Book reviews

Love Like Salt: A Memoir by Helen Stevenson

Love Like Salt: A Memoir by Helen Stevenson is published in hardback by Virago, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99)

"THE child will soon die whose brow tastes salty when kissed," warned an ancient medical textbook. Nowadays we know this to be the genetic condition cystic fibrosis, which prevents salt passing easily from one cell to the next.

The life expectancy of such children is improving all the time, but it's still a diagnosis to drive a dagger into a parent's heart.

Helen Stevenson's memoir of raising a daughter with cystic fibrosis in rural France – whilst simultaneously dealing with her mother's dementia – is far from being a sisterly, accessible account of the Sandwich Generation. Anyone who expects that will be disappointed.

Stevenson is not Everywoman, nor wants to be. Instead, she devotes long passages of the book to spiritual and philosophical musings, and penetrating observations about French society.

Stick with it: this is a beautiful love letter to her family from an intelligent woman who has had to dig deep just to survive.

Liz Ryan

The Senility Of Vladimir P by Michael Honig is published in hardback by Atlantic Books, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.99)

NIKOLAI Sheremetev has never quite got the hang of how things work in Russia.

During his army service, he was unable to see that his captain was hiring his troops out on the side to build apartment blocks. Working as a nurse, he refused bribes offered by relatives to give better care to patients, even seeing his own wife die because he would not bribe doctors himself.

He is now faced with looking after former president Vladimir P, a senile old man who spends his days talking to imagined former minions and judo kicking the head of a Chechen fighter he once had shot by firing squad.

Even when he finds out he is surrounded by a whole staff of workers – housekeeper, chef, driver, gardener, security supervisor – at the ex-president's dacha, who are stealing as if their life depended upon it, Sheremetev cannot hide his shock.

But when his nephew needs a massive bribe to get out of jail, Sheremetev has to balance his conscience against the urge do what Vladimir P had done best during his years in office and line his own pockets.

The Senility Of Vladimir P is former doctor Michael Honig's second novel and an exciting tale of how even the best of men can face temptation.

Right up until the final moments, Sheremetev continues the fight against corruption in an entertaining story which will appeal to anyone with an interest in Russia and all things Russian.

Roddy Brooks

Nice Work (If You Can Get It) by Celia Imrie is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £12.99 (ebook £6.17). Available now

THERESA, Carol, William and Benjamin have all escaped to Bellevue-Sur-Mer, a picturesque town in the French Riviera. But instead of sitting back and taking life easy, they decide to start a new enterprise: they're going to open a restaurant.

And, when Carol hears about an old property that's just become available, she bites off the owner's hand. The offer seems too good to be true, but there's no time to worry about that – there's work to be done.

Sally turns down the opportunity to join the others in their new venture, happy to carry on with life as it is, but she didn't count on the sudden arrival of an old associate and a new acquaintance who will shake things up.

Best known as an Olivier Award-winning actress, Celia Imrie certainly brings her dramatist's eye for plot to this uproarious caper of a novel. Whilst the high drama sometimes descends into farce and the characters are more caricatures, it's a fun jaunt into the ex-pat experience gone wild.

Hidden masterpieces, drugs, celebrities, Sardinian mobsters: welcome to Bellevue-Sur Mer!

Jade Craddock

NON-FICTION Book of The Week

The Bee Book is published in hardback by DK, priced £16.99. Available now

By now everyone knows that bee populations are declining and that's a very bad thing. But did you know there's a bee species that has a tongue twice the length of its body? Or that cuckoo bees survive by worming their way into bumblebee nests, overthrowing the queen and enslaving the inhabitants? Or that bees can produce blue honey? All these and hundreds more fascinating facts can be found in The Bee Book, so whether you're a casual admirer or a bee obsessive, there's lots to learn. But this is more than just an entomological encyclopaedia. The second half of the beautifully illustrated tome details how you can play your part in helping the ailing species by planting appealing plants or making a little house to harbour honeymakers, plus there's detailed advice, with lots of pictures, on the ins and outs of beekeeping, and the many uses for your eventual honey harvest.


(Review by Katie Wright)


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