Bookcase

Stourbridge News: Bookcase Bookcase

A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.

By Kate Whiting


New fiction

Havisham by Ronald Frame is published in hardback by Faber and Faber, priced £16.99 (£9.99 ebook). Available now.

Fans of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations will find Ronald Frame's new novel a must-read.

Starting with her early life, it tells the story of Catherine Havisham's privileged upbringing, from the moment she was born to the events that led her to become one of literature's most famous spinsters.

During her early home life, she lives with constant reminders of her family's business, and the good name the Havisham brewery has gained.

But it is when she is sent by her father to stay with the Chadwycks that she really discovers life's riches and all the things she has been kept from.

Has this fresh awakening come too late? And how will the arrival of love in her life toy with her heart and threaten the very name - Havisham?

Frame masterfully unlocks the untold story of one of Dickens's most famous and iconic characters.

8/10

(Review by Philip Robinson)


The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen is published in hardback by Stockholm Text, priced £12.99 (ebook £6.99). Available now.

This is the first novel from the six-part Hammarby Series, published by the same team that introduced Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to readers across the world.

Author Carin Gerhardsen weaves a complex tale that confuses and teases the reader throughout. It's a dark crime novel that bounces between the intense bullying that the murderer was subjected to at a formative age and the constant game of catch-up for the Stockholm-based team of investigators.

Detective Chief Inspector Conny Sjoberg is brought in when a dead body is discovered by an elderly woman. Soon the body count starts to rise, with no apparent way to link them.

Slowly the team members start to put the pieces together in a story that benefits from being read in one or two long sittings.

7/10

(Review by Rachel Howdle)


Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans is published in paperback by HarperCollins, priced £6.99. Available November 22.

Young twenty-something female, just the right degree of ever-so-slightly socially awkward, moves to the big city to pursue a career in publishing, cue an inappropriate romance with her boss and all the inevitable heartache that follows.

At first glance, Harriet Evans ticks all the cliche chick-lit boxes - and she knows it. But what sets this book apart is that Evans doesn't use the cringey social moment and the handsome-cad-Vs-nice-bloke dilemma as mere superficial stepping stones in a predictable plot.

Central character Eleanor Bee is a multi-dimensional woman who undergoes a massive, emotional transformation throughout the book. Rather than being the be-all and end-all of the story, her relationship and work ups and downs represent phases of her personal journey.

Evans balances the grittier aspects of her novel with extremely relatable events and emotions, making it an absorbing and empathetic read.

8/10

(Review by Abi Jackson)


Napoleon Symphony by Anthony Burgess is published in a new edition by Serpent's Tail, priced £12.99 (hardback and ebook) Available now.

Best known for A Clockwork Orange, the late Anthony Burgess wrote dozens of other books and was also a composer.

In this reprinted 1974 novel, he combines both strains of his work, attempting to fit a picaresque portrait of the eponymous Corsican tyrant to the structure of Beethoven's Eroica.

His own afterword (one of several sections in rather wearing verse) freely admits that he has not been wholly successful.

Mostly, though, the sheer verve and delight in language, which was always Burgess's special gift, carries him through.

The speeches are sometimes too self-aware, the variations in style rushed, but Napoleon Symphony never claimed to be a realistic historical novel, and it's not as if those are in short supply.

One learns something here of how Bonaparte's rise and fall must have felt, to his contemporaries and perhaps to the despot himself; mainly, though, one relishes Burgess's delight in his game.

7/10

(Review by Alex Sarll)


Brooklyn Heights by Miral al-Tahawy is published in paperback by Faber and Faber, priced £12.99 (ebook £10.99) Available now.

Egyptian author Miral al-Tahawy, the assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, is well known for her previous novels including Gazelle Tracks, but Brooklyn Heights is the first to be published in English.

An Arabic teacher emigrates to the United States from Cairo with her son after the breakdown of her marriage, and arrives amid the tumult of hope during the 2008 presidential election.

In Brooklyn, she dreams of fulfilling her ambition of being a writer and finding love - but her voyage of discovery isn't all that successful as her experiences of home clash with Western sensibilities, and her son begins to grow apart from her.

Al-Tahawy deftly reveals the troubled integration of an immigrant into a Western country, exposing the familiar and unfamiliar dreams that relocation brings, but all the time focusing on her humanity.

7/10

(Review by Ben Major)


Children's book of the week:

Safari: A Photicular Book by Carol Kaufmann (created by Dan Kainen) is published in hardback by Workman, priced £16.99. Available now.

Everyone who's been anywhere near my desk over the last month has not failed to stop and look at this book, which is always a good sign of something extraordinary.

Safari uses unique Photicular technology to create images of animals that move when you turn the page. From the cheetah on the cover, who races in slow-mo, then speeds up when you open the page faster, to the gorilla who chomps away, the elephant who flaps his ears and the baby zebra who trots and nods his head, Safari brings to life Africa's best-loved creatures.

Each of the eight animals is described, with a fact box charting details including their life span and top land speed. It's truly magical and will delight children young and old for years.

8/10

(Review by Kate Whiting)


Non-fiction

These Wonderful Rumours! A Young Schoolteacher's Wartime Diaries by May Smith is published by Virago, priced £14.99. Available now.

Schoolteacher May Smith is 24 and living with her parents in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, when the Second World War is declared.

Her diary begins during the Christmas of 1938, where we see Smith and her family enjoy their festive dinner and exchange gifts amid rumours of an impending war.

As months progress, it all starts to change - evacuees arrive in the village, nights are shaken by shrieks of the sirens, and young men leave the comfort of their homes to fight for their country.

But despite the rationing of food and clothes and other changes brought on by war, everyday life prevails. Smith still enjoys shopping for new clothes and hats (funds permitting), tennis parties, 'flicks' and dancing.

Well written, witty and absorbing, Smith's chronicles give us an insight into the life and impact of the war in a small English village.

Her memoirs are a testament to how the people living in Britain braved the gloom, uncertainty and heartbreak brought on by the Second World War.

8/10

(Review by Nilima Marshall)


Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks is published in hardback by Picador, priced £18.99. Available now.

Have you ever glimpsed something out of the corner of your eye, or thought you'd seen a ghost, or maybe a UFO? Perhaps you've heard or smelt something that wasn't there. If so, chances are you weren't imagining, you were hallucinating. According to neurologist Oliver Sacks, such a thing is surprisingly commonplace.

In his latest study, we learn of the various forms of hallucinations, from harmless fleeting visions, odours, or sounds, to all-out perception-engrossing mirages.

Sacks describes these through multiple case studies and personal anecdotes, mapping the brain's activities while doing so.

He illustrates how sufferers of narcolepsy, Parkinson's and insomnia as well as the blind and drug users observe hallucinations, and why some people find or lose divinity from their 'visions'.

An enthralling, often guiltily comical insight into the peculiarities the brain can conjure, which leaves you questioning your own sense of reality.

7/10

(Review by Wayne Walls)


Lord Of The Isle: The Extravagant Life And Times Of Colin Tennant - Lord Glenconner by Nicholas Courtney is published in hardback by Bene Factum, priced £20. Available now.

In a world that appears preoccupied with anything remotely connected to celebrity, the story of one of the world's most exclusive sunshine retreats should be a surefire winner.

Add in the royal connection with Princess Margaret, the Duchess of Cambridge of her day, and the tale of Colin Tennant and his ownership of the Caribbean island of Mustique, this book certainly has enough to satisfy the appetite of even the most voracious OK! reader.

Author Nicholas Courtney was a friend and employee of the late Lord who started collaborating on this work before his death.

Courtney has penned several successful non-fiction works but his rather dry style is not really suited to a tale which promises but does not deliver a full serving of the life and times of an eccentric Scottish nobleman whose friends included Mick Jagger and David Bowie.

6/10

(Review by Roddy Brooks)


From Germany To Germany: Diary 1990 by Gunter Grass is published in paperback by Harvill Secker, priced £15.99. Available now.

Nobel laureate Gunter Grass is a world renowned German novelist, poet, playwright and illustrator. His literary career reflects his left-wing ideals, and this rare personal journal was released in 2009 to commemorate 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Now skilfully translated into English by Krishna Winston, the diary peeks into the mind of a man at the centre of a Germany heading towards reunification, a path Grass was strongly opposed to.

Littered with sketches and conceptual ideas for his next novel, The Call Of The Toad, the diary offers a fascinating year in the company of a literary powerhouse.

The year of 1990 saw Grass splitting his time between political arguments, constant travel, family relationships and an evident passion for cookery and gardening.

Twenty years on, much of Gras''s debates have been played out and, therefore, his arguments don't inspire.

While the text proves a great resource to readers with an interest in German politics, or aspiring authors, it is not accessible for the layperson hoping to dip into German history.

6/10

(Review by Angela Johnson)


Around India In 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh is published in paperback by Nicholas Brealey, priced £10.99. Available now.

It's rare that a debut by an unknown travel writer gains praise from the literary great and good, which is some indication that this book - already dubbed "one to watch" by Conde Nast Traveller and "witty" by William Dalrymple - is something pretty special.

Taking her inspiration from Jules Verne, Monisha Rajesh sets off to cross great swathes of the South Indian rail network, writing the landscape with bright daubs of colourful description.

Her will-they-won't-they relationship with her louche photographer companion, known just as "Passpartout", adds another tier to the travelogue, as the physical challenges of travel through a swiftly changing India are accompanied by questions of a spiritual nature.

Amusing and thoughtful by turns, Rajesh has sidestepped the navel-gazing pitfall common to many wannabe travel writers and piped up with an informative, yet fresh and engaging voice that we will surely be hearing more of.

9/10

(Review by Sarah Warwick)


Best-sellers for the week ending November 10

Paperbacks

1 A Street Cat Named Bob, James Bowen

2 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

3 The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, Sue Townsend

4 Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

5 Thinking, Fast And Slow, Daniel Kahneman

6 Reflected In You: A Crossfire Novel, Sylvia Day

7 Bitter Blood: Morganville Vampires, Rachel Caine

8 The House Of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel, Anthony Horowitz

9 The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

10 Billionaire Boy, David Walliams


Hardbacks

1 Standing in Another Man's Grave, Ian Rankin

2 Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, Jamie Oliver

3 Guinness World Records 2013

4 Is It Just Me? Miranda Hart

5 Dominion, CJ Sansom

6 Rod: The Autobiography, Rod Stewart

7 Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel

8 Ratburger, David Walliams

9 The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling

10 Bradley Wiggins: My Time: An Autobiography, Bradley Wiggins

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