Arts

Books: Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls, Knife by Jo Nesbo and more

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton priced £20 (ebook £9.99)

DAVID Nicholls really knows how to do bittersweet, wistful, problematic love stories. From One Day to Us, his heroes navigate the complexity of their relationships with tenderness and many a misstep, and Sweet Sorrow excavates the same vein.

It's the late 90s and Charlie has finished school. The summer suffocatingly stretches out ahead of him; the heat, the hormones, the boredom. Between his depressed dad at home, feeling abandoned by his mum, and somehow having caused a rift between himself and his usual lad mates, Charlie stumbles across a girl, Fran, and she leads him astray – kind of: joining an amdram club putting on Romeo & Juliet is very much out of his comfort zone.

Nicholls tellingly captures the giddy confusion of first love mired in family turbulence and the bewilderment of making decisions, and not knowing if things will land the way you want them to. Endearing and nostalgic, it nudges your 16-year-old self into being. A delicious, pensive summer read.

9/10
Ella Walker

 

Knife by Jo Nesbo is published in hardback by Harvill Secker, priced £20 (ebook £9.99)

KNIFE, the 12th book in Jo Nesbo's 'Harry Hole' (pronounced Hoo-luh) series, brings the titular Oslo detective to his lowest ebb yet, but possibly closer to absolution by the book's end.

Investigating a vicious murder that has deeply personal ramifications, Hole has to deal with demons real and imaginary as he works through a list of suspects – which this time might include himself, alongside the disgustingly written, knife-obsessed rapist Svein Finne.

Skilfully plotted as seemingly innocuous thoughts and descriptions return to help square the circle, come the dramatic denouement, former footballer and rock star Nesbo also uses the vast, cold landscapes of Norway to excellent effect in building dread and deepening this well-crafted mystery.

8/10
James Cann

 

Supper Club by Lara Williams is published in paperback by Hamish Hamilton, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99).

SUPPER Club is a bold and fresh story about food, friendship and feminism. When troubled protagonist Roberta cooks up the idea of a transgressive dining society for women with best friend Stevie, she starts letting herself be free of expectations for once.

But it also begins to put pressure on her relationships. The novel is peppered with hunger pang-inducing food writing, which could have comfortably been given even more space. There could also have been more time for Bacchanalian supper club scenes, which give us a rare glimpse of Roberta coming out of her shell.

The narrative, which jumps between the present-day and Roberta's lonely, traumatic university years, makes for compelling reading. As we learn more about her past we root for her to take up space in a world that seems determined to make her feel small.

8/10
Alys Key

 

Fabulosa by Paul Baker is published in hardback by Reaktion, priced £15.99 (ebook £11.51)

FOR those wanting to learn to polari bona, and anyone interested in finding out more about Polari, which it bills as 'Britain's secret gay language', Fabulosa! provides a though-provoking, in depth look at how the language came about and fell in and out of favour with the gay community.

Academic Paul Baker details the emergence of Polari as a coded language based on a mixture of sources – including the common sailors' language of Lingua Franca, thieves' cant and backslang – which was spoken mainly by gay men for whom it provided both a community and way of hiding, particularly in its 1950s heyday, when homosexuality was illegal.

Some parts delve into language technicalities yet still retain interest, and Baker does not shy away from tackling gender politics and racial issues thrown up by of some of the terms, interweaving his own experiences to shine a light on the interplay between language, community and society.

6/10
Laura Paterson

 

Walks In The Wild by Peter Wohlleben is published in hardback by Rider Books, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99)

READING Walks In The Wild feels a bit like taking a leisurely stroll in the woods, Wohlleben at your side. The book may call itself a 'guide' – and it is, essentially – but with its charming storytelling tone, expect an absorbing narrative to get lost in, rather than a reference-style guide book.

Wohlleben has more than 20 years' experience working for Germany's forestry commission and now runs an environmentally-friendly woodland. His prose has that natural-born-teacher quality – capturing your curiosity and making you want to soak it up all up and learn.

In Walks In The Wild, he's picked a series of forest-walking subjects to focus on. There are chapters on insects, wild animals, rules around the right to roam and foraging, what you need to know about the weather, navigating and suitable clothing, all brought to life with his own observations, science and facts.

8/10
Abi Jackson

 

CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK

Owen And The Soldier by Lisa Thompson, illustrated by Mike Lowery is published in paperback by Barrington Stoke, priced £6.99.

FOR a novella, this story packs in emotion. Lisa Thomson, author of the bestselling children's book The Goldfish Boy, which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and the Waterstones Children's book prize, seems to specialise in writing about troubled children seeking to find their place in the world.

Here, Owen is facing a troubled home life. Mum is barely able to get out of bed. Owen, who wants to be a stuntman, comes across a crumbling statue of a soldier sitting in the park and just starts to chat to him. Owen, lacking confidence, flat out refuses when a teacher wants him to read at the opening of the new library.

Then Owen finds out the council wants to get rid of the statue and special circumstances call for special measures. Courage, loss, remembrance, friendship and standing up for what is right are some of the feelings Thomson brings to this touching story.

9/10
Bridie Pritchard

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