Books: Curtis Sittenfeld's You Think It, I'll Say It is a brilliant collection of stories
BOOK OF THE WEEK
You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld is published in hardback by Doubleday, priced £16.99 (ebook £9.99)
CURTIS Sittenfeld is able to describe a character's entire lifespan, then fix their every moment so perfectly that, even years after reading the book, you can recall their world exactly. (This is why, if you haven't already, you must read American Wife.) In this, her first short story collection, she takes that skill and applies it to the worlds of middle class people who she tips into awkward scenarios where they incessantly miscalculate and misconstrue those around them, whether that's a journalist interviewing a movie star prone to oversharing (Off The Record); an extremely contained man having a sort-of/sort-of-not affair, in which only classical music is discussed over email (Plausible Deniability); or two married people whose sly, spiteful party game slips into confused romantic feelings (the title story). At times, the scenarios are leaden with suspenseful dread, but they're also always knowing and utterly believable – and more piercing as a result. This is a brilliant, brilliant selection of stories.
In Our Mad And Furious City by Guy Gunaratne is published in hardback by Tinder Press, priced £12.99 (ebook £6.49)
THE starting point is a familiar one: London in the summer, teenagers kicking a ball about. But from there, Guy Gunaratne's debut novel splits off, shaking itself into the stories of three lads on the Stones Estate, as riots churn up the capital following the murder of a British soldier. Selvon is interested in girls, staying in shape and getting out; Ardan's mind is on his beats and the lyrics tapping themselves out inside his skull; and Yusuf is just trying to haul off the weight of his dad's death, his brother's problems and the radicalism permeating his mosque. There's a sense of pressure building, until it all just detonates. Gunaratne's language rolls and swerves, stirred through with local patter and slang, while the characters blaze across the page as they struggle to find their place. In Our Mad And Furious City is fraught and heartbreaking at times, with a biting, in-your-face clarity to it that you can't ignore. It's a searing marvel of a novel.
The Colour Of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris is published in hardback by HarperFiction, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99)
JASPER has synaesthesia, a condition where his brain fires differently, so where most people hear sound, Jasper also sees complex, kaleidoscopic colours. Every sound – from voices and squeaky gates, to the chirrups of the teen's beloved wild parakeets – has its own technicolor translation. Combine that with Jasper's face blindness (prosopagnosia) – he can't recognise his own face, let alone his dad's or the other kids' at school – and a supposed murder on his street, and things become rather chaotic. Despite the quirky premise, the book lags at times, and frustratingly doesn't bubble with suspense. Instead, the plot meanders drowsily as Jasper tries to work out what exactly happened to his new neighbour Bee Larkham, so you never know quite where it's going. There's definitely a hint of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time to it but it's executed with less panache, and less humour. A gentle enough read, but don't expect to be gripped.
The Art Of Not Falling Apart by Christina Patterson is published in hardback by Atlantic Books, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.19)
JOURNALIST Christina Patterson had already dealt with the deaths of close family members, a cancer diagnosis and a series of horrendous dating experiences by the time she hit her 40s. But then she unexpectedly lost her beloved job as a columnist at The Independent, and her world began to fall apart. Instead of giving in to despair, however, Patterson decided to conduct a series of interviews with other people who had been dealt a similarly huge blow in their lives. In this incredibly inspirational book, she reflects on the lessons she has learned since being made redundant, and highlights ways to deal with personal challenges, that range from domestic abuse and having a severely disabled child, to being publicly sacked at your employer's AGM. This is not a typical 'how to' guide that promises all the answers – readers may find some along the way, but they may also simply enjoy it as a witty and beautifully written memoir.
CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Bacteria Book by Steve Mould is published in hardback by DK, priced £9.99 (ebook £3.99)
ZOMBIE ants, glow-in-the-dark squid and creepy-looking space bears are just some of the monstrous creatures featured in this book. But far from being a fantasy adventure, everything in this children's non-fiction offering is very real and has one thing in common – it's all part of the fascinating world of microbiology. The Bacteria Book, by the very appropriately-named scientist Steve Mould, takes readers on a learning journey from the make-up of cells and DNA, through to all the weird and wonderful germs, bacteria and fungi in the world around us. Mould – who is also a science presenter on TV and penned How To Be A Scientist – is a natural at making complex subjects fun and accessible. This book even has a handy glossary at the back, for those tricky-to-pronounce words. While kids can switch off quickly if a book becomes too 'educational', Mould is canny at teaching without you even knowing it. If only all learning could be that fun.