Arts

Books: Belfast Walks, Snap, The Water Cure, A Shout In The Ruins

Belfast Walks, by Seth Linder

BOOK OF THE WEEK

Belfast Walks by Seth Linder is published by O'Brien, priced £9.99

NEWLY published by O'Brien, Seth Linder's Belfast Walks offers an illustrated guide to the best strolls, hikes and danders the city has to offer, from woodlands, parks and hills to city centre streets. Catering for all levels of fitness from casual strollers and family groups to serious walkers, readers can use London-born Belfast-based writer Linder's handy daypack-sized book to navigate 25 different routes around the city and its rural outskirts. Belfast Walks includes on-the-hoof guides to the Lagan Towpath, Cave Hill Country Park, Colin Glen Forest Park, Divis and Black Mountain, Shankill Walk, Titanic Quarter, the Falls Road, Stormont Estate and Belfast City Hall to Cathedral Quarter. Each comes with its own map and Linder's handy read-as-you-walk summary of what's on offer along the way, from flora and fauna to local trivia and historical fact. With walks ranging in length from one to 10 miles, readers can opt for a quick 45 minute excursion, an extended three-and-a-half hour trek, or something in-between – making Belfast Walks a useful purchase for curious visitors and natives keen to make the most of a diverse selection of walking terrain waiting just beyond their doorstep.

David Roy

Snap by Belinda Bauer is published in hardback by Bantam Press, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99).

THE title may be succinct, but the story itself is anything but. Belinda Bauer weaves a compelling and highly intricate novel that begins with two separate threads: the heart-breaking story of 14-year-old Jack Bright, who is doing his best to look after his two younger sisters via a career burglar following the murder of his mother, and grouchy DCI Marvel who's been relegated from London to the West Country. Snap follows the human-impact of murder rather than the gory details, with knife-sharp balance between harrowing and humorous. As you get to each character, they become real – there's Smooth Louis Bridge who runs small-town crime, the insufferable DC Reynolds, and five-year-old Merry, Jack's vampire-loving youngest sister. When Jack meets Marvel, the plot blossoms and you'll find yourself fully invested in their search for the truth.

Rebecca Wilcock

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh is published in hardback by Hamish Hamilton, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99).

THE Water Cure is the hotly anticipated debut novel from London-based writer Sophie Mackintosh, winner of Stylist magazine's 2016 Short Story Competition. It tells the tale of three sisters trapped in a hauntingly dystopian existence by their controlling parents, in a story reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides. They haven't been allowed to mix with the opposite sex, but then three men wash up on the beach of their strange world – bringing with them exciting discoveries. It makes for an uncomfortable yet compulsive read; I found myself captivated. It is a relatively short book which will have you gripped until the end. Mackintosh's eerily gorgeous prose dances around the details, refusing to spoon-feed you. You're left desperately piecing it all together. As far as debuts go, this is superb. A film adaptation feels inevitable – and I cannot wait to see what Mackintosh does next.

Frances Wright

A Shout In The Ruins by Kevin Powers is published in hardback by Sceptre, priced £16.99 (ebook £9.99).

FORMER soldier Kevin Powers, the award-winning author of Yellow Birds, swaps the battlefields of Iraq for those of the American Civil War and its aftermath here. An evocative, sometimes beautifully written story, A Shout In The Ruins follows the fortunes of Emily Reid, her father Bob and their neighbour, amoral plantation owner Antony Levallois, and the struggle for survival for slaves Nurse and Rawls in pre and post-Civil War Virginia. Powers's vision of casual cruelty and the making, breaking and taking of lives puts a fresh stamp on a familiar theme. Some scenes have a visceral quality that presumably draws on his own experiences but at times that, and some strong characterisation, fades, with sections feeling either incomplete or unnecessary. The narrative jumps to the 20th century with the tenderly rendered George Seldom, but it sometimes loses direction and gets bogged down. Powers is still finding his range, but looks to be capable of even greater things in future.

Derek Watson

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