Arts

Book reviews: The latest reads rated

BOOK: GREATEST HITS by LAURA BARNETT

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett is published by W&N, priced £12.99 (ebook £6.99).

GREATEST Hits, the follow-up to journalist Laura Barnett's acclaimed debut novel The Versions Of Us, is a deftly woven tale of love, life and loss.

As she launches a new album after a three-decade hiatus, acclaimed singer-songwriter Cass Wheeler looks back on her career and her life. After childhood abandonment by her mother and teenage wayward years, Cass finds her voice through music – a precocious talent catapulted onto the stage like a British Joan Baez.

The older, reclusive Cass sits down to listen to the 16 songs she has selected to be her 'greatest hits', triggering memories both sweet and painful.

As the records play, Cass's past unravels before the reader, taking in love affairs and family dynamics and revealing the tragic reason for her withdrawal from the spotlight.

A moving read with a complex female protagonist, which entrances the reader from beginning to end.

Louisa McKenzie

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green is published in hardback by Macmillan, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.59).

BEST-selling author Jane Green returns to form with the life-affirming The Sunshine Sisters.

Set very much in the now, but starting 30 years previously, The Sunshine Sisters is the story of beautiful and charismatic B-movie actress Ronni's three daughters.

Not the best mother in the world, self-absorbed and disinterested, Ronnie wasn't the mother she wanted to be. Nell, Meredith and Lizzy have been left to their own devices, estranged from their Ronni – and each other – until in adulthood they are all summoned home.

Ronni is ill. Not her usual 'headache' – she has motor neurone disease and is at the end of her life.

Can this fractured family forgive their past and heal? Can the sisters get past the hurt and misunderstanding and find their feet in a new future when everything seems to be against them?

This novel pulls on the heartstrings, but also feels like coming home. A perfect summer read.

Rachel Howdle

The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith is published in hardback by Doubleday, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99).

LEICESTER-based author Mahsuda Snaith is an Observer New Face of Fiction for 2017 who has already won several prizes for her writing.

This, her debut novel, zips rather jauntily across the grim territory of chronic pain, child neglect and poverty – in fact, it's a bit like reading a Jacqueline Wilson book for 20-somethings.

The novel centres on 18-year-old Ravine, who has been bedridden with pain since a traumatic incident involving her best friend and neighbour on a Leicester council estate 10 years previously.

Her loving Bengali mum fights to get Ravine out of bed and back into the world, but it's all in vain until unexpected developments force the teenager to finally confront her past.

The characters are likeable and warm, particularly Ravine's long-suffering mum, and although the plot is a little bit clunky, there's a freshness about the writing.

It will be interesting to see what Snaith does next.

Jackie Kingsley

Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed And What It's Doing To Us by Will Storr is published in hardback by Picador, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.49).

HAVING encountered with South Sudanese refugees, Colombian warmongers and remote Aborigines during his colourful journalistic career, Will Storr has encountered more disparate civilizations than most.

In Selfie, however, Storr retreats from those untamed hinterlands all the way to the inner self, tracing the history of the cult of the individual from the ancient Greeks to today's internet-saturated age.

It's a timely tome and Storr makes for an engrossing companion, although the sheer scope of the project is such that some sections will drag.

Storr's journey into the self ends in Silicone Valley in California, by far the most unnerving section of the book, where geeks pursue concepts of individualistic perfection under the increasing influence of cybernetics.

While Selfie can be baffling at times, and the effects of modern social media might have deserved more focus, it's still an engaging read – whoever you are.

Mark Staniforth

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