Books: New from Ann Patchett, Jessie Burton, Richard Ayoade, Cressida Cowell
BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.22)
THIS may just be the story of a family who live in a very particular house, but Ann Patchett weaves such a deft, thoughtful, heartrending portrayal of a building, and what it can do to its inhabitants, that it feels like so much more. The Dutch House spans the lives of siblings Danny and Maeve as they grow up in a house full of windows, so grand and incongruent with their small Pennsylvanian town, that it dominates their futures, forever tugging them back to the relationships that developed and foundered there. Narrated by Danny, it tracks back and forth through time, teasing at events as he analyses himself and his brilliant, mathematically minded sister. It captures the feeling of loss perfectly, brutally – whether of a parent or a matchless window seat, but it does so without drowning in sentimentality. The plot is gentle but firm, while Patchett's prose dazzles with detail and nuance, spinning a story that tucks itself inside your heart, so even long after finishing it, you take it out and turn it over in your mind.
The Confession by Jessie Burton is published in hardback by Picador, priced £16.99 (ebook £8.99)
JESSIE Burton's third novel The Confession follows in the footsteps of her previous works in terms of style, but moves into the more modern setting of 1980s LA and present-day London for an exploratory tale of motherhood, love and loss. Rose Simmons has longed to know her absent mother, and when the chance comes to meet a mysterious female figure from her mother's life, she initiates a journey to learn more about her past at the risk of her future. Moving from the present agonies of Rose's staid life to the thrilling, yet isolating Hollywood life of Los Angeles, the novel is a character study in women's drives. Whether maternal, sexual, or personal, each character yearns to create their own identity in a world that dictates their choices. The Confession deftly captures the spirit of three very different women.
Moonlight Travellers by Quentin Blake and Will Self is published in hardback by Thames & Hudson, priced £16.95
THIS evocative publication pairs two stars of the British book landscape: Quentin Blake, the beloved illustrator, and Will Self, author and journalist. It showcases the watercolours Blake created for a 2017 show, and the additional 20 he produced once inspired by his theme of moonlit travels. Will Self provides the accompanying copy for the book. For fans of Blake, the frenzied, melancholic illustrations of nighttime journeys in a fantastical yet familiar landscape, will certainly appeal. There's much detail to look at and, as ever, the artist's energy sizzles on the page. Self's accompanying narrative of a journey to the moon echoes neatly. It assumes the reader's familiarity with the dystopian exotic, as Self weaves methods of fantastical travel with time-worn experiences of fatigue and boisterous commuters. However, the pairing comes undone as Self's inclination for high-flown language jars with Blake's simplicity of expression. That's the magic of Blake's work, of course – and, as witnessed here, can at times feel too restrained by the words that attempt to give shape to his imagination.
Ayoade On Top by Richard Ayoade is published in hardback by Faber & Faber, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99)
RICHARD Ayoade is a man of many talents – director, screenwriter, TV presenter, comedian, comic actor (The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh etc), panel show denizen, HSBC ad frontman etc. Here he dons his author hat to bring us a brief faux appreciation of a forgotten – and doubtless forgettable – Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle, View From The Top (2003). It's a film in which Paltrow overcomes the obstacles of her upbringing and defies her naysayers to make it as an air hostess, and eventually a pilot. Ayoade is going to have a great deal of fun with this. And so he embarks on a highly ironic paean to the film's crass directorial style, its naff soundtrack, its clunky multiplex sensibility, its crude homophobic and patriarchal undertones... In fact, the barrel is so full of fish to shoot you start to wonder why he's gone to all this trouble. For that, alas, despite all its cleverness and undeniably funny writing, is just about all the book does. The whole thing is a one-note, brittle highbrow take-down of an easy lowbrow target. The quality of the writing keeps you bobbing along. But we wait in vain for something more.
CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Wizards Of Once: Knock Three Times by Cressida Cowell is published in hardback by Hodder Children's Books, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.99)
A FLYING door, enchanted fork and a 13-eyed monster with a tentacle beard are just some of the weird and wonderful creations brought to life by Cressida Cowell in her fantasy adventure, The Wizards Of Once. This third instalment of the latest children's series by the author and illustrator of the How To Train Your Dragon books sees plucky heroes Wish and Xar return with a madcap adventure to rid their land of evil witches. But their quest to find the ingredients for a witch-busting spell is their most dangerous yet and brings them face-to-face with the fearsome Nuckalavee. A little confusing at the start, the story soon finds its pace, with Cowell's unique warm and witty writing proving as enchanting as ever. Some characters are becoming unlikely stars (a sprite called Squeezjoos is a personal favourite), while Wish and Xar are fast earning their place on the list of much-loved children's literature heroes.