Chris Paling's Nimrod's Shadow, in which an artist's paintings trigger a murder
A new nationwide literary promotion campaign, Fiction Uncovered, launched this May. It aims to support UK ﬁction writers who, according to the chair of this year's judging panel, The Last King of Scotland author Giles Foden, deserve their "moment in the sun". The books included in Fiction Uncovered are: The Water Theatre by Lindsay Clarke, a family tale ranging from working-class Yorkshire to a West African state; 6
investigation; Disputed Land by Tim Pears, about a family's politics over Christmas; Ray Robinson's Forgetting Zoë, set around the abduction of a girl; and The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons, a wartime novel about a Jewish family divided from their daughter. The promotion is supported by the Arts Council England and funded by the National Lottery. The judging panel picked the titles, which are being celebrated by bookshops across the UK, as well as online, in an app and in events this summer. ﬁctionuncovered.co.uk
Photography: Beth Crosland
Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 1)
Get into Shakespeare this summer! We are excited to announce the completion of our Shakespeare set in Oxford World’s Classics ‘not simply a better text but a new conception of Shakespeare’ Times Literary Supplement
OXFORD WORLD’S CLASSICS www.oup.com/worldsclassics
BEHIND THE HEADLINES
These are the books that explain the world today, as NATO is embroiled in continuing conflict in both Afghanistan and Libya, the coalition's NHS plans fall into disarray, tthe Tour de France kicks off and David Nicholls' One Day hits cinemas NEWS
US WITHDRAWS TROOPS FROM AFGHANISTAN This July sees the beginning of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, while authoritative and controversial books are emerging about the conﬂict. Chief among these is Cables from Kabul (HarperPress), whose author, former ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, was a forthright critic during his years in the Kabul office (2007-10) and has written a depressing yet enlightening book highlighting the mistakes and sheer bloody-mindedness; Michael Hastings' The Operators (Orion) also provides an insightful exposé of the madness in the US camp.
though it is light on the business of 'black gold'. In fact, as the Arab spring progressed, it was a novelist who became the broadsheet's voice of choice: Libyan author Hisham Matar, whose In the Country of Men (Penguin) illuminates life in Gaddaﬁ's regime via a child's eyes, avoiding both sentimentality and overt shock value with great elegance. At home, Nick Clegg chose the NHS as the battleground on which to recover his reputation, while the Tories fought internally over plans. Find out how we got here with NHS Plc by Allyson M. Pollock (Verso), about New Labour's tranformation of healthcare, then come up to date with The Plot Against the NHS (Merlin Press) by Colin Leys and Stewart Player.
The fascination with Osama bin Laden's life and death will likely continue for some time, but just as gripping has been the portrayal of the Navy SEALs who carried out the mission. Former elite SEALs sniper Howard E. Wasdin's SEAL Team Six (written with Stephen Templin; Abacus) gives an insight into their operations – including their killing of the Al-Qaeda leader. The march of the Arab spring seemed almost inexorable until the uprising in oil-rich Libya, over which Western powers wavered before an increasingly aggressive Colonel Gaddaﬁ. For a brief general introduction to the country, try Libya: From Colony to Independence (Oneworld) by Ronald Bruce St. John – half is dedicated to the Gaddaﬁ period – 8
ONE DAY IN CINEMAS The adaptation of David Nicholls' bestseller One Day (pictured; Hodder) hits cinemas on the 26 August. Many have quibbled with the casting of sparkly Anne Hathaway as sarcastic northern Emma – whose relationship with charmed, cruisy Dexter (Jim Sturgess), shown on a single day each year for two decades, struck a chord with so many readers.
Reuters photo by Goran Tomsevic A Marine tries to protect an Afghan man and child after Taliban ﬁghters open ﬁre. Reuters: Our World Now 4 is published by Thames & Hudson
THE WORLD IN VERSE
take a fascinatingly alternative direction to European modern art, displaying a strong inﬂuence from nature. The informative catalogue, Out of Australia (British Museum Press), is by Stephen Coppel. The National Portrait Gallery's annual BP Portrait Award is beautifully represented in a major retrospective book of 20 years of ﬁgurative art, 500 Portraits by Sandy Nairne (out July). The exhibition runs at the London gallery to 18 September, then tours.
Current affairs explored via poetry – this issue, a new poem from Clare Pollard on Twitter
Feed Paris tweets: Wow! Such a huge crowd at my handbag store! Love you so much! Today we read: Sky News, Guardian, Telegraph all naming him, and Ryan Giggs you MUG fancy going after ordinary people lol, what you gonna do jail 100K?
For more juicy super-injunctions… (roll up for the overdosing girl, the bastard banker, the dildo hooker.) Trending are: oldpeoplenames, mini JLS, Curly Wurly,
WAR ON TWO WHEELS
But in #Syria they chant we’d rather die than be humiliated; in #Libya children leave Nafusa’s mountain caves with pots and plates for water. Rain is rare this time of year. I’m definitely hungrier for news now. Expect new news every thirty seconds. They tied up the mother and father and their boys [three of them] by their feet and hands. "When we pointed a gun at her she stopped screaming." Today we read: #Iran to scrap the internet for ‘halal’ network. Katy tweets: A few of my favourite things! Candy, Kittens and French fries!!! CLARE POLLARD Poet, editor, broadcaster and teacher Clare Pollard has published four collections: The Heavy-Petting Zoo, Bedtime, Look, Clare! Look! and Changeling, and is co-editor, with James Byrne, of the anthology Voice Recognition: 21 poets for the 21st century (all from Bloodaxe Books).
Photography: Giles Keyte ©2011 Focus Features LLC and Random House Inc. All Rights Reserved; L'Equipe; Jayne West
Fans can be reassured that director Lone Sherﬁg also helmed the faithful adaptation of Lynn Barber's An Education; and, as with the adaptation of his Starter for Ten, Nicholls wrote the screenplay. Ever-reliable entertainment comes from the last ﬁlmic outing for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Bloomsbury), released on 15 July. Split into two parts for the big screen, this time not quite as long is spent in a tent, and there's even more portent. The British Museum is running a season about Australia, including Kew Gardens' team transforming the forecourt into an Oz landscape (until 16 October), and Out of Australia, a free exhibition of a vast array of art from the 1940s to now (until 11 September). The works
The Tour de France (2-24 July) is cycling's iconic event, with this year marking the centenary of the ﬁrst time competitors scaled the Alps. For an official, dip-in, visual approach, last year's The Treasures of the Tour de France by Luke Edwardes-Evans and Serge Laget (Carlton; picture above from the book) is an attractive accompaniment. Sky's the Limit (HarperSport), meanwhile, sees Richard Moore charting the birth of Team Sky, the ﬁrst British road cycling team to compete since 1987. A more personal take is broadcaster Ned Boulting's How I Won the Yellow Jumper (Yellow Jersey), following his stumbling, humbling beginnings reporting on the sport through his eight years covering it, with humour and verve. At time of press, Andy Murray's Queen's win set the Wimbledon hype machine going. Tournament junkies should take a look at the official Centre Court from The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (Vision Sports Publishing). And for amateurs who want to be the next Murray or Nadal, try pro Brad Gilbert's Winning Ugly (Pocket Books), written with Steve Jamison – it's more about how to win mentally than technique, but could also help you understand Wimbledon players' tactics.
Sidney Nolan (1917–1992), Kelly (detail), 1954. Felt-tipped pen on thin coated paper. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Reproduced by permission of the Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust.
prints and drawings from sidney nolan to rover thomas 26 May – 11 September 2011 Admission free, open late Fridays Holborn, Russell Square britishmuseum.org/australianseason
Exhibition catalogue available now £25 paperback published by the British Museum Press ISBN: 978 0 7141 2672 2
AUSTRALIAN SEASON A series of exhibitions and events focusing on Australia
MARK TWAIN Debut author Jenny Wingfield harks back to the American master who first spoke to her creativity A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, the list goes on), and I assumed there wasn’t anything else. It was with some surprise that I discovered, a few years later, that there was a great deal more – much of it with quite a different ﬂavour. There was The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, and Letters from the Earth. There were more books, short stories, essays, and lectures. A ﬂood of them. Twain’s biting wit had been employed to protest vivisection, war, any sort of cruelty, hypocrisy,
man’s ﬂagrant disregard for his fellows. Over time, Twain’s voice had grown more caustic, but one thing never changed: he was still a storyteller, and an honest one. He remains America’s greatest humorist and one of our most outspoken cynics. My favourite teacher. What I keep learning from him is how the truth can be funnier, sadder, or more startling if kept unvarnished. And how, the more simply a story is told, the easier it is for the reader to jump in and live it. He’s still talking to me, that Mr Twain is. And as far as I’m concerned, we’re still in cahoots. 11
The Master Mark Twain brought an adventurous and witty America to the page, and this mammoth ﬁrst volume of Autobiography of Mark Twain (University of California Press), published a century after his death at the author’s demand so he could be “unaware, and indifferent” to it, displays his storytelling mastery, whether applied to the trivial or the national interest.
The Apprentice Jenny Wingﬁeld’s debut, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake (HarperPress, out 7 July), has a knockabout Southern twang, all liquor, sheriffs and a ﬁght for justice. In her 11-year-old tomboy heroine, Swan, Wingﬁeld reconjures that most American of heroes, Twain’s Huck Finn: “You couldn’t get the best of her, no matter how hard you tried.”
Photography: ©National Portrait Gallery, London
WHEN MY THIRD-GRADE teacher read my ﬁrst essay to the class, I decided then and there that I would become a writer. Not long thereafter, I got my ﬁrst taste of Mark Twain, and I decided to become something even better: a storyteller. No one had to explain to me that there was a difference. Before I’d ﬁnished reading the ﬁrst pages of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I knew. This Twain fellow had gathered me into his lap and was talking to me as though we were old friends. We were in cahoots. I didn’t know or care that someone named Ernest Hemingway had declared that all modern American literature came from this one book. I didn’t even know at ﬁrst that Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorn Clemens, that he hailed from Missouri, that his characters were modelled after his boyhood friends and himself, or that he had been an adventurer who grabbed hold of life with both hands, wringing more out of it than most people ever dared dream might be in it. All I knew of him was the book in my hands, and that was enough. Here was the truth told tongue in cheek, and with a twinkle – the kind of truth that makes us laugh at ourselves. And tragic truth, puzzled over by a young boy in such a way that the reader has to puzzle over it too, and decide what to believe about it. Here were matters to be pondered: slavery, freedom, heaven and hell, and the question of whether to do what our gut says is the only right thing. And, oh yes, here was fun. Here was excitement. Here was the liveliest use of language I’d ever encountered. As so often happens with childhood friendships, Mr Twain and I lost track of each other after a while. By then, I’d read as many of his ‘kid stories’ as I could lay my hands on (everything Tom Sawyer, The Prince and The Pauper,
THREE-COURSE CRUSH Three new recipe books, three delicious courses: savour the sweet, spicy flavours of our summer menu
ICED NORDIC BERRIES WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE AND CARDAMOM SAUCE Serves 6
12 cardamom pods 500ml double cream 400g white chocolate, broken Small pinch of vanilla salt 600g frozen sour cherries, blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries and blackberries
CAMEMBERT, WATERCRESS AND MARINATED FIGS WITH WALNUT DRESSING Serves 4
200ml balsamic vinegar 100g caster sugar 2 garlic cloves, bruised 6 thyme sprigs 6 plump ﬁgs, halved 4 tbsp walnut oil A large handful of watercress, thick stalks trimmed 150g ripe Camembert or Brie, sliced 75g walnuts, toasted and chopped Place the vinegar, sugar, garlic and 4 thyme sprigs in a saucepan and add 100ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a minute to dissolve the sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes then pour over the ﬁgs and leave to marinate for an hour. Discard the thyme sprigs and garlic from the marinade and spoon 5 tbsp into a small, lidded jar. Strip the leaves from the remaining 2 thyme sprigs and add to the jar with the walnut oil, a little salt and plenty of pepper. Screw on the lid and shake well. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and sear the drained ﬁgs, cut sides down, for a minute or so until they caramelise. Remove the pan from the heat, turn the ﬁgs over and set aside. In a large bowl, drizzle the watercress with a little dressing and toss. Add the Camembert or Brie, walnuts and ﬁgs and divide onto plates. Spoon the remaining dressing over each. Recipe from Vegetarian by Alice Hart Murdoch Books PB Out now
PORK CHOPS WITH PINEAPPLE, MOLASSES AND TAMARIND
except the pineapple and onion, and pour over the chops, turning them in the marinade to make sure they are all covered. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan)/190°C/gas mark 5. Arrange the chops and their marinade in a shallow ovenproof dish, with the pineapple and onion wedges tucked in around them. Mix everything together with your hands, then bake for 3540 minutes. Check the pork is cooked through – it should be white rather than pink in the middle. Serve straight from the baking dish with all the lovely cooking juices from the chops. Serve with rice and spinach.
4 pork chops, about 200g each 2½ tbsp molasses sugar 1½ tbsp tamarind paste 2cm (¾in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and ﬁnely chopped 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped 3 garlic cloves, crushed Juice of 1 lime 50ml freshly squeezed orange juice Salt and black pepper 400g prepared fresh pineapple, cut into chunks 2 red onions, peeled, each one cut into 6-8 wedges
Recipe from Spice it Up! by Levi Roots Mitchell Beazley HB Out July
Put the chops into a shallow ceramic or glass dish. Mix all the remaining ingredients together,
Gently open the cardamom pods by applying gentle pressure using a pestle and mortar or lightly squashing with a rolling pin. Bring the double cream and the opened cardamom pods to a simmer in a medium saucepan and continue to simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes to allow the spice to infuse. Put the white chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl on a saucepan containing a couple of centimetres of simmering water over a low heat. Add the cardamom-infused cream and vanilla salt and stir until the chocolate melts. Remove the berries from the freezer and distribute equally between 6 tall martini glasses or shallow bowls. Pour the hot, white-chocolate cardamom sauce over the berries and serve immediately.
Recipe from Scandilicious by Signe Johansen Saltyard Books HB Out now
SUMMER LIFE THE HIDDEN PLACES
ESCAPE THE SOFA
Tom Hall of Lonely Planet on a secret UK wonder, Sgurr na Ciche in Scotland
I CAMP A DOZEN times a year all over Britain with my family. Sleeping under the stars is an easy way to become intimate with the land and its moods. I know the difference between a drenching Devonian valley mist and a sea fret drifting over the South Downs. I can distinguish between the machair of the Western Isles and the chalky soils of the English coastline from the different way in which they take a peg. I learnt the hard way that, as far as the wind is concerned, there are no barriers between Suffolk and the Urals. My camping trips are hotspots burnt into the mind, a gauze of memory laid over a map of the British Isles. The intensity of these trips derives from the evolution of a modern and uniquely British form of camping, small in scale, rough around the edges, with a campﬁre at its heart. A new generation of campers, inspired by the summer festival season, arrive at sites expecting ﬁre and freedom, not a manicured garden suburb. Paul Stagg, owner of Sussex campsite Wowo, has beneﬁted from this change in camping culture. He cites the decision to allow campﬁres at his site as the secret of their success. He calls it "ﬁre therapy", with additional treatment provided by birdsong
BRITAIN'S THREE BEST CAMPSITES Comrie Croft All the beneﬁts of a wild camp – campﬁres in a high meadow pitch overlooking a valley – without the need to dig your own toilet.
comriecroft.com Forgewood Camp in clearings in ancient woods (main image) on the estate of the Marquess of Abergavenny and dine on local venison.
forgewoodcamping.co.uk Cloud Farm Set your campﬁre beside a stream, and at sunset, witness a low mauve cloudscape grazing on the surrounding Doone Valley.
The Art of Camping by Matthew De Abaitua Hamish Hamilton HB Out July
and fresh air. Gazing into ﬂames is a psychological disinfectant that burns away anxiety. A night sleeping under the stars – fresh air, sinew-stiffening activity, a hearty meal – is physically regenerative. Socially and psychologically too, great beneﬁts come from exploring and pitching your tent in and around the country where you live. My camping education has not always been easy – that time we had swine ﬂu, for example – but it has always been intense. The art of camping lies in the fostering and appreciation of that intensity. 14
FROM THE TOP OF Sgurr na Ciche there was nothing but wilderness as far as the eye could see. To the east, the rolling tops of Munros – Scottish tops over 3,000 feet – and smaller peaks, seemingly without interruption, dark green summits dappled with patches of sunlight. Behind, Loch Nevis stretched into the distance, becoming intertwined with sea lochs and distant islands. There was no sign of human habitation. Sgurr na Ciche sits like an upturned ice-cream cone at the heart of Knoydart, a remote peninsula in the north-west Highlands of Scotland. This special place is a well-kept secret, stumbled upon by my grandfather, who came looking to tick off the Munros and returned time and again for the locally caught seafood platters at the Pier House. I’ve been failing to keep it to myself ever since he took me there a few summers back. There’s no road in, other than rough tracks, and the only transport is a ferry from Mallaig to the village and port of Inverie.
Scotland by Neil Wilson Lonely Planet PB Out Now Josie Curran on summer projects Helena Attlee on lush gardens John Vaillant's Russia quest
MORE SUMMER LIFE ONLINE welovethisbook.com
Photography: George Sloan; Lonely Planet Images/Feargus Cooney
Britain in summer is best lived outside, says The Art of Camping author Matthew De Abaitua
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Pammy Riggs and her family moved away from mainstream life more than 20 years ago to create a different kind of reality, transforming a bare wet Devon ﬁeld into Providence Farm – see providencefarm.co.uk. They created a thriving, small organic farm and cosy
BEAUTIFUL BIRDS Um volore pa conemOlorrorro od ut landitas prem a solestrum rere, eatum quiantus ex et eaturerovit Eptatia velecta tatibus dollam que sin nosam et delicil mos as eturem accatis eos re nem se raest, siti des magnihic tet ullautae non niscillaut ulparia velent as ma cum atusame ndiciisque pa voluptati volupient faccabore illant as magni cusamusam ipsam quis velecti oriatur, ipsae. • Ut laccae — sanimolor molore ped quo qui nihit aliquas dic tecessi demperem fugiasperum nam • Ut laccae — sanimolor molore ped quo qui nihit aliquas dic tecessi demperem fugiasperum nam • Ut laccae — sanimolor molore ped quo qui nihit aliquas dic tecessi demperem fugiasperum nam • Ut laccae — sanimolor molore ped quo qui nihit aliquas dic tecessi demperem fugiasperum nam • Ut laccae — sanimolor molore ped quo qui nihit aliquas dic tecessi demperem fugiasperum nam
Open the book and find:
• Quia sequam, sam landiae seribus sinti omnihitat seribus sinti • Quia sequam, sam landiae seribus sinti omnihitat seribus sinti • Quia sequam, sam landiae seribus sinti omnihitat seribus sinti • Quia sequam, sam landiae seribus sinti omnihitat seribus sinti • Quia sequam, sam landiae seribus sinti omnihitat seribus sinti • Quia sequam, sam landiae seribus sinti omnihitat seribus sinti • Quia sequam, sam landiae seribus sinti omnihitat seribus sinti
Nothing says summer like the cluck of chickens in your own garden and waking up to fresh eggs for breakfast
Learn to: • Breed and rear chicks • Construct the perfect hen house • Keep your chickens happy and healthy
$19.99 US / $23.99 CN / £14.99 UK
Farmer and columnist
Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'Chicken Whisperer' on Channel 4 series River Cottage) and also runs the poultry-keeping course at River Cottage. TIPS FOR HEALTHY, HAPPY CHICKENS 1. Choose the right breed for your needs 2. Set up suitable housing 3. Supplement lighting when it's needed 4. Control pests 5. Protect against predators 6. Control parasites 7. Vaccinate 8. Feed a well-balanced diet 9. Make sure you provide enough clean water 10. Beware disease-transmitting dangers
• Feed and care for your chickens
Go to Dummies.com®
low-carbon home, planting woodland and reinstating wild meadows along the way. In the warm light of this life-liberation, Pammy now nurtures a burning desire to share all of her invaluable knowledge and vast experience. From speaking and teaching at educational institutions to creating her writing, courses and ideas for getting reconnected with a more natural and creative life, her passion is to empower us all to get out from behind our computers and desks and get our hands dirty in the rich soil of life. A well-respected ﬁgure in the farming and food industry, Pammy is a celebrity chef (Hugh
for videos, step-by-step examples, how-to articles, or to shop!
Aruptas suntibus Puditiis dolorum doluptium quiae num hit ut exererc hillia aligeneste nonet ipient a ius, andipisqui ullitis reperro cuptibus apidell uptaspedis denit aut aspid ut ium, sequund estinciatque earc.
Easier Making Everything
TOM AND BARBARA Good from the 1970s British sitcom The Good Life were on to a great thing when they set up a small-holding in their back garden. And their inspiration continues today – over the past few years, self-sufficiency has been booming, with more people than ever since the Second World War choosing to sign up for allotments or deciding to grow vegetables in their gardens. In fact, the desire for greener living is so popular that some councils now have two-year allotment waiting lists. If you're keen to go the whole hog and don't have the patience to sit on a waiting list hoping for an allotment, then raising a small ﬂock of chickens is the next step to a greener, more self-sufficient lifestyle. And the great thing is you can raise them in your own backyard. New book Keeping Chickens For Dummies provides readers with an introduction to all aspects of keeping chickens, from constructing a coop to the correct feeding regime. Keeping Chickens For Dummies covers the following topics: • How to keep your chickens in a happy and healthy condition • Guidance on choosing and purchasing chickens • Step-by-step advice on constructing the right housing • How to feed and care for your chickens • Breeding and rearing chicks • And much more. Whether you’re looking to raise chickens for eggs, meat, or just for the entertainment value and fun of it, Keeping Chickens For Dummies is the perfect place to start.
Poultry breeder and enthusiast
Rob Ludlow Last Name
Keeping Chickens For Dummies by Pammy Riggs, Kimberley Willis, Rob Ludlow John Wiley PB/EB £15.99 Out August
Beekeeping Learn to:
In October try BEEKEEPING FOR DUMMIES! Providing your hands-on guide for starting a honey hive
love KISSES SNATCHED IN A MOMENT'S MADNESS, TORRID AFFAIRS AND TABOO-BUSTING BEHAVIOUR: STRAIGHT OR GAY, ADULTEROUS OR PURELY SELF-INDULGENT, WE LOOK AT THE GREATEST TALES OF FORBIDDEN LOVE IN LIFE AND FICTION
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DANGEROUS L IA I S ON S SEX AND LIES FILL ALAN HOLLINGHURST'S INTRIGUING NOVEL, THE STRANGER'S CHILD, PORTRAYING A CENTURY OF LOVE AND LOSS. ADAM MARS-JONES MEETS THE AUTHOR
and all that bit before I started writing. There was a knobbly Gothic house, which I mention, called Stanmore Hall. I love that it was right on the edge of London then. Obviously there are allusions to the world of E.M. Forster, the whole London-suburban thing. One's sense of how people might have spoken to each other in the Edwardian/early Georgian period comes entirely from reading novels. I thought I must find a way of writing it that wasn't pastiche Forster." THE LIBERAL SECRECY OF SEX Forster himself had the courage to write a novel about forbidden (gay) love, Maurice, but not to publish it. Over the decades before decriminalisation there was a shifting vocabulary, and a changing set of insider phrases. Hollinghurst is careful to use the terms current in each period. "I deliberately use different terms," he says, "so, 'sodomite' in the first section, which is true to the period, if you read Strachey's letters." (There's an unforgettable line in the book about somebody being "the most arrant sodomite in Harrow.") "Then 'bugger' in the 1920s – very much the Bloomsbury word. Then in the middle section, 'queer' becomes the usual term." I point out that the word 'gay', the familiar modern term, is used only once in the book, despite the fact that half of it is set in 1967 or afterward, when a bank clerk called Paul, captivated by the Sawles, takes on the story. At the risk of coming across as an incorrigible old ideologue – since the gay liberation movement, for all its occasional silliness, was an important part of my development – I pick him up on it. "I'm not sure how conscious I was about not using it," says Hollinghurst. "I don't think that was terribly significant. I may have cut out some uses of it. I was never terribly involved in it [the liberation movement], really. Paul certainly isn't. It did change the world around me, I think I was just too shy to get involved. I never became part of any group." I can't help feeling that shy people make the best activists, I tell him, just because they go straight from shy to shameless.
Photography: Mark Chilvers
"Perhaps there's a hidden text within Cecil's poem 'Two Acres': forbidden love," Alan Hollinghurst explains
SEXUAL SECRETS underlie Alan Hollinghurst's new novel The Stranger's Child – his first since his Booker Prize-winning 2004 book The Line of Beauty. I ask him whether part of the novelist's fascination with them is that they're so subjective and so unlikely to be documented, always having to be reconstructed, even by the people who experienced them. "Exactly. Yes. Forgotten, misremembered, invented perhaps," he agrees. "Invented for them by others, wishfully, supposing that things happened which perhaps didn't." Near the centre of Hollinghurst's novel, which spans the 20th century, are the hidden sexual and romantic truths that lie behind the poem 'Two Acres', a suburban idyll written by charming hedonist Cecil Valance, an aristocrat trying not to condescend to the Sawle family who own the home of his title – he is entwined with two of them, young siblings Daphne and George. "There's the idea that this poem, supposedly addressed to a girl, may be addressed to a boy," Hollinghurst explains. "Perhaps there's also a hidden text within it, a forbidden love." Valance becomes a symbolic figure after his death in the First World War, his poems entering not only the curriculum but the collective memory. The poet himself as he appears in the pre-war section of the novel is anything but saintly, more of an unscrupulous young animal, and his image is contested by later generations who may be less interested in his virtues than what were once seen as vices. "When I was just starting the book, I had a conversation with my old tutor and friend John Fuller. I said I was writing about a First World War poet, and he was very emphatic: 'I never want to read another novel about Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Craiglockhart ever, ever again.' I saw his point. I also felt that writing a novel like that, about the trenches, has been done to death." He winces at his own phrase. "And would require such a huge amount of research, which is something I've never been a bit keen on." "You don't do research at all?" "A tiny bit. Research sort of shows itself off, doesn't it? I did do a little wintry foray round Stanmore Hill
"Of course I know there is that special boldness of the shy… and I am rather ashamed of my lack of shamelessness. It was something that, I remember, very much impressed me about you when I first met you, 30 years ago." "My total shamelessness?" "Total shamelessness." I stammer something about what a glorious way this is to be remembered, when of course I'm very disconcerted. The odd thing is that, on the page, Hollinghurst is far more explicit than I have ever been. No better evidence for the special boldness of the shy. I find that Hollinghurst isn't a difficult interviewee, although he chooses his words carefully and doesn't rush into a reply, pointing out that this is one of the first interviews he has done for The Stranger's Child, a time when a book's author can feel like a newly appointed ambassador, not yet fully briefed. There's an element of wary circling in our dealings with each other. I seem to have a reputation for unsparing criticism, while as novelists I feel we are competing for the same readers… and he's winning. Recovering my composure, I suggest homosexuality is actually pretty banal, not inherently interesting in any way, but I think that for him it is, certainly historically, a repository for different sorts of secret. "That must be partly why I keep hopping back to earlier periods, when the sense of its forbiddenness, its secrecy and all the other things that came with that, were so much stronger. I feel that gay lit was a historically determined phenomenon that is ceasing to mean what it once did. With social change and legal change… the whole atmosphere in which we live and work is so different from the one in which we started out, 30 years ago." "There was a time when to be a sodomite, a bugger, a queer, was both to be an outcast and a member of an in-group," I suggest. "Yes." He sounds very guarded. "Perhaps that has some attraction?" "Perhaps it does. That was something you heard said quite a lot by older people after the time of gay lib, that they rather regretted this liberalisation because the secrecy, the illegality, were an essential part of the excitement of being gay. I don't fully take that line, but I do understand that sense that you went somewhere and you read the codes to find the forbidden thing, the secret thing that you wanted." JUMPS AND BLANKS The structure of Hollinghurst's new book isn't easy to grasp, arcing as it does across the 20th century, leaping decades between chapters yet providing few signposts for readers to help them recognise their surroundings. "I was so familiar with the time structure that I can't quite imagine how it strikes someone reading the book," says Hollinghurst, but to me it comes across as deliberately alienating – we leave 1913 and we're suddenly in a different period, which is (presumably consciously) disorienting; we flounder in those first
"They rather regretted liberalisation because the illegality was part of the excitement of being gay"
took hold, and we have further jumps, following the story in different ways through further periods." Henry James, a frequent reference point for Alan Hollinghurst, might have raised an eyebrow at the way that he returns to the point of view of Daphne Sawle, first seen as a 16-year-old in 1913, near the end. "Yes, it's a break, an impurity," he admits, "I should have got rid of it, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do that." pages of the second section. It's a sensation Perhaps he liked the character too much? "This whole business of 'liking' that Hollinghurst actively seeks to create. "I love the idea of pitching readers into characters is such a strain. I suppose one a new situation and them having to get does sometimes feel one likes or loves a their bearings. It's to do with not having fictional character, but it's not a terribly FORBIDDEN FACT hindsight in the book – it doesn't have a important part of my own approach to The heartbroken framing narrative. I wanted each section reading fiction. I'm terribly struck by the tend to move widely varying personal relationships that to be people living at their time in history, closer to the sea without a sense of their own historicity." people seem to have with the principal after divorce. As a It's certainly a powerful effect because characters of my books. Nick, in the last result Blackpool is the divorce capital of the huge things that have happened in one, some people loathed from the first of the UK; one is the turn of a page. Readers of The Stranger's page, others thought he was okay and others most likely to ﬁnd Child are spared an account of the war but that he was adorable. I love that openness a new partner and have to make sense of the world from to interpretation, and it makes it very hard remarry on the scratch after it ends. to pronounce whether a character is likeable south coast "The original idea was to write a book or not. I thought Daphne was likeable early sort of about the First World War but without the First on – a more difficult case, probably, was Paul, who I World War in it. I originally thought it would be in found the most difficult character that I've ever two parts, one before and one after, and you would attempted to write. I hoped, in the fourth section, to just pick up these people again. Then that idea rather bring together these two people who you have been 20
encouraged to feel quite sympathetic towards — and writer of any sexual persuasion should be able to write then neither behaving particularly well or being nice about any other… [but] I don't think I particularly wanted to, actually. Do you feel it as a… lack in the to the other. I hoped it might be rather a puzzle where book?" one's sympathies might lie at that point." If I preferred the first half of the book to the second, I don't, I say, though I sometimes do have reservations when a book seeks to represent a it was partly because there are so many things in it that seem miraculously recovered from history. It's whole world while there's gravitation towards one as if Hollinghurst dives into the wreck of the past and part of that world and a shying away from another. brings things back, without ever letting us In this book, as he points out, his cast is forget that the pressure down there is very selective – he's not offering a crossdifferent from ours. section of humanity or a full historical "I was very struck and moved," he says, panorama. I ask if there's a problem "not long before starting writing this book, reconciling the desirability of a dramatic by reading Alice Munro. Her book structure with a distaste for conventional FORBIDDEN FACT resolutions and climaxes. Runaway has three stories about the life of If a man has sex one woman. There are big gaps in time "I've become increasingly resistant to more than twice a between them. First she's a girl, in the last the idea of the novel in which there is some week it increases (or is it the middle one?) her daughter has secret revelation that will then explain his life expectancy by two years; joined some strange cult and repudiated everything, because it doesn't seem to me and a woman to be terribly like life," Hollinghurst says. her. She wonderfully does that thing of who achieves inhabiting the past without any self"The unknowability of things strikes me 100 orgasms or consciousness on anybody's part of it being increasingly as I grow older, even when more a year is the past. There were wonderful things that they have happened to me. My own likely to improve gave me confidence in the structural idea memory seems to be incredibly patchy and her life chances of my book. That you could have a set of fallible – the whole thing that Daphne stories – I think I imagined at first that they'd be more meditates on at the end, about memoirs and how self-sufficient, long short stories in themselves." people can possibly remember [what happened]. So Hollinghurst's fictional world is dependably rich this seemed to me more truthful than the more and lush, but his novels also withhold a lot of the conventional novelistic structure you're referring to. These jumps and blanks and unresolvable things are satisfactions they promise, and their plots sometimes more true to my sense of things as I've grown older." run into the sand, I tell him. I say that he seems to be in some ways a romantic "That's part of the design, really. When the American publishers bought it they announced it to writer who moves steadily towards disillusionment the trade as a 'multi-generational family saga'. And I in each book. "I think that's clearly true. I'm just now trying to thought, yes, a multi-generational family saga with think at this early stage about the book I'm planning, all the multi-generational family saga bits left out…" This is true enough, but there are certainly genre and yes, I suppose it's a romance that turns into a elements, like children whose parentage may not be disillusionment… oh God." He laughs, unperturbed. straightforward. There are heterosexuals, but their "I don't have the sense, though, that you're trying to kill off romance altogether." goings-on are rather muted. Has he ever written about straight sex in any direct way? "No, I don't think so. I'm very drawn to it, "Absolutely not, no." while also having some sense that it's doomed to I point out that his posture has just changed; he disillusion. There's an element of fantasy even in the suddenly puts his knees together. playing out of the disillusionment, I suppose, because "I've shown men and women together in this book, it's in one's power to bring people to a bad end… which I haven't done before. In the last book, you I always have to restrain myself from killing people off towards the end." heard some copulation through a bathroom wall, it Really? was rumoured but not actually seen. Essentially, no, there aren't any sex scenes in The Stranger's Child, "Oh yes. I feel my hand twitching… there's a scene they're cut away from. I didn't feel it was necessary. towards the end of The Spell where the four main I've never written from the point of characters have a wary reunion at the top of a cliff, and I was conscious of the view of a female character before, and I felt wary, a bit self-conscious about it, urge to push at least one of them off. actually. I felt if I did try to describe the But I made them stay there and hug more intimate sexual sensations of a each other instead." woman I might make a fool of myself." I mention that gay novelist Michael Adam Mars-Jones is the author of The Stranger's Child Cunningham wrote a well-managed Cedilla, published by Faber. Forbidden By Alan Hollinghurst sex scene in his recent book By Nightfall, Facts taken from So You Think You Picador HB though not from a female point of view. Know About Britain? by Danny Dorling, Out July "Of course. I absolutely feel that a published by Constable 22
In prai s e of the
O T H E R WOM A N TAMAR COHEN REFLECTS ON THE ROLE OF MISTRESSES FROM DUMAS AND TOLSTOY TO SUPER-INJUNCTION BRITAIN
IT IS A TRUTH universally acknowledged that a married man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a mistress. Oh, and if he lives in the UK, he can then get a super-injunction to keep her quiet. That's because in Britain, where sexual hypocrisy reigns supreme and inﬁdelity is still nominally 'forbidden', the mistress remains a ﬁgure of fear, a threat to the status quo. Hard to believe that elsewhere mistresses are often viewed more as a perk than a threat. “The chain of wedlock is so heavy that it takes two people to carry it – and sometimes three,” wrote Alexandre Dumas, acknowledging that mistresses carry out a valuable social service, often shoring up a marriage rather than undermining it. What the French understand is that a mistress has power only when she can subvert the existing order. As soon as she is given a status of her own, the potential for subversion disappears and she is no longer a danger. The key, it seems, is discretion. As long-married President Chirac put it: “There have been women I have loved a lot, as discreetly as possible.” Taking a mistress used to be considered an integral part of a boy's well-rounded education, like learning to read music, or conversational Latin. Tolstoy, who penned the original mistress memoir, Anna Karenina, claimed to have been encouraged to take a mistress by a beloved aunt who told him: “Nothing educates a young man better than an affair with a woman established in society.” While this emancipated attitude only extends to the male of the species, it's a step up from prevailing attitudes here and in the US, where the Madonna/whore classiﬁcation is still alive and well and living in the Daily Mail. When the Tiger Woods scandal broke, wife Elin Nordegren was usually photographed looking digniﬁed and long-suffering, often with her arms full of small cherubic children, while the mistresses (count 'em) were all either bursting out of bikinis or looking hatchet-faced and crazed. Because of this rigid dichotomy, there can be no middle ground wherein wife and mistress
might nod a stiff acknowledgement. The mistress remains an outsider, a threat to home and hearth. That's why our favourite mistress of all time is Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, that cautionary tale for the Aids generation, with its clear message – stay faithful or you endanger yourself, your family and even poor Flopsy. Nowhere is our national talent for the double standard more accurately reﬂected than in our attitude to mistresses. We all found it hysterical when Chilean miner Yonni Barrios requested that both his wife and his mistress be present at his rescue – oh those passionate Latin types! But homegrown mistresses are given far shorter shrift. After the outing of her affair with Prince Charles, it was open season on Camilla Parker Bowles, despite the fact that Britain has a rich history of royal mistresses, from Nell Gwynne to Lillie Langtry. The problem was that Camilla, and more recently MP Chris Huhne's new love, belong to that select group of mistresses for whom we reserve the most scorn – those who don't even have the grace to be more attractive than the wife. While we disapprove of mistresses, we nevertheless expect them to conform to stereotype – clad in satin and stilettos and forever painting their nails while waiting for the phone to ring. A mistress clearly not chosen for her looks is the most threatening of all, implying a genuine bond, not one based on sex or money. Maybe we could all learn a thing or two from Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White, in which a shrewd mistress immerses herself in her lover's boring business affairs, thus freeing up the wife to go spectacularly and luxuriously off the rails. Surely a win-win situation?
"Taking a mistress used to be considered an integral part of a boy's well-rounded education"
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The Mistress's Revenge by Tamar Cohen Doubleday HB Out now
A MALIGNED MISTRESS WHO COST A KING HIS THRONE, WALLIS SIMPSON WAS PURSUED BY A VERY MODERN KIND OF GOSSIP, SAYS ANNE SEBBA WHEN WALLIS SIMPSON walked into an Ipswich courtroom in October 1936 to divorce her second husband, most people in England had never heard of her. Americans knew her as the King's mistress but there had been no mention of her in the British press. Amazingly this was British restraint, borne of respect to the Royal Family – unthinkable today as the paparazzi get out their telephoto lenses everywhere. But then a bishop preached a sermon criticising the king's behaviour and the press ﬁnally broke its silence. Society devoured every detail about the Baltimore divorcée but the newspapers were still circumspect. In private, rumour and gossip ﬂourished. Discovering that Wallis had been to China, alone, in 1924 meant she must have learnt bizarre sexual practices in Shanghai brothels. Those who witnessed Edward's slavish devotion to Wallis and his
That Woman by Anne Sebba W&N HB Out August 25
ADELE PARKS' TOP FIVE FICTIONAL MISTRESSES ANNA KARENINA Poor, doomed Tolstoy's Anna simply couldn't build “happiness on another's pain”. A passionate, compulsive mistress forsakes everything because her desire is all-consuming and overwhelming. She pays the ultimate price. Perhaps not wise but certainly
LADY BRENDA The beautiful Lady Brenda in A Handful of Dust is fascinating. She drifts into an affair with a shallow socialite not through passion or compulsion but through boredom. Sophisticate Evelyn Waugh avoided moralising but brutally exposed the ridiculous in human frailty.
CLEOPATRA A mistress I both admire and pity. Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare's most poetic plays: sensual, evocative and vivid. I adore it because the lovers are at once world leaders and ﬂawed, aging human beings, riddled with jealousy, shame, passion and insecurity.
TESS DURBEYFIELD In Tess of the d'Urbevilles, Hardy bravely questioned society's sexual mores by portraying a heroine brutally 'ruined' by the son of her employer. No longer considered a pure and chaste woman by society, things go from bad to worse for this exploited, helpless mistress.
THE COY MISTRESS Marvell's unnamed To His Coy Mistress is one of my all-time favourite mistresses because she clearly held out and there's something rather charming in that. I read this as a teenager and, for the ﬁrst time, understood how poetry could entertain, inform and be amusing.
About Last Night by Adele Parks Headline Review HB Out now
Our top ten forbidden love novels Lisa Appignanesi, MORE author of All About FORBIDDEN LOVE Love, on love triangles ONLINE Isabel Ashdown, welovethisbook.com author of Hurry Up and Wait, on cross-generational love Betty Herbert, author of The 52 Seductions, on sex within marriage Louise Levene, author of Ghastly Business, on 'naughty' books PLUS, reviews of the books from Alan Hollinghurst and Tamar Cohen
Photography: Getty Images
THE KING'S PEACH
apparent enjoyment of her bossy tongue-lashing ways concluded sexual masochism was at play. When Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin urged Edward to keep Wallis as his mistress, just not marry her, the King feigned outrage at the hypocrisy of this suggestion – although Wallis would probably have liked having the jewellery without the duties. But Baldwin was reﬂecting 1930s attitudes to public service and private morality. Having a mistress was what kings had always done. No one imagined that monarchs were not interested in sex – how could they after Henry VIII? They just did it in private. But the idea of giving up one's job – any job – to pursue one's own private happiness was the unforgiveable sin. This was such a modern notion that even Princess Margaret in 1955 had to abandon her romance with the divorced Peter Townsend, and when Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated in 1992, each believing they had a right to pursue personal satisfaction above duty, it still created shockwaves in Britain. Edward insisted to his father George V that Wallis – or THAT WOMAN as the rest of the royal family called her – was not his mistress and threatened to sue anyone who dared suggest that he and Wallis had indulged in sex before marriage… but then he had to if she was to be allowed her divorce. Divorce in 1936 was ﬁendishly difficult and available to women only on the grounds of the man's proven adultery. If it could be shown that the woman was also an adulteress the divorce would be disallowed, giving rise to horriﬁc tales of collusion and miserable women trapped in desperate marriages. The Mothers' Union ﬁercely opposed a change in the law, terriﬁed that with easier divorce husbands would abandon wives willy-nilly, leaving them with children to support and no money. Wallis was a dangerous woman. In the Britain of 1936, what mattered was duty, pluck and responsibility, especially after the First World War had demanded that thousands sacriﬁced much more than merely love of a married woman. The prevailing morality of the day – for kings and commoners alike – was that espoused by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter, a terribly British ﬁlm about repressed romance and denial of sexual pleasure. It took another world war for that to change, but rewarding adulterers is still frowned upon by the British. Poor Camilla was pelted with bread rolls in 1992.
DEAVER'S BOND HAS A
BL NCHE THRILLER WRITER JEFFERY DEAVER RETURNS 007 TO HIS ROOTS AS A TROUBLED KILLER, IN THE VERY MODERN SETTING OF DUSTY, MONEYED DUBAI
BESTSELLING AMERICAN thriller writer Jeffery Deaver was driving back from Washington DC to his home in North Carolina when he received an unexpected text message. It was from his agent in London who wished to speak to him urgently. There were no further details, just the message to make contact as soon as he could. He pulled over and made the call. Would he consider, the agent asked, writing the next James Bond novel? It took Deaver, who seems to measure every sentence with care, "all of seven seconds" to make his decision. However, as with any great tale of intrigue, the chain of events leading to one of America's foremost thriller writers being invited to pen the new Bond adventure, Carte Blanche, had begun years before. The facts are that in Bond world there are no true surprises. Due diligence is undertaken. Planning is meticulous. Care is taken over the smallest of details. The real trail can be picked up a few years previously, when Deaver was in London to pick up yet another prestigious award to add to his already groaning shelves. But this award, the Crime Writers' Association's Steel Dagger, was a little bit special to the man revered by his peers. Growing up in America's Midwest in the 1950s, Jeffery Deaver's parents had one strict rule: though the movies he saw were very much controlled – something Deaver still finds ironic given Hollywood's iron-clad censorship at the time – he "could read whatever I wanted". Having worked his way through a number of American and British writers, one day the precocious young man stumbled upon the work of Ian Fleming. Not only did he fall in love with James Bond, but Fleming taught him "everything I needed to know about how to write a thriller". It was this passion for the original source that Deaver shared with the audience as he cradled the Steel Dagger (modelled on the knife reputedly carried by Fleming during operations at the tail end of the Second World War). Deaver's genuine enthusiasm
didn't go unnoticed, and when the Fleming estate began to discuss who might follow on from Sebastian Faulks – who penned the last Bond novel, Devil May Care – the answer was Jeffery Deaver. Talking to Deaver in the plush Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai, a location and setting that features prominently in Carte Blanche, it quickly becomes apparent that if he has any nerves about the reception of the new Bond adventure, he's not showing them. Deaver's calmness under pressure mirrors that of the hero he has chosen to 'reboot'. Bond is back, but this time it's in a contemporary setting. But what about those readers who have yet to discover Deaver and his long-running series characters, paraplegic forensic investigator Lincoln Rhyme and troubled detective Kathryn Dance? What trademark qualities does Deaver possess that have made him stand out in a crowded field and that he will bring to Britain's favourite secret agent? As he puts it: "A typical Deaver book has three or four elements. They all have a compressed time frame. They have a number of internal plot reversals. There is an element of esoteric information, a hook of some kind, and my main trademark: the surprise ending." In other words, Deaver writes the kind of thrillers that people enjoy reading. It is this lack of snobbery, and belief that the primary function of a good thriller is to entertain, that has made Deaver so beloved among his fellow writers. When it came to imagining a new Bond book, Deaver and the Fleming estate agreed on one key factor: the novel should, first and foremost, deliver as a pacey, page-turning thriller – and it does, in spades. Updating the Bond series and placing the spy in a contemporary setting proved to be the first big creative choice that Deaver made. He had no interest in writing "a period piece". It's one of many bold choices he made when retooling Bond for the 21st century. But what of the central character himself? As Deaver sees it: "Bond is first of all a hero, in the prototypical sense of 27
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the word. That is he is someone who is single-mindedly willing to sacrifice his life, in his case for the cause of Queen and country, but in a broader sense for the cause of democracy. But he is also a complex individual who has a very dark and edgy side to him." Of course, for most people their experience of the character is not through Ian Fleming's original work, or even the so-called continuation novels (see right), but rather via the films, where Agent 007 has been, by necessity, more often wise-cracking action hero than brooding assassin. But for Deaver, when it came to creating his own updated Bond, Fleming's original creation was the source. "I wanted to be true to the original Bond and the atmosphere of his early books. So I made a conscious decision not to revisit the films." Even though Deaver's Bond is younger than Fleming's, and the setting is crucially a contemporary post-9/11 world, he says: "I always went back to Ian Fleming's creation. Bond is an assassin, but he is by no means homicidal. Bond was very well aware of the horror of taking a human life and yet he was willing, in the interests of the cause of humanity to do that. In fact, Carte Blanche looks at that issue. He does have carte blanche to pursue the mission in a way that he sees fit, but that comes with a great deal of responsibility, which in turn leads to internal conflict." As a writer who travels extensively, Deaver had any number of exotic locations to draw upon. While South Africa features more prominently in the book, it was Dubai that was the destination chosen for the official launch of the title and for its publicity. Deaver had already been a guest at the glamorous Emirates Literary Festival by the time he was asked to write Carte Blanche and the city-state seemed a natural fit for the book. As he points out, with air travel so commonplace, increasing global homogenisation of culture and the internet, Fleming was at an advantage when it came to taking his readers into uncharted territories. In the 1950s, the locations Fleming could choose from were as yet unglimpsed by most people and therefore exotic. "When I asked myself where I could take Bond that would be exotic, Dubai came to mind immediately. It's glamorous, there's obviously a huge amount of money here, and yet there is another side to Dubai, the practical side, the working side of a great melting pot, which reminded me of an earlier time in America when we had immigrants coming primarily from Europe, but also from Asia. Here, when you drive
LICENCE TO QUILL
Jeffery Deaver is the latest in a long line of writers who have taken up the 007 mantle Kingsley Amis Amis wrote Colonel Sun (1968), under the pseudonym Robert Markham. He also wrote The Book of Bond, a 'manual' for prospective secret agents. John Pearson Pearson wrote James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007, the premise being that he was a real agent.
John Gardner Gardner wrote 16 Bond books, including the novelisations of two ﬁlms, Licence to Kill and GoldenEye. Raymond Benson The ﬁrst American Bond author, Benson wrote three short stories, six novels and three movie novelisations, the last of which was Die Another Day.
Sebastian Faulks Written for the centenary of Fleming's birth in 2008, Faulks' Devil May Care is the UK's bestselling Bond book ever. WHO Big names with NEXT? that homegrown popular/critical combo who could ﬁt include Robert Harris and Ken Follett, but a spy/crime author at the more literary end makes the most sense: the underrated Alan Furst, say, or perhaps Philip Kerr. Maybe even full circle back to an Amis?
Charlie Higson Christopher Wood "I wanted Author of the hugely Wood wrote the ﬁrst to be true to successful 'Young Bond' novelisations of Bond series, which follows 007 movies for The Spy Who the original as a teenager at Eton in Loved Me (1977) and the 1930s. Moonraker (1979). Bond and the atmosphere of his early books. And there is no question that, when it comes to around the souks, So I made a conscious you see this villains, this is where Deaver – like Fleming – excels. wonderful mix of The central antagonist Severan Hydt, a businessman decision not to Arabs, South Asians, who has made his money in refuse and recycling, and revisit the Far-East Asians, expat who is obsessed with death or, more specifically, decay, Europeans, Africans, just a is a creation who ranks up there with Fleming's best. films" fascinating mix." This ability to draw three-dimensional characters, Of course, setting a Bond book coupled with unrelenting reversals and cliffhangers, at least partially in the Middle East you is hugely entertaining. Current conflicts are touched would expect the shadow of radical Islam to rear its upon, but Deaver sidesteps the clichés. While thrillers head somewhere. After all, where Fleming had the are often dismissed by critics, Deaver clearly Cold War and the ideological battle between the demonstrates just how much the genre demands an capitalist West and communist East, no one can doubt understanding of narrative structure and grasp of plot, that the great geo-political tensions of the past few which would stump far more critically fêted writers. years have been cast, rightly or wrongly, as being more There can be little doubt that Carte Blanche is a theological than ideological. contemporary masterpiece delivered by a consummate On this topic, Deaver chooses his words with care. professional. With an appeal that will satisfy Fleming "Just like Ian Fleming, I have tended to stay away from devotees, while drawing in a far wider audience, the political stereotyping. You can't write about crime or Fleming estate are to be congratulated on giving the illegal activity as a popular thriller writer unmistakably American Deaver a crack at one of Britain's most enduring literary without touching to upon the themes of terrorism, international crime and figures. If it could be considered a gamble, which may be stretching it villainy. I wanted to create, as in all my books, a unique villain, and so the fact given Deaver's pedigree, it is one that that the book is partly set in the Middle pays off in the writing. We can only East really has nothing to do with what hope that Mr Deaver can be persuaded Carte Blanche I would see as stereotypical images that to return to the franchise. by Jeffery Deaver populate many novels which dwell to Hodder & Stoughton the point of clichés when we think of Sean Black is the author of Gridlock, HB Out now typical villains." published in August by Bantam 29
MIDWEST PRINCESSES BEHIND THE WHITE PICKET FENCE AND THE CHEERLEADER'S POMPOMS IS A GENERATION OF DAMAGED ADOLESCENTS SEEKING PERFECTION WORDS Megan Abbott AT THE BEGINNING of Jeffery Eugenides' rapturous 1993 novel, The Virgin Suicides, Cecilia, the youngest of the glorious and afflicted Lisbon sisters, slits her wrists, an act that presages the tragedies to come. "What are you doing here, honey?" a doctor asks her, after saving her with a transfusion. "You're not even old enough to know how bad life gets."
"Obviously, Doctor," Cecilia replies, "you've never been a 13-year-old girl." When I first read The Virgin Suicides, I remember having a complicated reaction to the line, which rang both utterly true and not quite right. The novel is set in the placid, affluent suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Eugenides' hometown, and also mine. It was a particular thrill to experience a novel that could put such shimmer on a place that, for me (as with most places we grow up in), was predominantly marked by feelings of tedium and of entrapment. Similarly, the dreamy, haunted evocation of Midwestern suburban girlhood felt so different from my own, the usual parade of peer turmoil, body angst, romantic mis-steps and boredom. It wasn't until I had long left Grosse Pointe and my girlhood behind that I was able to see that Eugenides' book isn't meant to chronicle the suburban girl experience. It's not about the Lisbon sisters at all: it's about the romanticisation of the sisters by the teenage boys around them. It's about the male experience of, and fascination with, the suburban adolescent girl. And, more broadly, it speaks to the persistent cultural myth of 'all-American girlhood', a myth that rests on impossible contradictions: virgin and sex object; body perfect and body doomed for self-destruction; golden girl and girl gone wrong. The Virgin Suicides has always lingered with me, mingling with other rhapsodic – and frequently dark
– reveries focused on beautiful, doomed suburban princesses: Rick Moody's The Ice Storm; the cheerleader fantasy that sparks tragedy in the film American Beauty; the murdered girls central to the mysteries of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and the TV shows, Veronica Mars and Twin Peaks; even Sally Draper on TV's Mad Men. It's a path that stretches back at least as far as Lolita (and probably further, to the small-town beauties we find in F. Scott Fitzgerald and Theodore Dreiser). It's as if Cecilia is burdened not just by the challenges of Midwestern girl adolescence but by everything she's meant to inspire, evoke, uphold. To keep alive the idea of this lovely, fragile girl is to keep alive our (similarly fragile) ideas of our selves. For girls Cecilia's age, just peering into adolescence, into sexuality, life is big, frightening, tantalising and awash with conflicting messages – the very conflicting messages that animate the suburban world in which she lives. The American suburbs – particularly the Midwestern ones far from the sophistications of, for example, Rick Moody's Connecticut, with its proximity to New York – are places both scorned and glorified. They are central to the American self-concept but are depicted, over and over again, as bland, soulless places. Which, of course, they are not. We lift the lid off all those symmetrical homes and we see tragedy, beauty,
"For girls Cecilia's age, just peering into adolescence, into sexuality, life is big, frightening, tantalising and awash with conflicting messages" 31
pathos and joy. Isn't this true too of suburban girls? They are meant to behave well, look the same and live solely to fulfill an ideal, yet if we peeled away their smiling masks and peered into their heads and hearts, everything would look darker, richer. Privacy, especially in the Midwest, is a religion. Most of the year, secrets can be sealed up in each suburban silo. In the summer, though, everything opens up, sounds echo through the quiet cul de sacs. Secrets are, sometimes quite suddenly, revealed. I remember one such summer night as a child. Our neighbours were having a terrible argument that ultimately spilled into the driveway, just a few feet from our dining room. I remember hearing the wife shouting, crying. A bottle smashing on the concrete. And the alarming sense that all the rules had been broken. But also a powerful excitement. Life is happening here. Right outside my door. It was with that memory that I began my novel, The End of Everything. Set in the 1980s, it tells the story of Lizzie, a 13-year-old suburban girl, whose best friend, Evie, disappears. Though I don't name it, for me it's set in the Grosse Pointe summers of my youth. The endless days, the filling of hours before adulthood, before something finally happens. For Lizzie, the world is marked by a sense of constant expansion and contraction. Everything is forbidden for you – especially any subversive desires. For girls like Lizzie, though – much like the eye-to-the-peephole girls of Twin Peaks and Veronica Mars, who also play amateur detective to find a lost friend – the search is not just for a truth hidden behind the brick and shingles. It's for a way out of your own skin. At that age, the promise of adulthood seems to be a perpetual taunt. Seen through screen doors, crawling through neighbours' lawns at night, 'real life' always seems to be beckoning, promising more. The danger of 'more', however, is the looming threat. For Lizzie
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"Among all iconic forms of suburban American girlhood, the fresh-faced cheerleader is perhaps the most powerful"
and Evie, as for most 13-year-old girls, their curiosity outstrips their capacity to handle its consequences. They don't know their own power because it's not truly theirs – it's the power of what these Midwest princesses represent. They are not permitted to have desires, only to embody them. To move from object of desire to an active participant is impossible. Everything would come crashing down and, in so many of these stories, it does. Consider Laura Palmer and Lilly Kane, the blonde princesses whose deaths begin Twin Peaks and Veronica Mars. Both are forced to lead double lives to embody all these conflicting ideals. They serve as cheerleader girlfriends to the star athletes, good girls to the community, and sexual playthings to the powerful men with whom they carry on dangerous affairs. Post-mortem, they become beautiful ciphers, their secrets revealed only after they have destroyed them. It is likely no coincidence that Laura Palmer, Lilly Kane and Angela Hayes in American Beauty are all cheerleaders: among all iconic forms of suburban American girlhood, the fresh-faced cheerleader is maybe the most powerful and potentially imprisoning. For my next novel, I immersed myself in this world, which is not one I knew. In the 1980s, cheerleaders shook pompoms, chanted and danced. Today, they are athletes and gymnasts but also daredevils, risking death to propel each other into the air above wood floors, the hard ground of a football field. And what you see on their face is jubilation, strength. It's a balance they've struck. They look their part. They're giving us what we want – faces and bodies molded to doll-like perfection. And behind those masks lies a fearsome will. What we may be seeing in these acts of risk-taking, even recklessness, are girls itching in their The End of Everything own skin wanting to be something more by Megan Abbott than a dream, a symbol. Someone else's Picador promise. They want to own their own PB Out August selves, light and dark.
AUTHOR LAURA KASISCKHE TELLS ED WOOD HOW HER HAUNTING THRILLER, THE RAISING, WAS INSPIRED BY REAL MIDWEST PRINCESSES
Ed Wood: You live in Michigan and set The Raising in a Midwest college. How did you experience the pressures upon young women in the Midwest to conform? Laura Kasisckhe: For me this novel began and ended in an impulse to capture the wonderful, strange and sometimes frighteningly ship-like feeling of a college campus. I live and work at a large Midwestern university. Having been a young woman and, now, working with young women, it's impossible not to be aware of the most obvious pressure on them: to be at least as attractive as the other young women around them. The outward manifestations of this are obvious – fashion, weight, hair – as is the struggle that's clearly going on to maintain these, and the sameness that comes with that, to the point that there's a kind of uniform being worn in a place where no uniforms are required. EW: In The Raising, sorority girl Nicole is killed in a car crash, which sparks cultish behaviour at the college. How true is the portrayal? LK: More than any single occurrence, it was a multitude of occurrences that inspired the novel. Both in the small town I live in and the college town in which I work, there have recently been
numerous accidents like Nicole's. Accompanying them have been Beanie Baby shrines I describe in the novel, and the legends, and the ghosts. It's hard enough for an adult to consider and process death, especially the death of a young person, but that young person's peers (as many of us recall, from our own youthful losses of friends and classmates) are often at a total loss – one that no number of grief counsellors can lessen. Is it any surprise, given how strange the death of a young person is, that a beautiful young dead girl might be glimpsed around the campus where she was once a student? EW: Do you feel the sorority's subsequent implicit violence is peculiarly female? LK: I think the violence portrayed is a product of the group-think and pressure to be accepted that I spoke of earlier. More than that, I was hoping to portray the power these young women have, bonding together, and the power they have over young men, because of their attractions. Young women are no better or worse than any other category of human being. They don't always use this power to positive ends. EW: What books about this world would you recommend? LK: Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, by Alexandra Robbins.
The Raising By Laura Kasischke Corvus PB Out July
WHILE PHYSICAL PRODUCTION MAY HAVE GONE ABROAD, BRITAIN MANUFACTURES SOMETHING FAR MORE ENDURING: IDEAS WORDS Evan Davis I OFTEN HEAR PEOPLE grumble about the Mickey Mouse degrees that our young people pursue at university these days. How they have no practical or economic value. How our nation doesn’t create enough engineers and how too many students do subjects such as English that can’t get you help you find a career except as an English teacher. Well, let’s spend a few minutes hearing the case for the opposite point of view for once. Let’s celebrate the creatives coming out of our colleges. After all, Mickey Mouse has done rather well for himself, earning far more than most engineers. The degrees pursued by so many in his name have perhaps not let our economy down as much as people think. I say this because when you look at our long-term national performance at producing things, we don’t do too badly. Sure, we don’t make as many cars as the Germans but we do manufacture more dreams. That’s what creativity is all about and we can be proud that we contribute so much of it to the world. The facts are quite revealing. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the fount of all international statistical wisdom, Britain earned $18 billion in 2008 in two categories of export: 'Personal, cultural and recreational services' and 'Royalties and licence fees'. The corresponding numbers were $13 billion for the French and $11 billion for the Germans. You might want to read those figures again. It is not often you get to dwell on figures showing Britain ahead of its two main continental rivals in a measure of export performance. But there you have it: we are strong in the two most creative categories of services.
Now those categories are extremely broad; they include some industrial licence and patent fees and so on. I would never argue that anything like the whole $18 billion can be attributed to our inventive university graduates who create games, invent TV formats, play music, design fashion, produce West End musicals or who write Harry Potter novels. But the high figure does make the point that Britain has a rather strong performance in creative industries in the most general sense of the term 'creative'. So while the French do wine, we do the Mickey Mouse stuff. And, I’m happy to report, each nation is about as rich as the other. It is important for us all to understand our strength in the creative industries so we don’t underrate ourselves. I think too many people do. I not only hear them dismissing university degrees, but I also hear them writing off our entire economy as somehow unworthy of the living standards it has delivered to us. Their tendency is to associate production with physical output. As they observe Britain is not quite the manufacturing powerhouse it once was, they assume that we have somehow been lazy in trying to make ourselves rich without getting our hands dirty. This is entirely misconceived. Value as often as not lies in the intellectual property rather than the physical. For example, Made in Britain, my book on this subject, has just been published. People have been very happy to go out and buy it but they are not handing over their money just because they want to touch the book’s boards or turn the pages on which it was printed. What they value is the extraordinary erudition of my writing and the gripping descriptions of the British economy! 34 34
"The book is the metaphor for our country. We have intellectualised our output… we prefer to write the book than to make the paper"
The British pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, 2010. The unusual cube building, composed of 60,000 perspex rods, was designed by architect Thomas Heatherwick
In short it is the reading experience they purchase, in physical or electronic form. The book is the metaphor for our country. We have intellectualised our output and succeed in selling higher-priced clever things rather than bog-standard manufactured ones. We prefer to write the book than to make the paper it's printed on. Hence, we specialise in advanced, research-based manufacturing (the pharmaceutical industry is probably Britain’s strongest sector). We are selling large amounts of expert commercial services; we earn a lot selling higher education to foreigners. And we have strong creative industries, too. The shift that our country has taken towards these sectors was not some insane dereliction of our great industrial heritage. This was a logical move upmarket in response to the fact that the rest of the world has discovered how to make the things that we used to manufacture. Once China could mass-produce suits as effectively as we could, at wages well below ours,
Photography: Rex Features; Peter Searle
Made in Britain ties in with a BBC Two series; its creator is Harvard and Oxford-educated economist Evan Davis, familiar as presenter of the Today programme and Dragon's Den. Made in Britain, showing over three weeks from 20 June, marks 100 years since the Empire Exhibition of 1911, 160 years since the Great Exhibition of 1851 and 60 years since the Festival of Britain in 1951.
My favourite piece of evidence for this idea comes from a research paper about the Apple iPod and where the money consumers pay for it goes. It is an American example but makes the point well. On the back of the iPod is the phrase 'Designed by Apple in California, assembled in China'. According to the research paper, when you break down the $300 price of the product, Apple gets about $80 for the design; China gets less than $5 for the assembly. I know which business I’d rather be in. I don’t want to deny that we in Britain have some we needed a Plan B. The move into the more intellectual sphere was that plan. serious challenges and that we have perhaps overdone This argument is all based on what is perhaps the the deindustrialisation. We do need to export more most counter-intuitive insight of economics, that the and will undoubtedly have to rediscover some of the 'value' of what we produce is determined not by its manufacturing skills we lost in recent years too. weight, its length, or the importance it has to us in Nor do I want to deny that the path we have basic survival. Value is more complex. It reflects followed is trouble free. Intellectual property is easy consumer desire and the relative scarcity of items. An to steal, easy to copy and easy to distribute. The ability ebook is more valuable in a modern economy than a to produce it is very unequally distributed so a plate of vegetables, not because books harmonious society won’t rely on are more essential than food in our lives intellectual output alone. We are not all but because we have plenty of food and going to pay all the bills by writing books. And anyway, when China are thus more keen now on extra books. When we think about the value of the discovers a way to match our creative two, we shouldn’t imagine we live in a skills, we will need to have a Plan C. cave with nothing; we start from where But let’s not deride the successful Made in Britain we are now. And now, manufactured creative industries that we have by Evan Davis goods are relatively abundant. The nurtured. When people ask “Why don’t Little, Brown economic value has tilted towards the we make anything any more?” the HB Out now scarcer, creative industries. answer is, “We do.” 35
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Forensic fiction EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT PATHOLOGIST HEROES, BLOODY MURDER AND DISSECTION BUT WERE DEFINITELY TOO AFRAID TO ASK WORDS Barry Forshaw
IS THERE A MORE popular genre in the crime fiction field (on the printed page or TV screen) than the forensic pathologist? An army of world-weary, alcoholic detectives perhaps had readers feeling in need of a change – and that change exploded in the shape of clue-sifting medical examiner protagonists usually to be found up to their elbows in bones and blood. Crimes were now to be solved in the lab as much as at a crime scene, with a minute examination of such gruesome artefacts as human skin now the key to tracking down a murderer. The poster girl for the field is, of course, the phenomenally successful American Patricia Cornwell (who now travels with her own bodyguard after threats from 'unstable' readers), but she didn't inaugurate the forensic crime genre. In fact, one infallible way to annoy the late Ed McBain was to mention that one of the many innovations he brought to the crime novel in his 87th Precinct books – starting in 1956 with Cop Hater – was turned into cash-generating franchises by others: the role of forensics in police work. Alongside McBain – who also wrote the screenplay for Hitchcock's film The Birds – another male author helped define the forensic fiction parameters. Veteran American novelist Robin Cook (not to be confused with the late mountain-hopping UK politician) specialises in impeccably detailed, plausible medical thrillers. Influentially, with Coma (1977) he introduced a young woman with medical training as the central 37
MEDICAL SUSPENSE QUEEN TESS GERRITSEN character, instead of a jaundiced, middle-aged copper. It was to be a significant innovation, spawning many similar heroines, and similarly it is female authors who have taken the genre to new heights in the past two decades. Two American crime novelists in particular, Cornwell and Kathy Reichs, have taken their forensic anthropologist heroines on to a rarefied strata of success. As if evidence were needed of the breakthrough of forensic crime fiction into the mainstream, US TV's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which started in 2000 and shot its crime scenes in an unsparingly graphic fashion in a gaudily photographed Las Vegas, became the most popular TV show in the world. The scalpel and the examining table went high tech and forensics became a staple of TV and crime books for good. THE FORENSICS SUPREMO There is absolutely no question as to who now rules the roost in forensic crime fiction. After her first novel Postmortem (1990), Patricia Cornwell bagged almost every important crime award and consolidated her success with a sequence of books featuring the tenacious (if vulnerable) Dr Kay Scarpetta, now the definitive fictional forensic pathologist. Cornwell's books were a canny marriage of traditional police procedure with something new: an investigation based on minutely detailed and gruesome posthumous evidence. Successive novels firmly fixed the author as a brand, and such books as Blow Fly (2003) made even the sanguinary excesses of the earlier books look restrained, with Scarpetta's independence making her deeply unpopular with her long-suffering bosses. Cornwell's own baptism of fire came from her earlier experience as a crime journalist. As she put it: "My interest in pathology probably began when I heard about a Death Row inmate being beaten to death by fellow prisoners when I was on a night shift in 1980. I remember phoning up a nurse and asking about the victim's injuries. This question was met with some surprise, but basically I was taking the view of an archaeologist looking at a given set of circumstances. The morgue became a place of fascination for me."
Barry Forshaw: Why did you choose the forensic crime genre for Dr Maura Isles? Tess Gerritsen: My own training is as a doctor, so it was natural that I carried that background into my ﬁction and chose protagonists who were often doctors. Prior to my moving into the genre, there were a few very prominent doctor/ writers and even fewer females, and what I brought to the genre was science told from a woman's point of view. BF: How much of yourself may be found in Maura? TG: Maura Isles is in many ways a reﬂection of my own personality. We both embrace logic and science, and desperately want to believe that there's a reasonable explanation for everything. We're alike in personality and in our backgrounds. Thankfully, though, I've been luckier in love. BF: Have you tried to change the forensic crime novel? TG: I haven't set out to change the genre, only to honestly reﬂect my own experiences as a doctor. BF: Do you feel your books are particularly horriﬁc – as they are sometimes described? TG: I don't really think I write
graphic, shocking novels. Rather than gore, what grips me is tension and the threat of violence, not the violence itself. BF: Can you talk about your medical background? TG: I was a specialist in internal medicine, which is adult hospital-based medicine that doesn't involve surgery. But it's been 20 years since I've practiced so I'd be quite dangerous at it now!
The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen Bantam Press HB Out July
SEE TESS GERRITSEN
We Love This Book is proud sponsor of Tess Gerritsen's appearance at the Harrogate Crime Festival, at 9am on 23 July at the Old Swan Hotel. See:
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FORENSIC CRIME'S LANDMARK BOOKS Cop Hater by Ed McBain (1956) The gritty, masculine Cop Hater was the ﬁrst in the 87th Precinct series – totalling more than 50 novels – and saw McBain breaking the lone-investigator mould with a squad-based procedural that includes some of the ﬁrst real descriptions of forensic work.
Coma by Robin Cook (1977) Susan Wheeler is a signiﬁcant heroine in crime ﬁction: a 23-year-old medical student at Boston Memorial Hospital who tracks down the perpetrator of a massive evil. Her investigation of an intensive care facility is terrifying, and Susan is the progenitor of many a medical investigator.
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell (1990) Richmond, Virginia's Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta takes on a monstrous murderer. Her unshakeable tenacity is fascinatingly rendered by Cornwell, and Scarpetta's battle with a chauvinist colleague has equal force. Forensic science as exciting as any gun battle.
Cornwell, however, acquired a new and distracting preoccupation: proving to a sceptical world that the English artist Walter Sickert was, in fact, Jack the Ripper. Few were persuaded, and in any case, it was felt that such side issues were postponing a return to vintage Scarpetta territory (the author is characteristically prickly when her views on Sickert are challenged). But the return to form came with Predator (2005), a book whose steely authority summoned memories of Cornwell in her prime, with Scarpetta anxious to succeed in her new job as Director of Forensic Science. A key influence on Cornwell has been a series of books based on real-life cases. Two of the most significant figures in the field are the writers who are collectively 'Jefferson Bass', Dr Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. Bass is a forensic anthropologist, whose books are based on his own experiences. A meeting with Jon Jefferson was significant: Jefferson was
Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs (1997) Reichs' lacerating debut redeﬁned the serial-killer genre. As Tempe Brennan and her colleagues draw nearer to their quarry, Reichs creates a vivid and pungent picture of the province of Quebec as backdrop to the steady accretion of ﬂesh-creeping detail.
"These individuals are most at ease when poking around in viscous human remains" producing documentaries about the real-life 'Body Farm' (the most famous institution in the forensic field, a training ground for tyro investigators) and the duo created the fictional Body Farm novels, modelled on real examples from Bass's work. Carved in Bone (2006) remains the duo's key book. SHARPENING KNIVES: THE PRETENDERS Cornwell (a woman with an intimidating reputation, despite her rather winning lack of pretension in
The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver (1997) No longer head of NYPD forensics after a crippling accident, Lincoln Rhyme is toying with the idea of suicide – until a corpse with a mutilated ﬁnger found buried on a deserted West Side railroad track gives him a reason to live. Steadily paced but totally exhilarating.
person) doesn't rule the forensic roost alone. She has two formidable American rivals: Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen. With Kathy Reichs' debut Déjà Dead (1997), a career was born with one remarkable book. Drawing on her background as a forensic anthropologist in North Carolina, Reichs rendered the professional expertise of her heroine, Temperance Brennan, utterly persuasive. The bones of a woman are discovered in the grounds of a monastery, and Tempe is convinced that the victim is not the first woman to die at the hands of a killer before being brutally eviscerated. By now, patterns were beginning to surface in the burgeoning army of forensic investigators. These individuals (men and women alike) are most at ease poking around in viscous human remains; and less happy sustaining relationships with lovers and partners. It had also clearly become de rigueur that such characters were intensely driven, and would risk
The Last Temptation by Val McDermid (2002) Tony Hill is up against a terrifying killer who has speciﬁc targets in his sights: psychologists, no less. Hill has urgent reasons for cracking the modus operandi of his nemesis; he and policewoman Carol Jordan are soon confronting a force of evil that stretches back to the Nazi era.
everything to crack a baffling mystery – and track down evil nemeses. One other box needs to be ticked: a problem with authority. At some point, heavy pressure will be brought bear to call their investigations to a halt. Needless to say, with such bloody-minded individuals, such tactics never, ever work. Another sharp-elbowed author jostling for pole position is the Chinese-American Tess Gerritsen, also medically trained. Gerritsen's Body Double (2004) is a reminder that – Britain's Mo Hayder and Martina Cole apart – the toughest female writers hail from America. Gerritsen is concerned with truthfulness in her books, however bitter its taste. "I've tried to stay true to the experience of the autopsy room," she says. "Its smells, its sights and sounds. I haven't shied away from the very details that I'm familiar with because I believe that my readers want to know what my characters know. What is it like behind the morgue doors? What do doctors know? What are the secrets we don't want others to know?" She has upset some fellow crime writers with her apparent refusal to make any concessions to the squeamish. But, honestly, who would pick up a Gerritsen novel expecting something suitable for the readers of The Lady? In fact, Gerritsen herself balks at the notion that her books are thoroughly steeped in gruesomeness: "Most of the violence in my books takes place offstage; I focus on the investigators walking on to the scene afterwards." THE NEW BLOOD Jeffery Deaver is now taking over the chronicling of James Bond's adventures (see p26) – but Deaver's signature character is very different from the British agent. Deaver's novels with quadriplegic forensic specialist Lincoln Rhyme are crammed full of trenchant plotting and a satisfying superfluity of twists. The Empty Chair (2000) is particularly rich in the latter, with the wheelchair-bound Rhyme travelling to North Carolina for some risky experimental surgery – and being drafted in by the local police department to help track down the psychotic Insect Boy. It's to be hoped that 007 doesn't make Deaver sideline the brilliant Rhyme.
"But honestly, who would pick up a Gerritsen novel expecting something suitable for readers of The Lady?"
Of the multiple-author Kellerman family, father Jonathan's Alex Delaware thrillers are considered the cream of the crop. Kellerman, in such books as his debut When the Bough Breaks (1985), has utilised his paediatric psychologist background to create mesmerising thrillers. But writers from the UK have proved themselves no slouches in this field. At the top of the tree is one now-venerable writer (though she'd hate the adjective), Val McDermid, whose early books were diverting, but her weighty series featuring damaged profiler and clinical psychologist Tony Hill is quite her strongest work yet: the quirky Hill has a range of sexual and interpersonal problems to counterpoint his brilliance. Typically abrasive McDermid fare is The Torment of Others (2004), with Hill up against an implacable murderer, but struggling with a return to the dangerous coalface of clinical profiling after a
FORENSIC CRIME'S LANDMARK BOOKS Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass (2006) Scarifying and instructive, Carved in Bone takes the reader to the area in Tennessee devoted to the science of death, where the remains of bodies are dissected to be studied for their secrets. Co-written by the scientist who founded the 'Body Farm'.
Whispers of the Dead by Simon Beckett (2009) Forensic expert David Hunter has escaped the grim residue of his last case and returned to the research faculty at which he learned his craft: Tennessee's Body Farm. He accepts an invitation to visit a crime scene – and a cat and mouse game with a cunning and monstrous killer ensues.
The Coroner by M.R. Hall (2009) Surviving on anti-depressants and downers, Jenny Cooper is looking into something worrying: the deaths of several teenagers at local detention centres. M.R. Hall has a fresh eye, and his experience of the world of the coroner gives the book a pithy verisimilitude.
SCARPETTA'S MAKER PATRICIA CORNWELL Barry Forshaw: Tell me about your roots. Patricia Cornwell: I was a crime journalist. I went on patrols at night with the police, investigating homicide scenes. The morgue became a place of fascination for me. BF: Why did you choose the forensic expert Kay Scarpetta as your protagonist? PC: My ambitions, in fact, were to write a literary novel but, after several books being rejected by a publisher, I asked an editor what she felt was wrong. She said: "You clearly want to write about your forensic pathologist character. Make her the centre of the book." BF: Were you aware of creating – or at least changing – an existing
genre, the forensic crime novel? PC: Not at all. I didn't read my contemporaries and I simply wrote what I had to. Postmortem was not an immediate success, though it had something of a succès de scandale: it was banned in Richmond – people would say that they were disturbed by the fact that a woman was at the centre of all this violent activity. But I didn't have a clue about what else was being written in the genre, and I really had no intention of shaking it up. BF: It goes without saying that you seem to relate to Scarpetta more than to any of the other characters.
PC: Undoubtedly. I do share one thing with Kay: a respect for the real life behind the bodies. BF: How do you feel about the criticism directed against women such as yourself who write violent crime ﬁction? PC: Women are the principal victims of crime, so why shouldn't we write about it? Actually, in the US, it's not the violence as much as other aspects of the books that are likely to upset the Religious Right, such as the fact that my character Lucy is a lesbian.
Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell Sphere PB Out now
"Readers are now lining up for a writer [Simon Beckett]who clearly relished raising our pulse rates while lowering our blood temperature" spell as an academic. Crucial here is the sharp social relevance of the narrative, always in the context of a grimly gripping entertainment. However, there is no danger of the forensic crime field becoming an all-female preserve; two (quietly spoken) male writers in the UK have shown a significant promise. If you hanker for crime fiction that pulls no punches whatsoever, read the unrelenting Simon Beckett. Beckett's first book to feature forensic anthropologist David Hunter, The Chemistry of Death, was shortlisted for the 2006 CWA Gold Dagger award, and marked out the author's deeply unnerving territory. Readers are now lining up for a writer who clearly relished raising our pulse rates while lowering our blood temperature. Medically trained M.R. Hall's The Coroner (2009) is similarly striking. Matthew Hall is a reserved, bookish individual (more likely to be dipping into Tess of the D'Urbevilles than a blood-drenched thriller). His insecure heroine Jenny Cooper is recently divorced and has suffered a nervous breakdown, but is hoping that her new job – Coroner for the Severn Vale – will give her life direction again.
Hall has channelled problems of his own into the psychology of his heroine "She suffers – as I once did – from acute anxiety," said Hall, "which in her case has its roots in a long-buried trauma. She manages her condition the white-knuckle way, with a lot of self-administered medication. This places her right on the edge, a place that a lot of people recognise, and that a lot might find uncomfortable. I was trying to bring some real, hard emotional truth to a central character in a popular genre." One writer has taken us out of the laboratory – in the process re-energising the field. Elly Griffiths has shown that an acute and moody sense of place is a determining factor in her writing (her own upbeat, gregarious personality gives little indication of the moody, atmospheric quality of her work). In Griffiths' third book, The House at Sea's End (2011), she conjures the bleak north Norfolk coast, using the coastal erosion as a metaphor for the decay of human sympathy. Barry Forshaw is the author of The Man Who Left Too Soon: the Life and Works of Stieg Larsson, published by John Blake 42
Many of the authors featured in this article will be appearing at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate from 21-24 July, including Elly Griffiths, M.R. Hall, Tess Gerritsen and Val McDermid, as well as other big names including David Baldacci, Linwood Barclay, Lee Child and Martina Cole. For tickets go to
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IN THE BIKE SHEDS
by David Mitchell 45
Illustration by Joe Wilson, cover illustrator of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
A new short story for We Love This Book
S HFOERATT USR TE ORY
IN THE BIKE SHEDS
Heather O'Dowd you dozy idiot! Turning into Sycamore Glade I remember the ball on the roof and stop. The traffic, midges and hosepipes carry on. That last volley before Miss Ferris arrived – I skied it, and the ball went waaaaaay over the fence, bounced once on the narrow car-park between the court and our school Science Block, and on the rebound just landed on the flat roof. I meant to get it back after tennis practice, but we got talking about how the bad of German teacher's Mrs Weinstock's bag was stolen from school (we were kept behind 20 minutes after the last bell but no one owned up) and the ball slipped my mind. So what do I do? On one hand it's only a tennis ball, but on the other hand it's one of six Slazenger Courtmasters Mum got me when she last went to London 'cause the shop lady said they use them at Wimbledon. Mum's the sort of mum who counts things, and she always know when I'm lying, and it'll be Money-doesn't-grow-on-trees-you-knowYoung-Lady and, all in all, it's easier just to walk back to school and get the damn thing back. Only five minutes there and five minutes back and it's not dark yet.
Three or four kids: Keith Jackson, same class as Tudor... Who's that? T-shirt, cap half-hiding her face. I can't see. Then she says, "Right, Tudor: pull." It's Maria Brubeck. Then that tall kid's Ray Coster, Maria Brubeck's boyfriend. What's he doing here? Ray Coster left school last year. And behind Maria Brubeck is her sister, Grace. Now I know I'm seeing something I shouldn't be seeing. Grace Brubeck's one of those kids who isn't really a kid. She gets kids to do things for her – including 'borrowing' change from first years – but when her servants get caught they never grass on her. This fifth year Vicky Horrox – your common garden bully – laid into Grace Brubeck behind the tuck shop a few weeks ago. I saw everything. Vicky Horrox started it with the whole hair-grabbing-and-kicking stuff and some boys began laughing but then Grace Brubeck gripped Vicky Horrox's hand and bent it back until Vicky Horrox was whimpering in the dirt. Really, like a half-run-over dog. The boys shut up. Grace Brubeck told Vicky Horrox to give her a number from one to five, and increased the pressure until Vicky Horrox gasped 'Three!' and that's how many of Vicky Horrox's fingers Grace Brubeck broke. I heard them snap, I think. What kind of 14-yearold can do that? She had this smile on her face I'll never forget. Then Mr Truman arrived and Grace Brubeck sobbed into his chest, saying how she never wanted to hurt Vicky Horrox, but how Vicky Horrox had threatened to 'rub out her face', and her self-defence class stuff just "took over, Sir". Later, Mr Truman asked the boys if that was true and the boys must have said it was, 'cause on the Monday we'd learned that Vicky Horrox had been expelled. Other people are pieces in a game, to Grace Brubeck. So I stay dead still, dead flat and dead quiet...
Climbing on to the Science Block roof looked easy when Kevin Vicars did it. Duck through the brick archway into the side yard; go into the bike sheds; clamber onto the roof at the end (I graze my elbow but I'm up) and then swing up onto the flat roof above the locker rooms. Now I'm one storey high. Windmill Hill's covered in bendy rows of new houses and the streetlights flicker on as I watch. Just the tops of the Blue Star Cement chimneys are visible over the hill. Across the roof there's a ladder bolted to the wall (a sign says TECHNICAL ACCESS ONLY). I climb up it. Two storeys up suddenly feels like four or six. My tennis ball's over there, rolled to the far edge overlooking the Square, but as I get near to the edge the big yawning drop makes me sway back. To get my ball, then, I shuffle forwards on my hands and knees. The roofing stuff 's gravelly on my skin. Just as I'm reaching out to get the ball, I notice a kid, in the tree, in the Square. He's out on the end of a high branch, sticking out, at about the same height I'm at. If he looks my way, he'll see me. I flatten myself. There's quick urgent voices in the Square below. "Okay, Jackson," the boy hisses down, "It's untangled." It's Stuart Tudor, a fifth year. Below, I make out...
...Stuart Tudor shuffles back along his tree branch, and something starts to rise up from the ground where Maria Brubeck and Keith Jackson are lifting up this stiff, woman's body with a rope around her neck. It's just as well for me the shock of it's drained all the air out of my chest, or I might've shrieked. Stuart Tudor's spooling in the rope up the tree, and the body jerks upwards. Now I realise it's a shop dummy, wearing a grey wig, brown boots and a poncho thing. But the relief drains away again: slung across around the dummy's shoulder is Mrs Weinstock's
bag â€“ the one that was nicked. It's got big gold daisies on. This dummy's our German teacher â€“ there's even a swastika on both cheeks. Ray Coster laughs. "The only good Kraut's a dead Kraut." "Okay, Tudor," says Maria Brubeck. "Tie her there." Stuart Tudor obeys, and knots the rope tight. Mrs Weinstock dangles, about 20 feet up. "She'll be there 'til noon tomorrow, I reckon," says Keith Jackson. "The caretaker's ladder's not this high," agrees Stuart Tudor. "They'll have to call in the fire brigade," says Ray Coster. Maria Brubeck says, "That'll teach her to give me detention." Grace Brubeck says, "She's beautiful. She's a work of art." Keith Jackson's sniggering, in case he's supposed to. Mrs Weinstock swings my way, and watches me. She's got eye-shadow. Her swastikas are lipstick red. It's the sickest joke. Mrs Weinstock isn't my favourite teacher, but nobody deserves this. Stuart Tudor dangles from the bottom branch and Ray Coster and Keith Jackson lower him the rest of the way. Best thing for me is to go home and forget I saw this. I won't even tell Eileen or Kat. Maybe I could get away with a migraine tomorrow. There's going to be a hell of a lot of trouble at Windmill Hill Comprehensive School.
"'Uncle Mick the Irishman'?"snorts Ray Coster. "Sounds like the first line of a joke. This one, in fact: Uncle Mick, Mr Singh and Frau Weinstock jumped off a ten-storey block of flats. Who hit the ground first?" Ray Coster lights a cigarette. "I dunno, Ray," says Stuart Tudor. "Who?" Ray Coster's cigarette glows orange. "Who gives a toss?" When the boys realise that's the joke, they snigger. The Brubeck sisters are watching my reaction closely. "So," says Maria Brubeck. "Why were you doing spying?" I try to think of an answer but I can't think of anything. "Don't make my sister wait," Grace Brubeck warns me. "Just," my voice is shaky, "just getting my tennis ball." Ray Coster's oil-stained hand takes my Slazenger Courtmaster. A butterfly knife shoots out with a click. The blade gouges my Slazenger Deluxe II into a boingy spiral. "So," says Maria Brubeck. "What did you see from the roof?" I'm supposed to say Nothing. That's a pathetic surrender. But if I say what I saw, all defiant? Remember Vicky Horrox. So I ask, "What's Mrs Weinstock done to deserve that?" "'Done'?" Ray Coster blows smoke in my face. "She's a fricking Kraut! That's what she's 'done'." He's so close in this gloom I can smell his sweat and his bomber jacket and I'm afraid in ways I've never been afraid before. Keith Jackson's sniggering, in case he's supposed to. "Try again," says Maria Brubeck. "What did you see?" Tell them "Nothing", I tell myself, and they might let you go.
But just as I drop into the bike shed I hear this cold voice saying, "If it isn't an O'Dowd cousin." Grace Brubeck's hard face is blocking my way out and I feel everything draining out of me. The others are behind her. No point running, no point fighting. "They're all in Slant's class, in the third year. Which O'Dowd is this O'Dowd, Tudor?" "Heather O'Dowd," comes the answer. "Well well well," says Maria Brubeck. "Well well well." "I didn't see anything," my throat hurts. "Not a thing." Ray Coster's half-hanging off the bike-sheds, like a slouched human Y. "O'Dowd? Oirish name? From Oireland? There's a Johnboy O'Dowd who runs The Admiral Byng." "Poor relative," says Grace Brubeck. "This one lives up on Sycamore Avenue in a frightfully nice house. Her other uncle, Uncle Mick owes money to Toad, if you listen to rumours. He's a crap gambler." It's appalling that she knows so much about us.
S HFOERATT USR TE ORY
IN THE BIKE SHEDS
Tell them "Nothing", I tell myself, and they own you for good. If only you'd left the ball, I think, if only if only if only. "Please, Mr Truman," Grace Brubeck acts the nervous schoolgirl, "Sorry to disturb you, but at assembly you said that anyone who had any information about... about what was hanging in the Square this morning could come straight to you. Well, Sir, I... I... this is very hard, because it looks like I'm snitching on a schoolmate, but when I think how upsetting it must be for Mrs Weinstock... well. Here goes. Yesterday evening at about some friends and I were practising our frisbee down on the playing field by school. A frisbee's one of those plastic UFO things you throw, Sir, it's a new craze, and brilliant exercise. Anyway, Sir, I did a big throw, and the frisbee sailed right up over the fence, and onto the flat roof of the science block by the woodwork shop. I know I shouldn't have, but it's my sister's frisbee, and I'd promised not to lose it, and – well, Sir, to get to the point, I climbed onto the roof, and while I was up there, down in the Square, I saw... I saw... I saw Heather O'Dowd" (a hole opens up inside me) "with a couple of much older boys, Sir – I didn't recognise them, but they sounded Irish – and they were hoisting up that hideous mock-up of Mrs Weinstock on the tree. I... I just didn't have the bottle to confront them... And I was too afraid about what they'd do to me, if I reported it... I still am afraid, Sir, but like you say, sometimes you have to stand up for what's right. So there. Now you know." I'd say He'd never believe you but we'd know it wouldn't be true. Ray Coster goes tut-tut-tut. "No smoke without fire." "What deep, deep shit you'd be in," says Maria Brubeck. "And your dad – Mr Trade Union," says Grace. "The shame!" "Might even cost him his job,"warns Maria Brubeck.
The moon's a dirty 10 pence, above their heads. "Snitch on us," says Grace, "all the O'Dowds'll pay." "I won't," I blurt, wishing I hadn't. "I won't say anything." "Swear it," says Maria Brubeck. "On your mother's grave." The words are out. "I swear on my mother's grave." "Now," says Grace. "Swear it on the Pope's grave." Ray Coster guffaws. "What's the Pope got to do to it?" "Heather O'Dowd's a good Catholic girl," says Grace. "Holy Communion," says Maria Brubeck. "The works." This is worse, something warns me, than licking their shoes. Then Grace says, "Give me a number from one to five," so softly. I blurt, "I swear on the Pope's grave I didn't see anything." A dog that'd been going mental suddenly falls quiet. "Good," says Maria, "and when you're next at church, ask God to make sure nobody else snitches on us. Because we'll assume it was you." "I like your wristband, Heather O'Dowd," says Grace Brubeck. I mumble "It's just a friendship band." Eileen and Kat made it me. "We're friends now. Aren't we, Heather O'Dowd?" The battle has already been lost, I now realise. Grace slips it onto her wrist. "Just to seal our deal." Maria Brubeck says, "An old-fashioned, happy ending." They walk off, unsuspiciously, all in different directions. Coward, hums the warm and soupy dusk, coward, coward. Somewhere not far, Mrs Weinstock's having a quiet night in.
MITCHELL'S MOST RECENT Cloud Atlas (2004) Mitchell's greatest novel to date. A dizzying mix of literary styles, Cloud Atlas jumps from science ﬁction to crime to picaresque with ease. The book, whose story runs ﬁrst forwards in time and then backwards, has been compared to Russian dolls, with each story linking in some way to the one that follows.
Black Swan Green (2006) With a more understated style, this novel was disappointing to some. However, this tale of a teen growing up in early 1980s England made many award shortlists – and has comparisons to the new short story here. Its narrator's battle with a stammer mirrors that of Mitchell's life.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010) After the longest gap between works to date, Mitchell returned to Japan, the location of parts of his early ﬁction, this time in the 18th century. His ambitious novel follows a Dutch trader who falls for a local midwife on the trading post of Deijima, Europe's one connection to isolationist Japan.
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THE BOOK TREE
Elizabeth by David Starkey (2000)
Spe omplet e on nser’s Poem s K – w eats – poem by John in w ho ape and o was a Keats ( 20 m t d ork s su his S her ro ajor i 03) nﬂu pen ma ch n as ' e s The erian tic po nce Eve stan ets of S za fo tA gne rm s'.
Exit Music by Mac Randall (2000)
Harmony co-author Tony Juniper has had environmental-campaign support from Radiohead – whose career this documents.
Elizabeth I was the subject for Spenser’s allegorical-praise poem, and for Starkey’s biography, part of his ongoing study of British monarchy.
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A masterpiece of linguistic, philosophical and storytelling technique, Carroll's timeless novel has charmed adults and children for more than a century; its inventive phraseology and patter feeding into English itself, with numerous books taking inspiration from Alice's fantastical journey to beautiful, nightmarish Wonderland. With its inﬂuence, its uniqueness and its place in the hearts of the reading world, there can be no better place to start The Book Tree than Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Po St R et one Lid uski , the s of V de n w ori eni ll, as st, ce b m d au y od ra th Joh el wi or n R fo ng a us r C tu nd kin ar to ar (18 ro r t tis 51ll's o t 53 he Alic Joh ) ro e n in e.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
R e Fa un uski erie hi ﬁn n a Que s s ish na en tu ed ly e b dy e se y E of pic d th dm Ve po e und ne em ﬁrs Sp tia t en n in t par ser ar h t (15 ch e a of 90 ite pp Sp an ct e en d 1 ur nd se 596 e. ix r ) of ’s
The Book Tree starts with…
A conservation innovator, Ruskin inﬂuenced the founding of the National Trust, of which Prince Charles is now president.
Harmony by HRH The Prince of Wales (2010)
Explore the root-and-branch links between books and their authors
d Se tre is igh ere ung critic e sle v o c dis st J lso oyc .
Un tri e a n J ake The ychia ter; h retur ’s W h an n Ps ug . I eg da sses Finn Uly in him
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (1939) Joyce's dreamy classic is full of linguistic play on Alice and its author.
Alic e by B in Sun Tal ryan T derlan Ca bot's albot ( d r Su roll's grap 2007) nd re hi
c e l igh rland ation nove ly o as shi l us rig the p w es it ina l hi basis h sto ry. for
The Quark and the Jaguar by Murray Gell-Mann (1995) Physicist Gell-Mann named the quark after a phrase in Joyce’s novel.
He by re Co C Th lay me na is s Shir s Eve lea me oci ky ( rybo d d a al n 200 dy ch ft e 8) a e tw
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A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (1991) Smiley’s novel, which won both the National Book award and the Pulitzer Prize, is a modern retelling of the Lear story, set on an Iowa farm.
r b e 'r A D et C the s life l pu kwo Po be ; hi ove loc
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
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As a young man, Nabokov was a Russian translator for Alice (or Ania); the edition he translated was published in 1923. Many people have predictably drawn comparisons between the untoward (likely) sexual fascinations of both Carroll and Lolita's troubled character Humbert Humbert.
peare hakes 4) S e m c.159 Faeri Willia ar by erformed of The ear's e L g Kin -1605, p nto X ates L l a 3 (c.160 k II, C ser re any m . en oo In B ene, Sp one of speare , e Que c story n Shak i trag ences o inﬂu
You can add to The Book Tree
The Essential Hemingway by Ernest Hemingway (1995)
s i b n Ru iller i mer mpa thr to A acco trip was he
The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
he rk Sna )
Gell-Mann's book is combines physics with evolutionary ideas, as envisaged by Darwin.
In 1907, Roosevelt criticised London in the ‘nature fakers’ controversy – Morris’ work is the most acclaimed biography.
t of 1874 h ng ll ( hic nti rro w o Hu s Ca on d t ed The Lewi oat saile call ed in by he b on was nam ture T nd ii k, ea . Lo awa nar cr em H e S the po th ter ll’s af arro C
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (1979) ( es of as am e , w y J lum ex e '. enr vo e R th re y H d or on odo w b on od ed e cre ec he w Th e S e s , T sto ing f th th hy be 'K n o for rap tle s: Tur itle iog a ti me The he t is’ b om y Ja T rr fr t b o M ken den ta resi p
Jung’s ideas were visible in London’s later works (such as the out of print On the Makaloa Mat); The Call of the Wild is his most loved work.
Morris was official biographer to Ronald Reagan, whose ﬁnal role as a movie actor was in a 1965 adaptation of Hemingway's 1927 short story The Killers, included in this book.
Einstein's Monsters by Martin Amis (1987)
Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman (1985)
Feynman helped develop the atomic bomb, the ultimate consequences of which Amis portrays in these short stories.
Serious Gell-Mann worked with extrovert Feynman – this is the latter's autobiography.
NOTE: All publication dates are for the most commonly listed ﬁrst edition. Pictured jackets are for the most commonly available or recent UK edition
Illustration: Lisa Stannard
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Orange Prize for Fiction 2011
‘As enchanting as it is surprising’ The Sunday Times OUT NOW IN PHOENIX PAPERBACK Read an extract at www.orionbooks.co.uk/thetigerswife
Also available in ebook and audio
Reviews EDITED BY SUSAN OSBORNE
F I C T I O N 55 N O N - F I C T I O N 63
REVIEWERS AD Andrea Don, Nickel Books, Sittingbourne AL Ann Landmann, Blackwell’s, Edinburgh AMc Anna McLaren, University of Surrey Bookshop, Guildford AM Andy Murray, Chorlton Bookshop, Manchester AW Alpha Wearing, The Press Shop, St Peter Port, Guernsey BKJ Bruce Kemble-Johnson, Jarrolds Book Department, Norwich CF Caroline French, Cole's Bookstore, Bicester CS Claire Stewart, Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh CT Carol Treasure, Muswell Hill Bookshop, London HM Heather McNally, Herne Bay Library JB, B Jason Bull, Goldsboro Books, Brighton JB, C Jennie Box, Bookends, Christchurch JO Janice O'Halloran, Bookwise, Dorset JR Jonathan Ruppin, foyles.co.uk LG Lesley Gallagher, Herne Bay Library LR Lisa Randall, Word Power Books, Edinburgh LW Lauren Wyatt, Jarrolds Book Department, Norwich KF Kathryn Flagner, Daniel Hay Library, Whitehaven MA Morag Adlington, Phoenix Bookshop, Glos MT, CB Matthew Taylor, The Chepstow Bookshop, Chepstow MT, UoS Mark Tipper, John Smith’s Bookshop, University of Southampton MW Morag Watkins, The Chorleywood Bookshop, Chorleywood NF Natalia Fedoruk, Chorlton Bookshop, Manchester NP Natasha Pollock, Jarrolds Book Department, Norwich NR Nash Robbins, Much Ado About Books, Alfriston NS Naomi Simpson, Forget-me-not Bookshop, Cheshire RA Richard Aird, Senior Officer Libraries, West Dunbartonshire Council RJ Rhian Jones, Foyles, Charing Cross Road RW Rob Welton, Jarrolds Book Department, Norwich SC Sarah Clarke, The Torbay Bookshop, Paignton SH Sally Hughes, The Bookshop, The National Archives, London SM Sue Morgan, Jarrolds Book Department, Norwich SO Sheila O’Reilly, Dulwich Books, London TE Tracy Eynon, Cariad Books, Ystradgnlais TO Thomas Ogilvie, The Mainstreet Trading Company, St Boswells VL Vanessa Lewis, The Book Nook, Hove
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A life less melancholy Can a novel completed after its author's death live up to its predecessors and remain true to form? It certainly seems so REVIEWED BY JILL DAWSON
The Girl in the Polka-dot Dress by Beryl Bainbridge Little, Brown HB/EB Out July
"A hopeless journey, against
It’s a novel of a hopeless journey, against a backdrop of violent episodes and assassinations – ﬁrst Martin Luther King, later Bobby Kennedy – and the shift in public mood from optimism to despair. The elusive Dr Wheeler moves on, and we suspect he might never be found, or that ﬁnding him isn’t really the point. "I’m only doing what’s best. We’re all looking for something," Harold states, towards the end, after surprising us utterly with his closing act. The journey of the novel echoes the ﬁnal one that Bainbridge herself was on. For an answer to the question "What’s the point?", Dr Wheeler’s earlier advice to Rose is: "If you want a compass to guide you through life, you have to accustom yourself to looking upon the world as a penal colony. If you abide by this you’ll stop regarding disagreeable incidents, sufferings, worries and miseries as anything out of the ordinary. Indeed, you’ll realise that everything is as it
a backdrop of violent episodes and the shift in public mood from optimism to despair" should be; each of us pays the penalty of existence in our own peculiar way." For Rose, the one moment of true love had been snatched from her by a mother, who saw it as "a dirty union between under-age fornicators"… "which was why it was necessary for the resulting infant to be given away. Mothers could always be depended on to know what was best." One might take this to be the author’s ﬁnal comment on the matter, a cackling voice from the grave urging us to accept the unpalatable, to see that our dreams will fail, that whatever joy we experience will be stolen. Except… if life’s so pointless, how to explain the author’s persistent and courageous endeavour to 55
engage with it? Even in the last days of her life, Bainbridge was planning to get up and work, to ﬁx the novel that had bewitched and eluded her for nearly ten years. Her novel offers joy and some kind of answer for the reader who takes pleasure in bloody good writing: the salty prose; the rationed cruelty towards characters; the wicked observation; the frugal way with adjectives, adverbs and sub-clauses; the deadpan tone; the punch. It might not be line for line as Bainbridge intended but it is successful: authentic, stinging and truthful, in her own peculiar way. Jill Dawson is the author of Lucky Bunny, reviewed on page 56
Photography: Brendan King
THIS IS THE NOVEL Dame Beryl Bainbridge was writing when she died in July 2010. I wonder how happy the author would have been with this version, assembled from her manuscript by friend and editor Brendan King. Although ‘happy’ is perhaps not a word Bainbridge cared for in any case. Hard-drinking and smoking, darkly humorous, in her work she relished the absurd, the inexplicable and the violent. These traits are in this last novel too, but another ﬂavour dominates: melancholia. The Girl in the Polka-dot Dress tells the story of Rose, a young Londoner who sets out for the States during the tumultuous summer of 1968 to meet a man she knows as Washington Harold, with only a polka-dot dress and a one-way ticket in her suitcase. The two of them aim to join forces to travel across the country in search of Dr Wheeler – guru and life-saver as far as Rose is concerned; something much darker for Harold.
Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry
Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke by Peter Benson
You by Joanna Briscoe
Atlantic HB/EB/AB Out now
Faber HB/EB/AB Out August
Alma PB Out now
Bloomsbury PB/EB Out July
Vishram Society Tower A of the Vishram Co-operative Housing Society is a crumbling apartment block in Mumbai whose inhabitants are bound together by shared memories and strict adherence to convention. When fat-cat developer Dharmen Shah offers way more than market value to buy out its residents, all have to agree or the deal will not go through. A lone man, Masterji, once a respected schoolteacher, cannot go against his principles to sign and gradually all his former friends turn against him, with devastating results. Former Man Booker-winner Adiga’s mesmerising prose and acute characterisation draw the reader into a spellbinding world of murky secrets, greed and power. SC
Eighty-year-old Lilly Bere’s epic story begins at the end, just as she is struggling to come to terms with the last great tragedy in her life: the suicide of her grandson. Shadows in the present and ghosts from the past weave threads of both sadness and strength through her tale, which spans eight decades, numerous wars and two continents. This deep, affecting novel can easily be read in one sitting, thanks to Sebastian Barry’s seemingly effortless, ﬂowing prose, and his creation of such layered and damaged characters. A story that stays with you well after the ﬁnal page, On Canaan’s Side is an ethereal and evocative journey into a woman’s losses, loves and surpassing endurance. AM
Set in a tiny Somerset village, two naïve 19-year-olds become embroiled in an adventure they wish they’d never happened upon. Quiet, reﬂective Elliot is doing his best to hold down a job while trying to understand his place in the world and the ‘gifts’ his mother keeps saying he’s inherited. Meanwhile, best mate Spike is always looking for some hare-brained scheme to provide his big break. When Spike’s latest scam lands them in it up to their necks, Elliot’s attempts to make his friend see sense seem hopeless and Elliot winds up on the rollercoaster of his life. A novel that evokes all that is wonderful in a quintessential English setting, with a contemporary twist on country life. NS
Set against the backdrop of a foreboding and wild Dartmoor, this is a tale of love in its most painful manifestations, in which both mother and daughter fall into the trappings of desire. Cecilia’s infatuation with her English teacher becomes close to obsession, with devastating repercussions, while her mother ﬂits between yearning and guilt-ridden denial concerning her feelings toward the English teacher’s provocative wife. Twenty years later, Cecilia uproots her family to the moors where she was raised and where her secrets lie imperfectly buried. This novel is a sumptuously written tale of tangled family life with the ultimate message that you can never truly undo the mistakes of the past. NP
What They Do in the Dark by Amanda Coe
Lucky Bunny by Jill Dawson
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Girl in the Mirror by Sarah Gristwood
Virago PB/EB Out July
Sceptre HB/EB Out August
Macmillan HB/EB Out August
HarperPress PB/EB Out now
Pauline and Gemma go to the same school. Pauline is neglected, tough and, consequently, a bully. Gemma apparently has a stable family but reluctantly goes to live with her mother and her mother's boyfriend, whose main attraction seems to be his wealth. Although not friends, the girls are united in their crush on Lallie, a child star who is ﬁlming locally. She also has secrets. There are few attractive characters in Coe's debut novel, set authentically in the 1970s, but this adds to the tension as it moves towards the chilling ﬁnal episode in which fear, panic and aggression produce the concluding murderous act. An impressive evocation of the perpetuation of abuse, its ending will stay with you for some time. JB, C
Meet Queenie Dove, a vivacious, self-proclaimed genius. Thieving her way around the streets of London during the Depression, Queenie seems to live a glamorous lifestyle but you begin to learn that heartbreak, despair and sadness are what really ﬁll her life. Jill Dawson has created a very convincing set of characters with whom readers can connect, bringing 1930s London so vividly to life that you almost feel yourself walking its streets with them. Queenie is a heroine who combines vigour and brains, and uses these traits against some of the meanest characters in London. In Lucky Bunny, Dawson has written an evocative and enjoyable novel that is beautifully written and engaging from the start. LW
One of those rare books that stays with you well after turning the last page, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel is a beautiful and haunting tale of discovering love in the most unlikely of circumstances. Damaged and deﬁant Victoria Jones, sleeping rough in an empty park, eventually ﬁnds solace among the ﬂowers that mean everything to her. Taking inspiration from a crumbling copy of Henrietta Dumont’s The Floral Offering, written in 1851, Victoria rediscovers herself through the meanings and messages that ﬂowers have to offer. The muchforgotten Victorian ‘language’ of ﬂowers is brought alive through this twisted tale of damaged roots, tangled emotions and desperate hope for a burgeoning future. LR
This atmospheric novel tells the story of Jeanne, a young French exile orphaned by the Wars of Religion on the continent and brought to London disguised as a boy. Sarah Gristwood is a wonderful storyteller and the book describes the politics and intrigue of the court of Queen Elizabeth I brilliantly. She gives you a real feel for life in 16th-century London, together with vivid descriptions of the Cecil household upping sticks to the country in preparation for a visit by the Queen. Each chapter is narrated by a different character and, as we follow Jeanne growing up in disguise in the household of Robert Cecil, we are drawn to her. A thoroughly enjoyable and compelling historical novel. SO
FICTION REVIEWS READERS' CHOICES
The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay
Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
W&N HB/EB Out August
Hamish Hamilton PB/EB Out August
Piatkus PB/EB Out now
The Sacred Heart Catholic church, with its small but loyal band of parishioners, ﬁnds itself the subject of intense curiosity when news gets out of a miracle within its hallowed walls: a statue of Jesus Christ has apparently bled from its wounds, witnessed by Mary-Margaret O’Reilly before she crashed to the ﬂoor. Recovering in hospital, Mary-Margaret is convinced Jesus saved her to do his work, but her cloistered life with a mother scarred by religious zeal has been the catalyst for Mary-Margaret’s intense and obsessive character. Kay’s challenging but very readable novel invites the reader to look behind the doors of the church, posing difficult questions about the value of religion as a mandate for living. JO
The Pinnacle Rocks in the Californian desert attract all kinds of people. In 1775 a Catholic priest travels there to bring his God to the natives; in 1920 a Great War veteran collects old Indian stories; 20 years later another comes to contact Venus; in the 1950s hippies communicate with the universe and in 2008 a British rock star, an Iraqi refugee and a fraught couple with an autistic child seek refuge. When the child disappears, relationships unravel and everything changes. In Gods Without Men, Kunzru creates a host of authentic characters in a story that draws in readers, leaving them astonished and saddened. Above all, this is about beliefs, and about the connections between people, past and present. AL
A school is on ﬁre and a desperate mother runs in to rescue her daughter. Both are critically injured but alive and can communicate with each other through 'out of body' experiences. When the ﬁre turns out to be arson, an investigation is launched to discover the perpetrator. The power of familial love guides the parents, siblings and wider family through the dark days ahead. Rosamund Lupton’s ﬁrst novel Sister was the fastest-selling debut by a British author, which could arguably have been a hard act for her to follow. In Afterwards we have an equally stunning second novel, beautifully crafted and utterly engaging, a highly original 'whodunnit' that will keep you guessing until the end. SM
The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
Then by Julie Myerson
Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
William Heinemann PB/EB Out July
Jonathan Cape HB/EB Out now
Picador PB/EB Out now
Lucy Hull, 26, is an unmarried children’s librarian in Missouri. Lucy’s best client is ten-year-old Ian Drake, an avid bibliophile with evangelical parents who want Ian only to read volumes with "the breath of God on them". Regular sessions with ‘de-gaying’ celebrity Pastor Bob and constant attempts to censor his reading material prove too much for Ian. He packs a bag and runs away. Lucy catches up with her top borrower and an unconventional road trip begins. This story – often fun, sometimes sad, always bookish – deals with big issues: freedom, growing up, religion, sexuality and literature. Rebecca Makkai’s literary debut will appeal to young adults and readers of adult literary ﬁction. JB, B
Julie Myerson’s eighth novel, Then, marks her return to the disturbing themes that characterised her earlier works of dark ﬁction, this time in the previously unexplored dystopian setting of a post-apocalyptic London. Myerson beneﬁts from the easily recognised nature of her story’s location, which she manages to render appropriately eerie and transformed. Her protagonist’s numb, post-traumatic perspective is efficiently conveyed in ﬂat, dispassionate prose that belies the action’s bleak drama and magnitude. This is an absorbing tale of familiarly complex human relationships and emotions unfolding in wholly unfamiliar circumstances. RJ
St John Fox kills women for a living, purely to entertain others. The celebrated American novelist has a habit of murdering his heroines and Mary Foxe wants him to change. Mary is the woman of his dreams: beautiful, intelligent, witty, challenging… and imaginary. Daphne, St John’s wife, is determined to help him see the beauty of real love. Oyeyemi’s beautifully written novel interweaves engaging narrative with beguiling fragments from St John’s imagination. The joy of her melodic prose compensates for the somewhat disjointed nature of the book: some chapters feel half-ﬁnished and some stories only half-told. Nonetheless, Oyeyemi is a writer of rare talent. MT, UoS 57
Paperbacks for discussion as chosen by Lee’s Eleven Reading Group in London Room by Emma Donoghue Picador PB/AB/EB Out now
This is written from the point of view of a ﬁve-year-old boy, who has seen nothing but the inside of the room in which he and his mother are imprisoned. It took a while to get into the language and story, but once there I couldn’t put it down. It made me reconsider what my sons and I take for granted. Carole Meehan The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff Black Swan PB/EB Out now
The 19th Wife is an interesting combination of historical information and ﬁction about being part of a Mormon polygamous sect. Split into two distinct parts you get a real sense of the history of the movement and modern-day polygamous sects. Not quite the murder mystery I expected, but a very enjoyable read. Carole Meehan The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway Atlantic PB/EB Out now
Dragan waits to cross a road; Kenan tries to get water for his family: both fear the sniper’s shot. These being such simple errands make this novel heartrending. We all loved the book and were deeply moved by it: it taught us something horrifying about the appalling events that happened on our doorstep. Cathie Coughlan
Murder waits for no man… not even Hew Cullan TIME & TIDE
The Third Hew Cullan Mystery by Shirley McKay
Historical Crime Fiction at its Best TFO
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
There but for the by Ali Smith
Bloomsbury HB/EB Out now
Hamish Hamilton HB/EB Out now
Marina is sent from Minnesota to the Brazilian jungle in search of a colleague, gone missing while investigating the progress of reclusive Dr Swenson’s revolutionary drug. Such a synopsis does nothing to convey the richness of this book. There is the wonderful interplay of detailed characters and the cultural clashes they face, the amazing complexity of the jungle, ethical questions that arise and then the absolute dynamism of the conclusion. Anticipation crackles through every page. Although the source of the drug is rather improbable, Ann Patchett’s linguistic skills convey a wealth of detail in such an economical way, creating a reading experience that deﬁes literary cliché. MA
Dinner-party guest Miles escapes the dinner table and locks himself in his hosts’ spare room. While his seclusion stretches from days to weeks to months, Smith’s wilfully tangential narrative skips from Miles’ competition-winning teenage essay on the future to the hospital bedside of an elderly woman visited each year on the anniversary of her daughter’s death by the boy she forbade her to see. A structural cousin to Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzerwinning A Visit from the Goon Squad and evidently borne out of Smith’s passion for short-story form, the novel revels in the alchemy of unlikely pairings and brings a wide-eyed originality to the well-worn theme of attitudes and antipathies of the middle class. JR
Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann
Bed by David Whitehouse
Corsair PB/EB Out August
Canongate PB/EB Out now
This ambitious debut is a comingof-age novel from the perspective of a young woman, spanning her ﬁrst tastes of love, sexual awakening and self-discovery. Eveline meets the materialistic and polarised truths of America while struggling with her own identity, shaped by men and economic circumstances, by the social realms of her country and the notion of womanhood.Readers will ﬁnd genuine moments of recognition as Hamann cuts incisively to the heart of the hubris of youth. While occasionally over-emphasising gender issues, this is an engaging read reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis and Candace Bushnell; a signiﬁcant voice writing about her time, place and experience with honesty. CS
Can you be destroyed by love? In Bed, David Whitehouse tells the story of a family dominated by its eldest son, both physically and emotionally. When Malcolm Ede takes to his bed as a teenager, food becomes the representation of his mother’s love, and Mal ends up famous as the fattest man in the world. Narrated by Mal’s brother, who has always looked up to him, Bed explores the circumstance and impact of Mal’s decision to go to bed and never get up. A dark yet tender vein of humour runs through this warm, funny and acutely observed debut, which shows how deep love can destroy as well as nurture. Skilfully crafted, the story is simple but will keep readers intrigued to the end. TE
SCI-FI, FANTASY AND HORROR REVIEWS
EHVWVHOOHU LIfe, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt
The Mall by S.L. Grey Atlantic HB/EB Out now
Set in a Johannesburg shopping mall with bang-up-to-date references to pop culture, this mash-up of horror, fantasy and satire results in an exciting and creepy read. Alternate chapters are narrated by the main protagonists â€“ angsty emo-kid Dan and druggie Rhoda â€“ giving both perspectives and holding the readerâ€™s interest. Explicit language gives an authentic feel to the characters, as warped text messages lead them deeper into an alternative mall. Monstrous characters leap off the page â€“ you can practically smell the stench. Perhaps a few pages too long, the fast pace and original plot coupled with a clever line in quirky shop names and an unexpected ending make this a great page-turner. LG
Orbit PB/EB Out now
Itâ€™s hard to say what makes Tom Holt so laugh-out-loud-on-thebus funny. An 'ordinary' morning starts innocuously enough with a mysteriously disappearing cup of coffee, and brings the beginning of the end for the increasingly befuddled employees at Blue Remembered Hills Developments. Holtâ€™s mixing of the mundane with the completely bonkers is hilariously, enjoyably mad. Pigs contemplate complex teleportation theories while rummaging for turnips; and, perhaps most strangely of all, a group of rampaging chickens hell-bent on stealing mobile phones turn out to have previously existed as female lawyers. Wonderful stuff. LR
A bit of harmless fun
Cheap thrills and dodgy pills keep Stross' Rule 34 squad on its toes Well, where to begin: Rule 34 is dark, disturbing, bleak and yet in parts very funny. Charles Stross, winner of the Hugo award in 2005 for The Concrete Jungle, has written a brilliant novel set in the near future that follows the investigations of the Rule 34 squad, who keep an eye on the internet, checking to see if people are just using it for harmless fun or whether their interest is in something more sinister. With such incidents as a Viagra overdose and a dead spammer, thereâ€™s a very unusual killer on the loose and Inspector Liz Kavanaugh has her work cut out trying to track them down. The strange thing is that her paperwork keeps vanishing, and, next, so might she.
Set in Scotland, with a hint of Scots language running through it, this is a wonderful novel, which reads like China Mieville after he has been stuck in front of the internet for too long. This humourous, inventive and gripping book deserves all the kudos it will inevitably get. Mr Stross, you can count on adding to an ever-growing fan base with Rule 34. RW
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Orbit PB/EB Out July
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CRIME AND THRILLER REVIEWS
The Nightmare Thief by Meg Gardiner
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn
The Cut by George Pelecanos
Blue Door PB/EB Out now
Little, Brown PB/EB Out July
Macmillan PB/EB Out July
Orion HB/EB Out August
Spoilt rich girl Autumn receives a 21st birthday surprise like no other: her father has booked the ultimate adventure experience with an urban reality game company that aims to make the impossible possible. Autumn and her friends prepare for their ‘crime-spree weekend’ but, elsewhere, someone has other ideas for the group. As forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett attempts to discover clues to a mysterious death, she ﬁnds herself intertwined with the kidnapped teens and must keep them safe – but when nobody knows where you are in the Californian wilderness, the clock is ticking. This novel hooks you quickly and drags you round some unexpected twists. A must-read for any detective thriller fan. NF
In Higashino’s ﬁrst book to be translated into English, we quickly learn who the murderer is, but that’s inconsequential to the plot, which concerns whether Yasuko and her neighbour Ishigami, a mathematician, can get away with it. Ishigami constructs elaborate alibis to fox the police but doesn’t count on Detective Galileo, an old rival who helps the investigation. The translation is decent, and the novel feels distinctly Japanese, but fans of gore and action won’t ﬁnd much. Higashino’s success is in the characterisation and twists that make it more of a psychological mystery than a crime thriller. While it sometimes seems bogged down in details, it’s the details that hold the key to this enjoyable read. TO
Another quiet day in the police station of Bull's Mouth, or so it seems, until Dispatch Officer Ian Hunt realises it's his daughter Maggie making a 911 call – and she's been missing, believed dead, for the past seven years. What unfolds in this edge-of-your-seat thriller is an increasingly frantic race to ﬁnd Maggie. At times violent, the action of the book reﬂects the anguish and desperation of kidnappers, rescuers and Maggie's loved ones, and is played out against the vast, empty deserts of Texas and California, ending in a tense, thrilling showdown. Jahn has written a real page-turner, well crafted with convincing characters and an involving plot based on how far people will go for their family. TE
George Pelecanos’ The Cut introduces Spero Lucas, a veteran of the Iraq war, who acts as an unlicensed investigator and all-around ﬁnder of lost things. When he is hired by a jailed drugs baron, Lucas ﬁnds his streetwise knowledge and ﬁghting abilities are put to a rigorous test. Pelecanos offers a well-wrought thriller with ﬁnely delineated characters, set in Washington, DC – not the highﬂying political hotspot of some tales but rather the back streets, where racial issues from past decades still affect neighbourhoods and where the line between good cop and bad criminal are sometimes easy to cross. Taut and well-paced, The Cut is a terriﬁc addition to the genre. NR
than he really wants to. This is Benjamin Black’s fourth Quirke mystery, and the best. While Black (aka Man Booker Prize-winning author John Banville) can’t write a bad sentence, it’s taken him some time to ease into Quirke’s strange, beguiling rationale, and make him and the plots truly gripping. Much of the success comes from the fact that the blood and gore is left off page. There is, instead, serious character study and beautifully evocative setting.
It’s Dublin, the 1950s, the sun is shining and love is in the air. Well, sort of. The thing is, despite the engrossing, atmospheric prose and the crisp, purposeful dialogue, Benjamin Black’s mysteries are pretty cloudy affairs. Chief protagonist and reluctant pathologist Quirke is a mountain of a man, with wild mood swings to match. Personal tragedy has rocked him all his life. Orphaned
early, then widowed early, he’s only just rebuilding his relationship with his daughter, Phoebe, while investing a small amount of time in feisty actress Isabel Galloway. Work meanwhile, dissecting corpses in the basement of a Dublin hospital, has the habit of becoming much more interesting when he’s roped into a murder investigation by Inspector Hackett. A Death in Summer ﬁnds Quirke at the centre of an investigation surrounding the death of newspaper tycoon Richard Jewell. What’s made to look like suicide doesn’t fool Quirke or Hackett for a minute. Though even with enemies all over Dublin, including rival businessman Carlton Sumner, the trail quickly goes cold. Warmth, of the most complicated and compromising kind, is provided by Jewell’s stunning French wife, Françoise d’Aubingy. Besotted, and having already fallen off the wagon, Quirke stumbles about Dublin making a fool of himself. Needless to say, he discovers more
Benjamin Black has found the plot in A Death in Summer
Henry Sutton is the author of Get me Out of Here, published by Vintage
A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black Mantle HB/EB Out July
Photography: Getty Images
A case for dissection
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Water, water, everywhere Philip Marsden's scrupulously researched history and delightfully written ode to the sea will soften the most hardened landlubber's heart REVIEWED BY SIMON WINCHESTER
The Levelling Sea by Philip Marsden
IN SPITE OF ALL those things we think now ail us so, we are a nation still wedded to the sea. Our coastlines are temptingly close, the waves beating and sifting against them in coves and bays no more than a couple of hours away from most of us. Even in those landlocked places said to be most distant from the coast – Leicester, Tring and a farm in Derbyshire are the lead contenders – there are gale-blown gulls to be found. And people live even in Tring, I daresay, who listen nightly to the shipping forecasts, all the while pulling up the blankets, snug against the breakers off the Ushant rocks. This unbreakable union between us and our ocean ensures that books like The Levelling Sea – especially when deliberately studded, as this is, with words and terms like sweeps, spars and topsail-yards, with gigs, punts and advice-boats, with rigs both square and fore-and-aft, and with all the other creaking, tar-scented lexical ropework of the dockside
"Marsden has chosen to enfold a hymn to his beloved sea into the story of England's best-known port" and the foretop – are like catnip to those countless Britons who have seawater in their veins. And had Philip Marsden simply used his travel-writing skills to create a hymn to our surrounding seas, and had he decorated it with this magical vocabulary alone, the book would have surely been a ﬂawless triumph. But Mr Marsden has done a great deal more than that. He has chosen to enfold a hymn to his beloved sea into the story of what was for 200 blissful years England’s best-known and most sturdily signiﬁcant port-city. Falmouth, in a conveniently sheltered estuary in southern Cornwall, may be a city important no longer: the coming of the steamships saw to that. But in her time, Falmouth was a place
that distilled everything about England’s relationship with her western seaways. That she is now a half-forgotten maritime reliquary, a place where memories and museums far outnumber matelots and merchantmen, makes for a poignant grace note to a sea story that once had so grand a sweep. The Falmouth packet was the key. Each Tuesday, from 1688 onwards, a stagecoach would set out from the GPO in London, bearing a number of heavy oiledleather bags, stuffed with mail. Its destination was Cornwall and, as the horses breasted the hills above Falmouth town on a Saturday night, so the waiting sloop below would unfurl her sails and, the packets safely loaded, promptly beat out 63
into the Channel. At ﬁrst the packetboats went to Corunna, for onward transmittals to the rest of Europe and Asia; then from 1702 mail shipped out to the sugar islands of the Caribbean; and from 1754, to the Americas. Such gloriously busy times these were, delightfully chronicled in this wonderful, haunting and most original book. That it all came to an end will matter little to those who pick up this elegant and scrupulously researched work. For The Levelling Sea is also a record of an intensely personal affection – Philip Marsden grew up with the Falmouth waters he writes about, and he knows her shoals and deeps so well – and, as we all know, memories of old and unrequited loves and decayed beauty have a lasting charm about them. Just as the sea-bleached and wind-weathered town of old Falmouth does, to this day. Simon Winchester is the author of Atlantic, published in July by HarperPress
Photography: Getty Images
HarperPress HB/EB Out now
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard Summersdale PB Out July
Photography: Getty Images
It seems children are never too old for a bedtime story
At a time when books often seem under attack, threatened with redundancy by the more aggressive advocates of new media, it is good to read so spirited and charming a paean in praise of the pleasures of reading as The Reading Promise. It is even better that its author is not some tired old fogey but a 22-year-old fresh from college and determined to share her own love of reading with as many people as possible. Alice Ozma owes her delight in the printed word, and much else, to her father, an eccentric but dedicated school librarian who emerges as the true hero of this book. When Alice was nine, she and her father reached an agreement. He would read aloud to her every night for a hundred nights. After this goal was achieved with ease, they upped the ante and went for a thousand nights. Eventually, despite all difficulties, he read to her on every one of 3,218 consecutive nights. The Reading Streak, as they called it, lasted until she was 18 and ready to depart for college. They read everything from L. Frank Baum’s Oz books
Elizabeth Bard dishes up her cultural observations and reﬂections in an engaging, conversational style. Her relationship with her mother is particularly enjoyable and no doubt very recognisable to many women. Similarly, the struggle with a foreign language and feelings of helplessness in a foreign land will resonate with readers. At its core is a love story tracing the journey of Elizabeth and Gwendal as they come to understand each other, their inner circles, and their differing outlooks on work, life and, of course, food. Though tinged with sadness, it’s as warming as 'Moelleux au Chocolat 'Kitu'', one of the featured recipes forming an integral ingredient of the narrative. A tasty book indeed! LG
– a particular favourite and the source for the unusual middle name which Alice now uses as her writing name – to Dickens, Conan Doyle and the Harry Potter series. The Reading Promise records the progress of their marathon but the book is more than just the pact they made. It records the ups and downs of growing up in a single-parent household that was simultaneously very ordinary and truly remarkable. Alice brings to life family occasions both sad and funny (the Thanksgiving on which her mother moved out, the Christmas Eve when her father insisted on placing an Elvis memento at the top of the tree rather than the traditional fairy, the funeral of a pet ﬁsh at which he extemporised a surreal eulogy for the deceased) with great charm and skill. The Reading Promise does slip occasionally into sentimentality but much can be forgiven a memoir which provides such an inspiring reminder of the difference that books can make.
As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil by Rodney Bolt Atlantic HB/EB Out now
At 12, Minnie Sidgwick’s childhood ended with Edward Benson’s marriage proposal followed by an intense but not particularly happy marriage. So far, so traditional Victorian wife. However Mary, whom Gladstone called 'the cleverest woman in Europe', was far from ordinary. Sustained by her friendships with women, she blossomed as the wife of the Archbishop, mixing with royalty, politicians and artists. Following her husband’s death she set up home with the daughter of his predecessor and her 'impossibly literate' children, all treading a tightrope between sin and sanctity. Rodney Bolt’s biography is terriﬁcally readable. SH
Nick Rennison writes for The Sunday Times and is the editor of The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide BIOGRAPHY
The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma Hodder HB/EB Out now
Free Radicals by Michael Brooks
The Forgotten Land by Max Egremont
Proﬁle PB/EB Out July
Picador HB/EB Out now
The recent upswing in interest in popular science has given rise to explorations of the history and inner workings of the subject itself. Michael Brooks’ contribution to the ﬁeld looks at scientiﬁc discoveries in their chaotic and conﬂict-ﬁlled contexts, and at the frequently fascinating personalities surrounding them. Here, as in his previous 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, Brooks’ clear and concise style efficiently conveys an infectious enthusiasm for his topic. Free Radicals’ tightly plotted tales of rebellion, drug use and Machiavellian intrigue in the pursuit of enlightenment fulﬁls Brook’s stated aim of humanising a discipline that can often appear unsympathetically distant. RJ
Max Egremont’s subtitle, 'Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia', is a ﬁtting description of what lies at its heart: the memories of those who lived in what is now part of Poland, Lithuania or Russia. Charting its history from its early days ruled by the Teutonic Order to its place in Europe after the fall of communism, Egremont paints a picture of a wild land, full of painful memories of war, loss and death. His poetic writing captures the atmosphere of the region, intensiﬁed by the voices of those he met. Above all, The Forgotten Land bursts with life stories, from the landowners of old to those that survived expulsion after the war or have returned since to a land that will never be forgotten. AL
Local reading groups from Leeds share the books that got them talking…
Little Gypsy by Roxy Freeman
Dolce Vita by Stephen Gundle
Post Everything by Luke Haines
Simon & Schuster PB/EB Out August
Canongate HB/EB Out July
William Heinemann PB/EB Out July
Little Gypsy is a frank and beautifully written insight into a fascinating world. Roxy Freeman tells the heart-rending story of her life in the 1980s and 1990s, growing up as a traveller along the lanes and byways of Ireland and England in a traditional horse-drawn wagon. Life is challenging and far removed from everyday comforts. Roxy's family are moved on by the police, have difficulties with local councils and run-ins with fellow travellers. Roxy takes solace in the bond between her and her six siblings and a very real relationship with nature and the world around them. This is a moving story of a family: of disapproving grandparents, of a philandering father, and of secrets that eventually come out. MT, CB
Captivating from the ﬁrst page, Stephen Gundle’s Rome is a far more sinister place than the romanticised 1950s image of a golden age of style we tend to believe. A murdered girl washed up on a beach begins the unravelling of a dark and macabre tale that was to captivate the media and resonate deeply with the public. Glamorised by the Hollywood stars of the time, Rome in 1953 had all the sophistication and seduction of the Italian Riviera, but Gundle’s fastpaced romp through history dispels the myths of its ‘old-world’ ritziness and exposes it as a hotbed of sex, cover-ups and corruption. A tragic case, long-forgotten, has been skilfully resurrected in this brilliant exposé of murder and scandal. LR
To some, singer-songwriter Luke Haines is the father of Britpop. The man himself, ever the contrarian, would probably demand a paternity test. From the early 1990s, he led assorted inﬂuential bands – The Auteurs, Black Box Recorder – and won a cult following. His songs are unfailingly intelligent and literate, qualities that he put to use in his much-admired autobiography, Bad Vibes. This second volume picks up in 1997. Haines’ endeavours over this period are torpedoed by bad luck or, often, self-sabotage. But his acid, misanthropic perspective and killer turn of phrase make for a compelling read. Okay, there’s a lot of petty point-scoring, but elevated to something of an artform. AM
Spilling the Beans by Clarissa Dickson Wright
FOOD & DRINK
A Taste of Home by Angela Hartnett
Rome by Robert Hughes
Hood Rat by Gavin Knight
Ebury HB Out July
W&N HB/EB Out now
Picador PB/EB Out July
Angela Hartnett is famous for the fabulous Mediterranean cooking at her own Michelin-starred restaurant, Murano. This book shows the food she eats at home. No less delicious, but dishes that can be whipped up without the support of a brigade of young sous-chefs (often so difficult to ﬁnd at home). The recipes are Italian in spirit if not always in fact, showing that generous feeling for food and family that characterises Italian cooking. There are chapters on pasta and risotto, on pies and roasts, and a great baking section with some delectable cakes. Whether you are looking for a simple macaroni cheese for supper or a stunning chestnut truffle risotto for your next dinner party this book offers a wealth of inspiration. SH
This authoritative and detailed cultural history of Rome is very readable despite being nearly 500 pages. Beginning with the founding of this great city, and the legends of Romulus and Remus, the book teems with the details of the achievements of the artists and architects of Rome, as well as charting the lives of the Popes and patrons of the arts. We discover how the city evolved through its politics, art, and various wars, right up to and including the 20th century. Readers interested in art and history will enjoy this book and should ﬁnd many things to capture their interest. Robert Hughes loves to put forward his own opinions, which makes for a very personal view that is always entertaining. AW
There are several stories in Hood Rat, each revolving around the activities of gangs and those who try to stop them, in Manchester, London and Glasgow. It is a challenging read, as chronological order isn’t always followed and there are no obvious links between the events in the various cities. The author vividly shows a world where drugs hook young boys into gangs, where posturing and 'respect' is all, so one gang murder escalates into revenge killings on both sides. Among the gang murders, real killings are referred to, blurring the line between fact and ﬁction. Many of the law enforcement characters have a bleak view of the world, which makes the ending a real surprise. KF 65
Hodder PB/EB/AB Out now
The insight into the author’s unhappy childhood is interesting, but the meat of the book is her long descent into alcoholism. We wondered if the author is to be admired for turning her life around, or someone who wasted the many opportunities and large sums of money she was blessed with? Lyn Bambury, Armley Reader's Group, Leeds HISTORY
Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre Bloomsbury PB/AB/EB Out now
While meticulously researched, this reads like a wartime thriller. It gives a fascinating insight into covert operations, and the mix of planning and chance that goes into them. Discussions led to wide-ranging conversations on the war and today's international situation. Alison Millar, Staff Reader's Group, Library HQ, Leeds TRUE CRIME
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale Bloomsbury PB/AB/EB Out now
This well-researched book is a detailed and absorbing study of a crime, a family, and a rural community at the height of the Victorian period. There is an interesting debate to be had about the resolution of the case, and whether the whole truth has ever been uncovered. Lyn Bambury, Bramley Reader's Group, Leeds
Keep it in your book. Use it for the words you don’t know. Very Easy to Use Collins Gem Dictionary Data 38,000 Definitions
Award Winning Product Design Available in Grey, White or Pink If you’d like one, ask your bookseller.
It’s a dictionary. (Just slimmer and a bit more gorgeous!)
After the tsunami
One man's journey to come to grips with a tragedy Simon Stephenson's brother Dominic was among those who died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The book opens with the slow horror of realisation, from the ﬁrst news reports to the repatriation of Dominic's body. But from this heartbreak unfolds a deeply affecting memoir of brotherhood, in which despair is replaced by a celebration of their shared lives. Simon's travels to the once innocent paradise of Ko Phi Phi – this translates with uncomfortable aptness as 'island of many ghosts' – are initially an act of personal catharsis but, encountering
people who had met Dominic there, he becomes part of a community that bears its sorrows together. The garden of remembrance they create is where, as one wise local puts it, “the living can meet the dead” and fond memories can be cherished. Like William Styron's moving memoir of depression, Darkness Visible, there is profound empathy here and, in recognising that the tragedy of Dominic's death was that of a life not fully run, Simon's tribute is both to his brother and to each of the 230,000 souls lost to an unimaginable force of nature. JR BIOGRAPHY
Let Not the Waves of the Sea by Simon Stephenson John Murray HB/EB Out July
Lemon Sherbet and Dolly Blue by Lynn Knight
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
Atlantic HB/EB Out August
Picador HB/EB/AB Out now
This book charts three generations of the author’s family, who ran a corner shop in a small mining town in Derbyshire. An engaging read, it explores changing social attitudes to children as the Nash family grows by adopting children in three different ways as the rules change. Well researched, it highlights the hardships of the times through historical documents and personal memoirs. This is a heart-warming and nostalgic biography. The strong characters of great-grandmother Betsy Nash and her daughters Annie and Eva are brought to life with wonderful memories of daily village life during hard times. It is said you can’t choose your relatives but this story reveals how real families come together. HM
Jon Ronson’s latest endeavour explores a particular form of madness: psychopathy, or sociopathy. This personality disorder occurs where the person appears normal but has an abnormal lack of empathy. Apparently, many people at the top of their professions have some psychopathic traits. Ronson attends a course on the Psychopathy Checklist – used by psychiatrists to assess a person’s mental state – and interviews a patient at Broadmoor Hospital claiming to be sane and a businessman alleged to have psychopathic tendencies. This is both an entertaining, wry commentary on the ‘madness industry’ and an insightful, enjoyable read. CT 66
FOR A BROADER VIEW OF SCRIPTURE
Join the Club by Tina Rosenberg
The Last Flanelled Fool by Michael Simkins
Icon PB/EB Out August
Ebury PB Out July
Tina Rosenberg has produced a fascinating insight into groups and the inﬂuence of peer pressure. Through a series of case studies, she ably demonstrates the case for using group power to change communities and neighbourhoods and thus the world. From problems as serious as AIDS, alcoholism and recidivism to loneliness and weight loss, groups can solve the problems created by the decline in community that the modern age has brought, and can be used to change both personal and political behaviour. There is value for personal wellbeing in belonging to a community and that too is a worthy goal. This is a fascinating, readable and convincing book that would interest a wide audience. MW
Michael Simkins divides his time between being a jobbing actor, writer and adhesive opening batsmen for the Harry Baldwin Occasionals. When injury curtails his season Michael spends the summer reconnecting with the game. What follows is a pilgrimage to some of the most revered and evocative venues in cricket’s long history. From a visit to Hambledon, the 18th-century centre of the cricketing universe, to a drizzly day in Swansea, via Collins’ Piece, the site of the highest individual score in a game of cricket (628 not out), Simkins rediscovers why he fell in love with this most eclectic of sports. The Last Flannelled Fool is a hugely entertaining collection of anecdotes and eccentrics. MT, UoS
Urban Worrier by Nick Thorpe
Dante in Love by A.N. Wilson
Little, Brown PB/EB Out now
Atlantic HB/EB Out June
Journalist Nick Thorpe was described by a girlfriend as a "worrier", a title that has followed him throughout his adult life. Now on the verge of being approved to adopt a child with his wife, Ali, Nick decides he needs to try to let go of his angst and live in the moment. But how can you be happy when you're not in control? He embarks on a year of experiments with the idea that he would ﬁnd the perfect way to ‘let go’. Among these journeys, he undertakes a clowning workshop, naturism at the Eden Project, a silent retreat in a monastery and rafting down a river with his brothers. In this thought-provoking story of discovery, he learns a lot about how to live within his own mind. AD
For centuries Dante has inspired writers and historians as diverse as Shakespeare, Byron and W.B. Yeats, who dubbed him "the chief imagination of Christendom". Born into a minor aristocratic Florentine family (his father was a money lender and his mother died when he was young) Dante Alighieri became one of the most inﬂuential people in Italy, then a country split by feuding states. In Dante in Love, A.N. Wilson offers us a fascinating account of the Florence and Italy of Dante’s time, showing how by understanding the events of the period we can gain an insight into his writing and the inﬂuence wielded by the epic poem, The Divine Comedy, his most famous work. BKJ 67
A kaleidoscopic study of Jesus in the four Gospels. Out now 978 0 281 05975 1 £12.99
Analysis freed from the ‘Western captivity’ of the Bible. Due September 978 0 281 06455 7 £16.99
Available from all good bookshops, or online at
H A P P Y H O L I D A Y S 70 A N A W F U L L Y B I G A D V E N T U R E 72 C H I L D R E N ' S B O O K R E V I E W S 0-5 Y E A R S 77 C H I L D R E N ' S B O O K R E V I E W S 6-12 Y E A R S 78 Y O U N G A D U L T S ' B O O K R E V I E W S 81
KEY: HB = hardback
PB = paperback
BB = boardbook
EB = ebook AB = audiobook
, nks Mo 77 a i ep Lyd by it. Se tion Babb a r t f s Illu thor o au
HAPPY HOLIDAYS If you, like Wally, are going roaming this year, fill the little ones' time – and gain some for yourself – with some fun activity books WORDS Caroline Sanderson
Camping out Fresh air and being at one with nature; the stars, the night sky, and tales told round the campﬁre. All this might just inspire your child to pen some stories of their own. The Usborne Write Your Own Story Book (Usborne) is packed with ideas to get children's imaginations ﬂowing, from tips on characters, settings and story starters, to word lists and hints on titles. There are also plenty of pages of blank lines, just begging to be written on. Slide a copy under the tent ﬂap and they'll soon be scribbling
WHEREVER YOU plan to spend your family holidays this summer, it's all about keeping the children amused to dodge that phrase most dreaded by parents: "I'm bored!" Instead of switching on the TV when they get fractious, try investing in some activity books. Whether you're staying at home or venturing afar, we predict that, rather than creating, your kids might just get creative instead. Perhaps start with the new Where's Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection, which has all seven Wally books in one (pictured here) for hours of fun.
away by torchlight – it's also potentially useful for long ﬂights or rainy days too. Having a torch handy will also lead to sleeping bag fun for younger children if you have a copy of The Game of Light by Hervé Tullet (Phaidon) to hand. The holes punched in this colourful and dinky board book will make glorious glowing patterns on the canvas when you shine a light through them, including ﬂowers that bloom on the ceiling and ﬁsh that swim across the walls. Not forgetting a shooting star at the end to send your happy camper to sleep.
Aprés surf After a hard day's body-boarding or revelling on the beach, you might want to help tired but still wired teens and shattered pre-teens unwind by encouraging them into a bit of street art. Not on the walls of your resort, you'll be relieved to hear, but straight onto the pages of the funky Street Art Doodle Book: Outside the Lines (Laurence King). And who said colouring in is only for little kids? The Sneaker Colouring Book (also Laurence King) will tempt even the very coolest dudes into its customising its 100 black-and-white line drawings of trainer designs, until long after the sun has gone down.
Taking off for foreign climes can be thrilling, but that ﬂight to the sun will be less stressful for everyone if overexcited small people are occupied. 100 Things for Little Children to Do on a Journey (Usborne) aims to ﬁll the time with a compact pack of wipe-clean double-sided activity cards complete with pen, which invites children to spot the difference, complete the mazes, search for words and much more – just keep them clear of the mini-screen on the back of the chair in front. If you are likely to have a restless toddler on your knee while in the air, try a copy of
100 Things by Masayubi Sebe (Gecko Press). Its glorious colours and playful style are intended to entice sharp-eyed children into spotting and counting the objects and animals that ﬁll each busy spread. Those baggage restrictions mean that every book has to earn its place so, just like your luggage, it helps if they pack a lot into a small space. Egmont has sensibly come up with a range of holiday annuals in dinky A5 format, featuring perennially popular characters such as Thomas & Friends and SpongeBob SquarePants (both out August). Each one is chock-full of stories, puzzles and those all-important stickers.
Holidaying at home doesn't mean you can't broaden their minds, and on a budget too. This Book is Totally Rubbish (Walker), in the Maggie & Rose series, contains tons to keep children busy using recycled materials, from Eco SuperHero outﬁts handcrafted out of newspaper, to an excellent treasure chest fashioned from a shoe box and bottle tops. And because you're at home, mess is no problem. Museum trips are a school-holiday staple, but young history and animal experts can encounter Egyptians, Romans and Dinosaurs at home as well. Prof. Zacharias Zog's Splat-A-Fact Mummies Activity Book (Book House) is certiﬁed '96% Bonkers', and needs young minds only to add genius in solving the puzzles and completing the crazy drawings. Mega Mash-Up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson (Nosy Crow) imagines an extraordinary clash of cultures on another planet, cleverly leaving spaces for readers to contribute to the doolally story. Wet weeks are a ﬁxture of every British summer, but soggy days will quickly be as fun as sunny ones with the help of The Girls' Rainy Day Book and The Boys' Rainy Day Book (Michael O'Mara). Both contain stories, brain teasers, recipes, experiments and a plethora of ideas for making a splash indoors, from hosting your own Pop Star Contest to assembling an assault course in the living room.
Where's Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection by Martin Handford Walker PB Out now
Copyright © 1987 – 2011 Martin Handford Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd
The jet set
b o oks f or CHILDREN
AN AWFULLY BIG
The dark figure of Death stalks children’s and young adult literature, but the afterlife can also be a setting for exciting exploits
WORDS JOSH LACEY ILLUSTRATION JIM KAY
THERE COMES A moment in every child’s life when they understand that everyone dies: not just pets, or neighbours, or relatives, but even themselves. It’s a terrible, terrifying realisation – life is never the same again once you know that you have to die – so it’s no wonder that children’s books are full of death. Without death, many great heroes of children’s literature wouldn’t even have a story to tell. If their mothers and fathers had lived, Harry Potter wouldn’t
"Most children want answers to questions about death and the afterlife"
be banished to 4 Privet Drive, the Baudelaires wouldn’t suffer a series of unfortunate events, Mary Lennox wouldn’t come near the secret garden, and James would never grow a giant peach. But death is much more than a plot device. From a surprisingly young age, most children want to know the answers to questions about death and the afterlife. Why do I have to die? What will happen to me? Fiction allows children to articulate the fears and anxieties 72
about mortality that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. INTO THE UNKNOWN John Connolly, who is author of the Charlie Parker crime novels for adults and now several children’s books, remembers exactly when he ﬁrst understood everyone must die. As a child, he lived with his parents and grandparents. When he was three or four, his grandfather had a heart attack in the night and died in his own bed. “If my grandfather
his novel about a boy struggling to cope with the loss of his mother, and they reappear, in lighter form, in his two recent Samuel Johnson novels, The Gates and Hells Bells, which Connolly describes as “comic supernatural ﬁction” aimed at boys around 12 to 13 years old. Samuel Johnson is a geeky teenager, the type who takes off his glasses to impress a girl and ends up asking a postbox on a date. Accompanied by a pair of bungling policemen, an 73
J.K. Rowling has said, “My books are largely about death,” and her novels describe the journey of a boy from the deaths of his parents to a ﬁnal confrontation with his own mortality. Death belongs to his arch-enemy, Voldemort – whose name even contains it – and their ﬁnal battle is prophesied and explained in a line from Corinthians that Harry Potter ﬁnds engraved on his parents’ tomb: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” There’s a very different strain of children’s literature that takes a much more sceptical, melancholy view of death, offering no answers. In his Sad Book, the poet Michael Rosen described the death of his son from meningitis and his own unassailable sadness: “What makes me most sad is when I think about my son Eddie. He died. I loved him very, very much but he died anyway.” The crisp text, wonderfully illustrated by Quentin Blake, is bleak, honest and moving. HEALING HEARTBREAK Siobhan Dowd wrote four children’s books before her death at the age of 47. Two were published posthumously and one, Bog Child, won the Carnegie Medal, the most prestigious British award for children’s books. Now Patrick Ness – who has just won the Carnegie Medal himself – has completed her ﬁnal book, which she left as notes and a synopsis. Appropriately, it’s a novel about death, loss and the pain of the people who get left behind. A Monster Calls is the story of Conor, a 13-year-old boy whose mother is dying of cancer, just as Dowd did. As her death comes closer, Conor is visited by a monster who has “been alive as long as this land” and now promises to help him confront his terrifying nightmares. The book is a sensitive description of a boy struggling with two contradictory emotions: his fear at the imminent loss of his mother and his guilty desire for her appalling illness to reach some kind of conclusion.
A Monster Calls; Patrick Ness; illustration copyright Jim Kay; reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd
can die,” Connolly reasoned, “then my parents are not immortal or immune.” An overwhelming terror at the thought of their death eventually led him to develop obsessive-compulsive disorder: to protect them, he came to believe, he had to put his left shoe on before his right shoe or touch the bathroom tap ﬁve times. “I thought that if I did these things, my parents would be okay.” Connolly dealt with these themes in The Book of Lost Things,
ice-cream van, a van full of drunk dwarves and his loyal dog Boswell, he tussles with demons and explores an underworld of “misery, torture, poor food and certain dismemberment.” It’s a cheery version of the afterlife, packed with tentacles and explosions, a long way from the desolate, brutal universe of Connolly’s adult novels. Other children’s writers have taken their readers to much darker landscapes of the afterlife. In The Amber Spyglass, the concluding part of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, his heroine Lyra meets her own death, whom she persuades to lead her across the water to the Land of the Dead. There she walks among the dead and eventually sets them free. In the third of the Earthsea books, The Farthest Shore, Ursula le Guin sends her hero, Ged, to another version of the land of the dead, where he ﬁghts a wizard who has managed to achieve a kind of immortality. Both of these visions of the afterlife are miraculously inventive and imaginative, but they’re also intensely serious, introducing young readers to ideas of pain, loss and self-sacriﬁce. The same seriousness suffuses the two great seven-novel sequences of children’s literature, the Narnia books and the Harry Potter series, which both draw heavily on Christian ideas of death and resurrection. C.S. Lewis began his Narnia series with a moment of delightful fantasy – a girl steps through a forest of fur coats into a magical landscape – but ended them with a heavy-handed metaphor of the Last Judgement, promising a purer existence after death, denying the importance of all that went before. As he wrote in the ﬁnal lines of The Last Battle: “All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
An outtake from A Monster Calls This image was for the chapter on the Apothecary: a landscape, to set the mood, set in an era where industry begins to encroach upon the rural landscape. The sky was bleach painted onto black tissue, the mountains crumpled tissue paper placed onto a scanner, and the hedgerow marks made by peeling paper from a blob of black paint. This is how all images would start, a basic sketch and then textures and patterns thrown down and shuffled about. Often nothing would come of it, like this image. Eventually we went for a scene showing more of the valley, with the monster – I think the ﬁnal image was the ﬁfth attempt. Jim Kay, illustrator
The story is deﬁantly secular: Conor seeks no solace from religion and never even considers the possibility of an afterlife. Patrick Ness himself had a religious upbringing, but is now agnostic. “My entire life has led me to the great point of ‘I don’t know’," he says. He hopes his own scepticism, and the wisdom that springs from acceptance of doubt, will be communicated to readers of A Monster Calls: “I have journeyed away from the certainty and made my peace with the ‘I don’t know’. When you make peace with the ‘I don’t know’, the focus becomes on making this life bearable and this life full of love and this life without loneliness, which is what I really hope this book is about.” For Conor, such wisdom is unavailable. As a 13-year-old, he doesn’t have any experience of loss, and can’t console himself with the thought that things will change. “I’m always surprised when adults don’t remember their teenage years,” says Ness. “I remember mine painfully. I remember all the good stuff – having a laugh with friends, all the rebellion, all the troublemaking – but I also remember that when things felt bad, they felt bad forever.” He draws on
"The blessing and curse of being a young person is that every day feels like forever" these memories to describe the unbearable loneliness and bitter pain of a boy whose mother is slowly slipping away. “The blessing and the curse of being a young person is that every day feels like forever. When things are going great, that’s brilliant, but when things are going badly, it feels like there will never be any other way.”
her lover, an angel named Daniel Grigori. In Passion, the third in the series, Luce travels through history, visiting her previous incarnations. Whether she is existing as Luschka in Moscow during the Second World War, Lucinda in Cornwall in 1854, Princess Lys in Versailles in 1723 or Layla in Ancient Egypt, she suffers the same fate: she falls passionately in love with the same gorgeous man, the immortal Daniel, then dies, leaving him desolate and alone. According to Kate, Luce’s repeated reincarnations “are not deaths in the normal sense
DEATH'S ROMANCE For Luce Price, heroine of Lauren Kate’s Fallen series, this feeling that “every day feels like forever” isn’t simply part of being a teenager: it’s what actually happens to her and
of the word. They’re chances to redo something.” Immortals are fascinating because they have endless opportunities to perfect themselves. “There’s something very appealing to me, and to a teen reader, about having inﬁnite chances to get something right.” But immortality doesn’t just mean never dying; it also means never growing up. As Peter Pan, the greatest immortal in children’s literature, cries: “No one is going to catch me and make me a man.” Perhaps that’s another reason why death is such a resonant subject for children: because dying is an unavoidable consequence of becoming an adult. As the ﬁrst line of Peter Pan and Wendy warns: “All children, except one, grow up.” Josh Lacey is the author of The Island of Thieves, published in July by Andersen Press
THE GREAT BEYOND IN NEW BOOKS A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Dark, mischievous and extremely funny, A Monster Calls is a sensitive and moving book that deals with life, love, loss and loneliness.
Hells Bells by John Connolly Join Samuel Johnson and his sidekick Boswell on their latest adventure as they journey to the underworld to defeat the forces of Evil.
Passion by Lauren Kate Each chapter unveils a different time and place, as Luce tries to rewrite history. Can she and Daniel unlock their past to change their future?
GREAT FAMILY FOOD STUFF FOR KIDS TO DO
(and a picture of a grumpy moose) Please say hello to the innocent family recipe book – a guide to healthy, tasty, no fuss food that the whole family can enjoy (and that doesn’t take ages to make).
Over 100 delicious recipes for feeding your family (and your robot)
Packed full of great ideas, games and other stuff to keep kids (and grown ups) busy while dinner’s cooking
Loads of easy ways to get kids involved in making, cooking and eating new stuff
A nice mix of quick things, posh things, big dinner things, small snacky things and lots of other good things for you to make
And a secret free present in the back (shhh) A story about a magical newt
In all good book shops (and reputable greengrocers) right now
C H I L D R E N ' S B O O K R E V I E W S 0-5 Y E A R S
Mad About Minibeasts! by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz
This Book Belongs to Aye-Aye by Richard Byrne
Orchard Books HB Out now
Aye-Aye is not like all the other cute woodland creatures who attend Miss Deer’s Academy for Aspiring Picture Book Animals. When a competition to ﬁnd the most helpful pupil in the class is announced with the promise of a prize, all the animals are excited to take part. But when the mischievous rabbit twins start sneaking around behind the teacher’s back, it seems they will go to any lengths to make sure they win. Boldly illustrated in a unique style, this is the ﬁrst picture book to feature a large-eyed Madagascan aye-aye as its star. This is a story based around young friendships, about being positive and helpful to others and always comfortable being yourself. AMc
More than ten years ago, writer Giles Andreae branched out from his saucy Purple Ronnie poems into children’s books. Here he reunites with artist Wojtowycz, with whom he made his breakthrough books Rumble in the Jungle, Commotion in the Ocean and Farmyard Hullabaloo. The formula remains unchanged: Andreae’s cheeky, evocative couplets focus on different species one at a time, on this occasion taking in spiders, snails, dragonﬂies and the like. It’s just right for young ones starting to take an interest in what’s wriggling around their back garden, in all its curious, colourful and occasionally yucky variety. AM
Don’t Put Your Pants on Your Head, Fred by Caryl Hart and Leigh Hodgkinson
OUP HB Out now
Orchard HB Out July
As every weary parent knows, it can be an uphill struggle getting children dressed. In Caryl Hart’s new picture book, little Fred ﬁnds the whole process so bothersome that he enlists the assistance of Her Majesty’s Army. Trouble is, it turns out that the soldiers ﬁnd it just as hard. By working together, though, Fred and his new friends might get the problem licked. Small readers can never resist the allure of a book all about pants, and this is wonderfully silly stuff, combining Hart’s Dr Seuss-style rhymes with Hodgkinson’s glorious kaleidoscopic illustrations, her style familiar from the ﬁrst series of CBeebies' Charlie and Lola show. AM
Babbit by Lydia Monks Egmont HB/PB Out August
Babbit lives with the Big One and the Little One. When the Little One is not watching, Babbit gets ‘grabbed’ by the Witchy One and her mean friends. Just in the nick of time the Big One and the Little One come to Babbit’s rescue. They run home as fast as they can, pursed by Witchy, Growly, Snappy and Snorty who bump straight into the Biggest One of all! Babbit, the Big One and the Little One are soon snuggled up in bed, but those meanies are in a lot of trouble. Inventive in both print and presentation, this amusing – if slightly scary – story colourfully conveys a message about what happens when you don’t play nicely. JO
The best things in life
In Stanley's Stick, John Hegley reminds us that enduring toys are often the simplest Surely the ﬁrst picture book ever to feature Stockport train station, this is an unpretentious hymn to the power of imagination. It also touches on the dilemmas of growing up. It's a teaming-up of hefty talents – bespectacled beanpole poet John Hegley and Neal Layton, illustrator of the much-loved Emily Brown picture books. Between them they’ve conjured up something quite glorious. Young Stanley’s constant companion in his childhood games is a stick. Not the fanciest toy ever, perhaps, but to Stanley it’s completely multipurpose, doubling as anything from a ﬁshing rod to a giant match. Then, on a family trip to the seaside, Stanley decides the time has come to set his faithful
stick free. Along the way there are marvellous ﬂights of fancy, and a barrage of verbal puns. Hegley’s lyrical prose captures the free-wheeling expressiveness of childhood, and Layton’s deceptively simple illustrations are full of wit and character. Sweet, magical and thoroughly entertaining, this is Hegley and Layton’s ﬁrst collaboration, but hopefully not their last. AM
This is Lulu by Camilla Reid and Ailie Busby
There Are No Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz
Bloomsbury PB Out now
Three cats of great character wish to set off to see the world. They are packed and ready to go. Only one problem faces them – they can’t get out of the book. If they are to get away, they need the help that can only come from you. Simple, uncluttered illustrations and text that directly addresses the child create an immediate rapport with the reader, whatever their age. Viviane Schwarz has created a vivid and engaging world. Youngsters will adore this story because the cats talk directly to them. Adults will love the book because of the scope for discussion and developing a child’s imagination. Another triumph for Walker Books, this is delightful, charming and great fun. MA
In this charming picture book, Camilla Reid’s much-loved character Lulu introduces very young readers to her family and shows them how she spends her day. Take a peek around her home and learn about how she likes to spend her day. Just like her friends, she loves exploring. There are lots of fun ﬂaps to lift, and plenty of opportunities to interact and join in the fun. Do you know your colours? And where is Lulu’s favourite toy? Best of all is Lulu’s visit to the park and a splash in the bath! Bright and colourful, fun and easy to read, children will want to share this book again, and again, and again. NS
Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley and Neal Layton Hodder HB Out now
Walker PB Out now
C H I L D R E N ' S B O O K R E V I E W S 6-12 Y E A R S
Don't get left for dust…
Jump on the wagon with P.K. Pinkerton in the The Case of the Deadly Desperados
Olivia’s First Term by Lyn Gardner
way. The story gallops along with dust ﬂying as P.K. is mercilessly pursued, tension building at every turn. Although the ﬁnal scene is rather clunky – it seems that every character has to be present – the story’s structure with a detailed map, glossary and diary-like chapters is fresh and appealing. A gripping yarn, ideally suited for boys or girls aged 9+. CF
The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence Orion HB/EB Out now
Little Manfred by Michael Morpurgo
Nosy Crow PB/EB Out now
HarperCollins HB/AB Out now
This book entertains from the start, as you enter the stage doors of the Swan Academy Theatre with the Marvell family. The story follows the ups and downs of Olivia, whose father has left her with her grandmother to fend for herself in this strange world of theatrical performance. While her younger sister Eel is a natural performer and loves every minute, Olivia has to ﬁnd her own journey and let others discover her unique circus talents. The plot is fast paced and quickly takes you through a fun-ﬁlled term; you get to see how both friendships and enemies are made in the classroom. With great characterisations, this is an exciting ﬁrst book in a series and ideal for fans of Glee and TV talent shows. HM
Michael Morpurgo combines the thrill of England’s 1966 World Cup victory with the tender tale of a German prisoner of war returning to the farm where he stayed after the war. As the story unravels, we learn about the war and the strength of kindness. Morpurgo manages the relationships with delicate poignancy and, complemented by Michael Foreman’s evocative illustrations, this is another gem from the master storyteller. VL
Illustration: Michael Foreman
How to survive a lawless, ruthless society while maintaining your charm? Our young protagonist, P.K. Pinkerton, achieves this in spades. We follow P.K. as he ﬁnds himself orphaned and ﬂeeing the killers of his foster parents out in the American Wild West of the late 1800s. He has a valuable document that the ‘deadly desperados’ are determined to get their hands on. We witness his skin-of-the-teeth attempts to escape their clutches and watch as he learns the tricks required to outmanoeuvre his foes. Caroline Lawrence paints a colourful picture of life in the greedy world of a silver mining town where everyone is on the make and not much bothered who they double-cross along the
Reviews from The Book Nook Book Club, Hove Penny Dreadful is a Magnet for Disaster by Joanna Nadin
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Usborne PB Out now
Puffin PB/EB/AB Out now
Penny Dreadful is a Magnet for Disaster launches a new character from Usborne and combines three tales in one book. These are short, funny, standalone stories following Penelope Jones through a catalogue of disasters, whether the dog she befriends swallows the baby monitor or the school inspector is due or she tries to cut her cousin’s hair. Her dad calls her Penny Dreadful because of the situations she gets caught up in. With strong storylines, these are easy ﬂowing tales that are great to read aloud, perfect as well for the 6+ reader to get stuck into. The fun and funky illustrations also help the stories along. Penny Dreadful will appeal to fans of Horrid Henry. SOR
This classic book is both funny and inspired: you never know what’s round the corner. A one-in-a-million book to be enjoyed by parents and children alike. You haven't lived until you’ve read this book! Tigger Aine-Ward (age 12) Plague by Michael Grant Egmont HB Out now
Plague is about a town called Perdido Beach, where everyone over the age of 15 has disappeared and disease is spreading fast. I like this book because it is pacey, thrilling and quite gory (but not too bad!). Jack Smith-Wallace (age 12)
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A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master Bloomsbury PB/EB Out now
Claude on Holiday by Alex T. Smith
Set in India at the time of Partition, A Beautiful Lie is about a young boy protecting his dying father by telling him a beautiful lie. It has a strong plot and manages to combine serious themes with moments of humour. Kate Granlund (age 10)
Hodder PB Out July
Claude on Holiday, by the wonderfully witty Alex T. Smith, continues the delightful adventures of Claude, a beret-wearing and slightly plump, happy-go-lucky dog. Accompanied by the faithful Sir Bobblysock, a day out to the seaside proves to be full of adventure as they encounter a shark attack, win a sandcastle competition and become part of a treasure-seeking pirate crew. Claude is a wonderful creation for newly independent readers and the quirky text and mischievous illustrations make this a joy. The series is great for sharing, as each page is brimming with wit and humorous detail – especially the distracted lifeguard – who results in our hero Claude saving the day! VL
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The Recruit by Robert Muchamore Hodder PB/AB Out now
The Recruit is an incredibly exciting book for children aged 11+. It follows James Adams as he attempts to become a fully ﬂedged CHERUB. A must-read for adventure lovers. Ethan Jones (age 12)
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YOUNG ADULTS' BOOK REVIEWS READERS' CHOICES
More reviews from The Book Nook Book Club, Hove The Memory Cage by Ruth Eastham
Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson
The Truth about Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Scholastic PB Out now
Orchard Books PB/EB Out now
Usborne PB Out August
Scholastic PB Out now
Move over vampires, Ultraviolet has arrived! Part Doctor Who, part Poppy Shakespeare, this compelling story is well worth a read. Alison Jefferies, at just 16 years old, ﬁnds herself in a nightmarish situation having been sectioned following the disappearance of a fellow pupil at her school. Alison’s memories point towards the impossible – she has somehow ‘disintegrated’ another human being – but how? And why? We follow her agonising and often painful voyage of discovery. She must ﬁnd out the truth and, in so doing, ﬁnd out who she really is. We are with her every step of the way; we taste, touch, hear, smell and see whatever she experiences and we yearn for her to succeed. It’s out of this world! CF
The Truth about Celia Frost is a powerful debut novel by Paula Rawsthorne, winner of the 2010 Undiscovered Voices competition. Celia Frost is a typical teenager, whose determination to discover her true self is triggered when the rare blood-clotting disorder she carries seems to disappear. The relationship between Celia and her mother is brought into question as the tale behind her strange condition unwinds. What starts out as a manhunt quickly turns into a debate about the morals of medical research. As Celia learns the truth about her childhood, the mother-daughter bond is tested to its limits. An engaging thriller with twists and turns to keep every reader hooked. RA
This is a story about Marcelo, a young boy with autism who has spent his childhood in an idyllic but protected farm environment for special children. At 17, his father forces him to spend the summer in his law ﬁrm, where Marcelo learns about human nature and how people can love but also hurt, betray and corrupt. Narrated in Marcelo’s unique way, you ﬁnd yourself willing him to experience an emotion – yet it is this frustration that makes the book strangely compelling. As Marcelo processes the world around him and gains conﬁdence in his moral decisions, the book gives real insight into his remarkable and charming mind and reaches an ultimately uplifting conclusion. VL
A moving tale about a boy called Alex. His granddad has Alzheimer’s and Alex hates the idea of him being in a home. Sadly, saving his granddad’s future also means bringing up his past. I really enjoyed it. Devon Magness-Jarvis (age 13) The Enemy by Charlie Higson Puffin PB/EB/AB Out now
The Enemy is a gripping adventure about a disease that turns everyone under 14 into a sick lunatic who will do anything to eat something. The kids have to ﬁght back. In my opinion, Higson’s best so far. Ruben Traynor (age 12)
It's the end of the world!
Red Leech by Andrew Lane
The classic one-liner has an urgent truth to it for Mal Peet's young protagonists
Macmillan PB/AB/EB Out now
Red Leech is the second book in the Young Sherlock Holmes series and is a fast-paced mystery. It has lots of action and will keep you hooked until the very end. This is the best book I've read in ages and I recommend it to all. Milan Traynor (age 12) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman Scholastic PB Out now
The Subtle Knife is an exciting novel set in another world. This world is the home of Lyra Belacqua. On the lookout for Dust, Lyra meets the mysterious Will. I love this book because it’s written as if it could be true. Alya Magness-Jarvis (age 12)
The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Clem, an ordinary lad in Norfolk, embarks on a secret romance with Frankie, the daughter of the wealthy local landowner. His thoughts are interweaved with descriptions of family history, setting the scene of his life on a council estate and painting vivid pictures of his parents and grandmother, complete with local dialect. Attitudes and living conditions differed greatly for the three generations and these are recounted in a lively and sometimes comical tone. Over the course of the summer, Clem and Frankie meet in a deserted barn until it is knocked down in a land-clearing exercise. Fearing the world is actually going to be blown up by nuclear missiles, they plan a consummative tryst
Orion HB/EB Out now
An intensely Gothic adventure, with touches of horror, set in a decaying, rain-soaked Calcutta, The Midnight Palace recounts the story of seven teenage orphans faced with an inexplicable threat. Gory details, strong visual imagery and constant references to tragic events from the past and their echoes that resonate in the present combine with the setting to create a dark, brooding atmosphere – deﬁnitely a book for older teenagers. The characters are vibrant and fully engage the reader’s sympathies. While the translation is ﬂuent, there is an uneasy combination of intensely Spanish writing and the portrayal of an Indian city that doesn’t quite gel. It would have worked better set in a Spanish city. MA 81
on a deserted beach, with lifechanging and calamitous results. Now middle-aged and living in New York, Clem looks back on events, and the connections that bind his family with world events are gradually revealed. The Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 may seem an unlikely backdrop for a coming-of-age novel, but Mal Peet’s brave subject matter works brilliantly. SC
Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet Walker PB/EB Out now
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
THE CHILD IN ME
Ed Wood: What kind of child were you? Andy Stanton: I was quite a mischievous one. I liked running and jumping and practical jokes, being cheeky to grown-ups and being the centre of attention by going all-out to impress or amaze people. Of course, I often went too far and got into all sorts of trouble. At the same time, I was quite dreamy and thoughtful. I liked to go off alone and do quiet stuff – drawing, reading or just thinking about things. Oh, and half the time I occupied a fantasy world where I was starring in my own movie. Probably still do.
ANDY STANTON Andy Stanton, the children’s author behind grumpy, malign Mr Gum, revisits his youth
EW: What are your most vivid memories from childhood? AS: The one I always remember is a stray cat that came to our front door. I might have been four or ﬁve at the time. My mum didn’t let it in, but she put a saucer of milk out on the street. I sat in the lounge and watched the cat through the window as it lapped up the milk. Then some punks came along and kicked the saucer over and frightened the cat away. I still feel awful about it today. I have lots of memories from childhood, but that one really stands out.
read pretty much anything that took my fancy: ‘high’ or ‘low’ art, kids’ books or adult. Broadly speaking, I think children should be encouraged to read whatever appeals to them. EW: As a writer now, in what ways do you draw on your own childhood experiences? AS: Sometimes I try to think back and harness the excitement of being eight or nine, when everything felt incredibly important and vital and pure, and summer nights lasted forever with the dust motes hanging in the air. But often I don’t have to try too hard. When I get really swept up in what I’m writing, I feel like I know
instinctively which beats to hit, the ones that tally with that childhood excitement. It's a very hard thing to explain. Also, I’ve always liked stories about underdogs – that's something I always responded to as a child. All kids are basically underdogs, aren’t they? I’ve written two books for Barrington Stoke [publishers] now, and they are both very consciously about underdog characters. EW: How would you read to your own children? AS: Should some come along, I fully expect to be quizzed on the Mr Men characters every single night for the ﬁrst years of their lives. I’ll let you know how it goes… 82
Sterling and the Canary by Andy Stanton Barrington Stoke PB Out now Andy Stanton will appear at the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature, which runs from 23 September to 2 October. Other authors appearing will include Cressida Cowell, Eoin Colfer, Lauren Kate and Jacqueline Wilson. For details and tickets see
BATHKIDSLITFEST.ORG.UK OR CALL 01225 463 362
Mr Gum Illustration: David Tazzyman
EW: As a child, did you start reading for yourself and which books have stayed with you? AS: I used to make my mum read me a Mr Men book every night, after which I would make her test me on the characters on the back. I had to name them in order without looking. My poor mum. As soon as I could read for myself, books were my constant companions: Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Joan Aiken, Betsy Byars, the Asterix books, paperback collections of Peanuts, the William books, you name it… The ﬁrst ‘grown-up’ book that I ever read was Jaws by Peter Benchley. I read it when I was eight and I still remember the ﬁrst line – "The great ﬁsh moved silently through the night water." I always