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Having always been rather fanciful, The Library falls squarely in love with Chris Lavers magical The Natural History of Unicorns this month. A playful examination of the much-loved one-horned mythical beast, the book blends science, history and legend to create an unforgettable zoological journey. The Fiction section focuses on the ninth novel by Hollywood favourite and sometime-writer of The Wire, Dennis Lehane. The Given Day is a vast, sprawling depiction of Boston in the post Great War years, depicting racial disharmony, suburban politics and institutional corruption.

The Library is kindly sponsored by Waterstone’s Tunbridge Wells


BOOKS

FICTION

The Left, The Right, The Reds and The White LITERARY: The Given Day Dennis Lehane American studios should be busily erecting a shrine to Dennis Lehane. His intelligent, readable novels provide the kind of source material that can earn even a humdrum director critical acclaim. Adaptations of his work include Clint Eastwood’s award hoarding Mystic River, Ben Affleck’s shockingly competent

image © Diana Lucas Leavengood

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“The question

remained, as it had throughout Danny’s life, as to what exactly the good was. It has something to do with loyalty and something to do with the primacy of a man’s honour

Gone, Baby, Gone and Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming Ashecliffe, based on Lehane’s 2003 novel, Shutter Island. He’s also secured his place in television history by penning a number of episodes of the obsessively revered, ridiculously inspired crime drama The Wire.

Doubleday

RRP £12.99

Hardback

In keeping with this close association with the silver

Luther is forced to flee Tulsa alone after a brutal

screen, The Given Day – only released in the US

gangland shooting and travels to Boston, falling into a

in September of last year – has already secured

domestic position within the Coughlin household. The

a Hollywood adaptation, with Spider Man director

story’s two protagonists now cross paths, forming an

Sam Raimi attached. Despite this remarkable track

unusual friendship which challenges their individual

record, adopting a “won’t read the book, I’ll just

values. Coughlin and Laurence’s uneasy alliance

watch the film” attitude to Lehane’s novels is to

allows Lehane to explore the complex dilemmas of

miss out on an exceptional writer; one whose prose

the interwar American psyche: racial tension, political

absorbs the voices of everyday life and breathlessly

activism and Communist paranoia. The examination

moulds the thriller, crime and historical genres.

of the subtleties of allegiance is utterly riveting: as Danny journeys deeper undercover, his commitment

The Given Day tells the interwoven tales of

to the Boston Social Club (a precursor to the BPD’s

Luther Laurence, a black factory worker from

union) grows as rapidly as his disdain for anarchist

Columbus, Ohio, and Aiden “Danny” Coughlin, a

groups. However, to his superiors, they’re all the

white Boston Police Department (BPD) officer. It

same, all “Bolshies”, all troublemakers, threats to the

is 1918, the Great War is coming to an end and

freedom of the nation.

Luther is moving from the drudgery of Columbus

Available from 29 January

to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is tempted there by his

Lehane depicts many of the fears of the white,

young, expectant wife Lila, who has heard from

moneyed classes as echoes of contemporary fears: the

a relative that Tulsa is ‘“a big, hopping town with

dangers of extremism and uncontrolled immigration,

nothing but coloreds in.”’ Meanwhile, Danny

for example. However, The Given Day is not the

Coughlin walks the daily beat around a Boston rife

work of a politician; Dickensian in its complexity, it is

with political activism. Pursuing both his confused

instead a document of a vibrant city in troubled times.

ideals and a detective’s badge, Coughlin is made

Perhaps Lehane’s greatest literary gift is his ability to

to confront every tier of Boston’s disenfranchised

move effortlessly from the expansive to the intimate,

masses, from police unionists, through immigrant

like a lens zooming in and out of a cityscape, revealing

Bolsheviks, to violent anarchists.

both its vastness and its intricate, sordid details.


BOOKS

CROSSWORD

win a £15

CRIME: Keeping the Dead Tess Gerritsen A novelist with significant medical expertise (she qualified as a doctor University of California), Gerritsen once again uses her past experiences to sketch the fictional forensic pathologist, Maura Isles. Faced with the unusual discovery of a corpse in Boston’s Crispin Museum, Isles (along with detective Jane Rizzoli) suspects foul play, and a pattern of archaeologicallylinked homicides begins to emerge. Their pursuit of a psychopath referred to as ‘the Archaeology killer’ will no doubt be a welcome addition to Gerritsen’s collection of taut, lean thrillers. Available from 12 February

Bantam

RRP £17.99

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To enter all you have to do is complete the crossword and entry form. Closing date ?? February 2009.

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CHICK-LIT: Beautiful People

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Wild hog (4)

Wendy Holden

Complete our crossword and return to:

Holden is a safe pair of chick-lit hands (she’s written nine of them), and Beautiful People promises to be a treat for anyone whose reading material primarily consists of ‘romps’. Her wry prose has so far tackled (ooo er) glossy magazines, yummy mummies and life in the country, and her acerbic pen is now aimed squarely at Hollywood. This latest novel takes place in L.A. and follows the fortunes of struggling actress Darcy, faded star Belle and desperate model agent Sam. Expect glitz, glamour and mountains of sass. Available from 22 January

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Forget Baz Luhrman’s bloated Australia, this tale of colonial discovery – set in the18th century – is a much bolder evocation of Antipodean history. Inspired by the true story of British soldier William Dawes, The Lieutenant describes the relationship forged between Daniel Rooke and an Aboriginal child upon on his first visit to the (then) “new world” of New South Wales. If Grenville sticks to her guns with the same resolution she displayed in previous novel The Secret River, her seventh novel should be a historically persuasive and skilfully written delight. Available from 5 February

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Hardback

Kate Grenville

RRP £12.99

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HISTORICAL: The Lieutenant

Canongate

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Headline Review RRP £12.99 Hardback

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Solution to December’s crossword: ACROSS: 1 Father Christmas 5 Anna 6 Berries 8 Goose 10 Em 12 Loge 13 Ergo 14 Limbs 15 My 16 Maya 19 Ye 20 Jesus 21 Nuts 22 Un 23 Wise Men 26 Em 28 Toot 30 Fig 31 Reindeer 32 Yew DOWN: 1 Frankincense 2 Tinsel 3 Carols 4 Turkey 6 Begs 7 Snowmen 9 So 11 Mince Pies 15 Mistletoe 16 Mute 17 As 18 An 19 Yule Tide 24 Media 25 Needy 27 Mary 29 Of

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BOOKS

NON-FICTION

HISTORY: Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery & the Quest for Human Origins Adrian J Desmond & James Moore 2009 marks the 150th year since the publication of Charles Darwin’s thesis of evolution, Origin of the Species. With debates currently raging about the place creationism should occupy on the British curriculum, scholars Desmond and Moore have picked an ideal time to celebrate Darwin’s unwavering moral cause. His evolutionary theories upset not just eminent scientists of the age, but also slavery apologists; men keen to keep this lucrative injustice in practice. Moore and Desmond study newly uncovered correspondence and diary writings to sketch the character of the scientist who was also a brave abolitionist.

ZOOLOGY: The Natural History of Unicorns

Available from 29 January

Explaining the fantastical is a perilous job. Any legend has inevitably come into existence to fulfil a need, whether that be a need for meaning, understanding or simply entertainment. To prohibit belief in these tall tales by disproving them is a harsh endeavour, but often exposes a truth more intriguing than the fiction. The complex history of the unicorn is such a fiction, and academic Chris Lavers has made it his mission to elucidate it.

Granta

RRP £18.99

Hardback

Hardback

Alfred Wainwright & Derry Brabbs Hero of the British hill-walker, Alfred Wainwright first devised the Coast to Coast walk in 1973. A 190 mile trek that encompasses three National Parks and the majority of the nation’s most arresting natural beauty, walkers begin by the Irish Sea and end up at the North Sea. His legendary guide to the walk has now been reissued with stunning new photography of the route’s highlights and accompanies an extensive BBC series about the Coast to Coast Walk. Tuck those socks in to your spiked boots, pick your best bobble hat and get ready to ramble. Available from 19 February

Frances Lincoln

RRP £25.00

Hardback

COMICS: The Classic Era of American Comics Nicky Wright The importance of the comic book to a generation of American children cannot be overstated. With print runs comparable to established national newspapers, the pages of Action Comics, Detective Comics et al produced some of the most enduring Superhero characters of the 20th (and 21st) century. Comic aficionado Wright examines the rise and fall of the early comics, the immense breadth of topics they covered – from war to romance, through horror and sci-fi – and their evolution from pulpy throwaway diversion through hallowed collector’s item to cult-ish art form.

In his accessible research, Lavers has trawled through centuries’ worth of unicorn analysis. Using Ctesias as his basis, he considers which actual, living animals of the time could have been mistaken for (or combined to create) the unicorn, the idea of the supernatural properties of its horn and even how the creature ended up in the Bible. Like a 17th century cabinet of curiosity, Lavers’ study surveys a vast breadth of artefacts, linking them through myth, history and human thought. Available from 22 January

RRP £25.00

TRAVEL: Coast to Coast with Wainwright

Chris Lavers

Lavers is a geographer by trade, but his readable, often wry account of “unicornity” takes in natural history, sociology, biology, even theology. His journey begins with an excerpt from the 4th Century BCE Greek physician Ctesias: it is his colourful description of an Indian wild ass with “a horn on the forehead which is about a foot and a half in length” that has lodged itself in the popular imagination.

Allen Lane

Available from 2 February

Prion

RRP £16.99

Paperback


The Library - January 2009