Book reviews: Colum McCann's Apeirogon based on dads' friendship in Israeli-Palestinian conflict
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Apeirogon by Colum McCann is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £18.99 (ebook £11.43)
APEIROGON is quite a feat. It is inspired by a real friendship between Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli, who both lost their daughters – 10-year-old Abir and 13-year-old Smadar – as a result of Palestinian-Israeli tensions and conflict. And throughout, migrating birds wheel through Colum McCann's prose. Structured via 1,001 chapters that can run to three pages, a couple of paragraphs, or even a single sentence, McCann hops from history to fiction, to the middle of a bombing or a shooting, to a conversation about that same bombing or shooting more than a decade later. It's almost seamless the way he strings each moment to the next, finding threads and patterns that clearly we – and those politically involved – should learn from. It's connect-the-dots on a lyrical, emotional, astounding scale. It is also relentless, in scope and subject. Hugely beautiful, despite the grief it explores, Bassam and Rami's stories give you hope in humans, and in the power of peace.
Rest And Be Thankful by Emma Glass is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £12.99 (ebook £9.09)
ANYONE who's had a baby in neonatal care will know how much those calm, competent staff do to help your child and alleviate your distress. Paediatric nurse turned author Emma Glass tells the story from the other side, through the eyes of exhausted Laura whose own life is disintegrating while she cares for vulnerable children and takes on the weight of parents' worries. She barely eats or sleeps, is haunted by a ghostly figure when she's awake and is hounded by nightmares when she does nod off. The parents simply see her quietly and efficiently carrying out her duties, but her lateness and messy appearance make colleagues realise all may not be well. A sense of impending doom permeates Glass's gripping but disturbing second novel.
The Recovery Of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel is published in hardback by Michael Joseph, priced £12.99 (ebook £4.99)
REVENGE is a dish best served cold, and Stephanie Wrobel's thriller is deliciously icy. Patty is a hypochondriac mother doing time for poisoning her child. Her daughter, Rose Gold, is now an adult and struggling to live a life she's never known – physically healthy and free, but brimming with resentment and rejection. Flicking between Patty and Rose Gold, past and present, the Watts' toxic family story gradually unravels but is no less tangled – the truth buried beneath years of lies, neglect, and obsession unbound. Wrobel's cleverly constructed plot twists and turns with every page, undermining any sense of integrity the minute you catch a glimpse of it. Delving into the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, this is an emotionally-charged battle between two characters who are so completely at odds physically, and yet so similar psychologically, bound by a disturbing streak of narcissistic cunning. More than reminiscent of Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train, neither Patty nor Rose Gold engenders a reader affinity, but each is deserving of both empathy and contempt – it's up to you to decide in what measure.
Tribes: How Our Need to Belong Can Make or Break Society by David Lammy is published in hardback by Constable, priced £20 (ebook £10.99)
BELONGING can be a double-edged sword; for every in-group, there's an out-group, national pride can curdle into chauvinism and the search for community can lead to dark corners where ISIS and the Alt-Right lurk. Tottenham MP, David Lammy, is well aware of the dangers of tribalism and explores these in this book, using his own experience to dissect modern, multi-layered identities. The son of Guyanese parents, he was raised in Tottenham before winning a scholarship to The King's Cathedral School in Peterborough, then heading to Harvard Law School. Navigating diverse cultures taught him to appreciate different perspectives, and makes him an incisive diagnostician of our familiar ills – economic decline, political polarisation and terrible loneliness. But Lammy also has inspiring ideas for putting things right: a people-powered constitution, decentralisation of power and civic national service could all help make the leap from tribalism to community. Trouble is, we are such a long way from there.
CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK
Cloudburst by Wilbur Smith and Chris Wakling is published in paperback by Piccadilly Press, priced £6.99 (ebook £3.99)
WITH Cloudburst, the famous adventure writer Wilbur Smith moves into fiction for older children with the first in a series of middle-grade novels. Smith, the author of 35 books, teams up with novelist and travel writer Christopher Wakling to tell the story of the next generation of the Courtneys, a family Smith has been writing about for 50 years. Set in modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo, it tells the story of Jack Courtney and his two friends Amelia and Xander, who get to come to DRC when his parents travel there for a gorilla conference. But when Jack's parents are kidnapped by mercenaries, he and his friends must venture into the jungle to try and find answers. One of the biggest things blocking them is another branch of the Courtney family, mine-owner Langdon and his son Caleb. While some of the older Courtneys have turned to conservation, we see that others continue to try to strip the land of its resources. This is an exciting and realistic story, full of bandits and poachers and amazing wildlife. Though sometimes the narrative voice feels unconvincing and the pace can be uneven, it keeps you turning the pages till the end.