Book reviews: An Orchestra Of Minorities, Family Trust and Gene Eating
An Orchestra Of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma is published in hardback by Little, Brown, priced £14.99. Available January 17
CHIGOZIE Obioma was born in Nigeria and now lives in the US. Like his Man Booker prize-shortlisted first novel, The Fishermen, published in 2015, An Orchestra Of Minorities is set predominantly in rural Nigeria. The story is told by Solomon Chinonso's chi (essentially a part of his spirit) to the gods, framing the whole tale in tragedy. Nonso, a simple bird farmer, is extremely lonely and isolated until he meets and falls in love with Ndali. The relationship would be perfect if it wasn't for Ndali's upper-class family who disapprove of Nonso and the match – so much so he goes to terrible extremes to try and win their approval. Obioma has a masterful way with words. The most beautiful writing comes from descriptions of the relationships between characters (particularly Nonso and Ndali) – it would almost have been better if there was much more of that, and less of his chi's soliloquies, which are a bit one-note and take up far too much of the novel.
Family Trust by Kathy Wang is published in hardback by Head Of Zeus, priced £18.99 (ebook 99p). Available now
THIS book feels like a mash-up of Crazy Rich Asians and the TV series Silicon Valley, with elements of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire Of The Vanities and Jane Austen's comedy of manners and family dynamics thrown in. Stanley Huang, who had been feeling smug with his weight loss, is newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Stanley, father to Fred who has never felt rich enough despite being in venture capital in Silicon Valley, and his sister Kate, who works for a prestigious tech firm while trying to cope with the needs of her children, are hoping that he will leave them the small fortune he has been boasting about. Ex-wife Linda, who worked hard for years to ensure her family's financial security, wants to make sure they get their due, despite his young second wife Mary's ambitions. The chapters focus on a different family member, giving a broad perspective of the various family members' hopes and fears, and finding out what they really want from life. Gentle and intriguing.
Gene Eating: The Science Of Obesity And The Truth About Diets by Dr Giles Yeo is published in paperback by Seven Dials, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99). Available now
ACCORDING to Cambridge University geneticist Dr Giles Yeo, we evolved for a feast-famine environment. So a healthy human with a good appetite and making informed food choices, will instinctively over-eat slightly every day – just in case. Eventually we have no healthy places left in our bodies to store that extra fat. But, he says, we have no internal mechanisms to help us reduce our obesity naturally. Enter the charlatans with their alternative facts. It is at these gurus, and their mostly affluent adherents, that Dr Yeo directs his ire. From the complex caveats of 'wheat belly' to the out-and-out nonsense of what he calls 'the alkaline swindle', the issues are meticulously unstitched. Yet one senses that Yeo himself is living too rarefied a lifestyle to identify with what is surely society's more urgent health question – the ordinary millions who graze on lethal junk food in nutritional deserts.