Book reviews: New from Salman Rushdie, Linwood Barclay, Elizabeth Buchan
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.99)
IN RECENT novels, Salman Rushdie has applied his blend of magical realism, family saga and pop-cultural chronicle to contemporary America, as previous books, such as Midnight's Children, had done to 20th-century Pakistan and India. Quichotte takes place in the 'Age of Anything-Can-Happen', describing the political and ecological irrationality of real-life America no less than the novel's own fantastical dissolving of reality. In his characteristically meandering style, Rushdie tells a self-confessed "plural, sprawling" story; a recently fired opioid salesman's Quixotic quest to win the heart of a famous talk-show host. At the same time, it is also the story of the author who has created this character. As we learn more about the author's life and family, his world and the world of his characters begin to interlace and the haphazard succession of events builds coherently to a meditation on life, death and the stories told about both.
Josh Pugh Ginn
Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay is published in hardback by Harper Collins, priced £12.99 (ebook £9.99). Available September 5
Linwood Barclay's latest standalone thriller covers five days of chaos as one of the world's most vertical cities is grounded by a series of elevator incidents. Starting on Monday with a murder, the tension builds to a blockbuster Friday showdown at the top of the newest tallest building in New York. The character list cuts a cross-section of New Yorkers; from the unpopular city Mayor Richard Headley, to gritty journalist Barbara Matheson, PTSD-suffering Detective Bourque of the NYPD, and leader of an emerging domestic terrorist group Eugene Clement. A slow mid-section and tangle of subplots surrounding the overcrowded cast means Elevator Pitch falls just short of Barclay's usual level of psychological suspense, but it does pack enough of a punch to make you favour the stairs...
The Museum Of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan is published in hardback by Corvus, priced £14.99 (ebook £6.47)
A LOVE story wrapped up in historical fiction, The Museum Of Broken Promises flicks between present-day Paris, mid-80s Prague and mid-90s Berlin. While nannying for a family in the then Czechoslovakian city, and grieving the death of her father, Laure meets Tomas – a beguiling rock star rebelling against the oppressive communist regime. Years later, still haunted by painful memories of a summer filled with young love and rising political tension, Laure curates the Museum of Broken Promises in Paris. Each object holds intense emotion and a deeply personal story of betrayal. Buchan poetically marries political unrest with poignant love, offering just enough of both to satisfy historical fiction and romance fans alike. A cast of fascinating characters each bring their own story, while Laure's gradually unravels page by page, searching for redemption from a broken promise she still carries with her.
We Need New Stories by Nesrine Malik is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £16.99 (ebook £10.99)
HAVE we been dog whistling while Rome burns? Nesrine Malik certainly thinks so, and in this book she tries to explain why the liberal establishment was surprised by the rise of Trump, Brexit and far-right terrorism. As a journalist herself, Malik's answer is that the media has become too close to power itself and so she sets out to dismantle the myths about equality, free speech and past national greatness which are used to reinforce existing hierarchies. If the truth often seems to be long, slow and complicated, Malik offers useful shorthand terms such as 'frequency scrambling' that provide shortcuts to nuanced and constructive arguments rather than resorting to easy put-downs. It's a plea for greater diversity and essential reading for anyone with an interest in current or social affairs, at a time when politics is so divisive.
Never Enough by Judith Grisel is published in paperback by Scribe, priced £9.99 (ebook £7.66)
IF YOU want to know why the drugs don't work (or at least not for long), this is the book for you. It seems that if addictive drugs are defined by their ability to act on the part of the brain that controls the reward-seeking chemical dopamine, addiction is driven by the body's ability to counteract the effects of the various stimulants, sedatives or psychedelics, legal or illegal, that we might throw at it. Judith Grisel is a former addict who is now an experienced behavioral neuroscientist, so she not only knows of what she speaks, but is also able to communicate some fairly complex brain science clearly and engagingly. With relapse rates for addicts as high as 90 per cent, however, unfortunately we are still some way from being able to outwit our own brains when it comes to drugs. The solution, Grisel suggests, lies in the context in which those brains operate: The wider social world.
CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK
Wild Girl by Helen Skelton is published in hardback by Walker Books, priced £12.99
HELEN Skelton, BBC presenter for the World Aquatics Championships and the Olympics, is also a real-life adventurer. She's kayaked the Amazon, walked a tightrope between the Battersea power station chimneys, and was the first woman to reach the South Pole using a bicycle! Her love of a good challenge is contagious as she details various types of adventure (snow, sand, water, mountain, countryside and city). Each section includes her personable retelling of her own experience, the training she did, her kit list, and suggestions about how to have one's own adventures. Finally, the section ends with a 'wild girl hall of fame', showcasing other female trailblazers. Skelton has that rare talent of blending facts and instructions without patronising young readers. Delightfully illustrated and with her report-like recollections, she'll certainly captivate young girls. Does she miss an opportunity to appeal to boys? Skelton's proven experiences and her undeniable status as a role model could have made the cause for girls without needing to focus the book only at them. Nonetheless, this is a truly inspirational book.