Arts

Book reviews: The Parisian an ambitious tour-de-force that links France and Palestine

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

FICTION

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £14.99 (ebook £8.99)

IT IS startling to think this ambitious tour-de-force was written into life by someone at the start of their literary career. Weaving together history and personal tragedy, this debut novel from Isabella Hammad starts with Midhat, a Palestinian teenager who finds himself studying in France at the outbreak of the First World War. Having fallen disastrously in love, the young man returns home and settles down to a life worthy of his father's expectations, while Palestine struggles for independence. But an unexpected betrayal, surfacing years later, threatens to unravel the life he has built. Complicated and panoramic, yet with even the tiniest of details meticulously observed, this debut follows the changing desires of a boy as he is moulded into a man, the irresistible pull of family loyalty and the search for peace, as much within, as on, the global stage.

8/10

Jemma Crew

The Language Of Birds by Jill Dawson is published in hardback by Sceptre, priced £18.99 (ebook £12.99)

JILL Dawson is an award-winning novelist and poet. The Language Of Birds is based on the story of Lord Lucan and is set in 1970s London. Mandy and Rosemary work as nannies for aristocratic families and the book explores the freedom enjoyed by the young women escaping small villages to enjoy the anonymity of the big city. Both Mandy and Rosemary have had mental health problems and Mandy is sympathetic to her boss Katharine, Lady Morven, who is struggling with depression, while Rosemary is more inclined to side with the charismatic Earl. Dawson brings Mandy's warm, empathetic character fully to life, while Rosemary's gullible, eager-to-please Norland nanny persona is intriguingly irritating. The story is of domestic details, family dramas, private detectives, country house holidays and occasional chilling atmospheres pointing towards tragedy, all brilliantly told.

9/10

Sue Barraclough

The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann is published in hardback by Serpent's Tail, priced £12.99 (ebook £5.69)

THE Pine Islands is a funny, strange and sad read. When academic Gilbert dreams that his wife has been unfaithful, he reacts by flying from Germany to Japan. Here he only half-intentionally saves a young man named Yosa from a suicide attempt, and together the two embark on a pilgrimage through some of the country's most ancient sites. Marion Poschmann's writing – translated into English by Jen Calleja – is deliciously vivid in its depiction of the forests, mountains and cities through which they pass. The plot is sparse, which will not suit everyone, but this is a refreshing book for the curious reader.

7/10

Alys Key

The Strawberry Thief by Joanna Harris is published in hardback by Orion, priced £20 (ebook £10)

THE Strawberry Thief is the fourth serving in Joanne Harris' Chocolat series. The wind has brought Vianne Rocher back to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes the very town that once rejected her, and eldest daughter Anouk has moved to Paris with her boyfriend. When local florist Narcisse dies he leaves 15-year-old Rosette – Vianne's youngest child – the woodland opposite his home, no-one understands why. Will the reason be uncovered by priest Francis Reynaud, in whom Narcisse has entrusted his final written confession? Secrets bristle with electric sparks as Narcisse's daughter fights for the land, and lets out the shop to the mysterious Morgane Dubois whose front door now holds the same allure as Vianne's chocolate shop did all those years ago. Harris has both brought the magical tale of Vianne full circle, and started a whole new path for the sweet Rosette.

9/10

Rachel Howdle

The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion is published in hardback by Michael Joseph, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99)

SCIENTIST Don Tillman is back to secure his place as one of the most original and endearing characters in the literary world in Graeme Simsion's third instalment in the Rosie series. Following bestsellers The Rosie Project and sequel The Rosie Effect, this novel sees the return of the inimitable Don and his partner Rosie as they navigate parenthood, marriage and careers. Don's "life-contentment graph" is nosediving after an oyster-shucking injury, an unfortunate video that leaves his career on the rocks and his son, Hudson, is showing signs of suspected autism. In true Don style, he decides to open a cocktail bar as a unique solution to his work-life woes. The book offers a touching and intelligent insight into autism, while Don's hilarious escapades keep the laughs coming.

7/10

Holly Williams

NON-FICTION

The Science Of Storytelling by Will Storr is published in hardback by William Collins, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99)

THERE have been plenty of previous attempts to explain to how successful plots and tropes work, but Storr underpins his findings on fiction with facts from research conducted by neuroscientists and psychologists. Based on a course he teaches, he explains that the brain itself is the ultimate storyteller and produces some fascinating examples of how humans have used stories to make sense of the world. The psychology behind why we tell stories, from ancient campfire myths on, and later, the revelations about underlying personality traits that drive characters are fascinating. But it's scientific proof, like brain scans which show heightened neural activity around metaphors, that really hit home, as does evidence that our eyes respond as if the story we are reading is really happening. There are times when you wish Storr could follow some of his own tips to make some sections more palatable, but overall, this is a must-read for would-be writers.

8/10

Derek Watson

Everybody Died, So I Got A Dog by Emily Dean is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £16.99 (ebook £10.99)

I'M NOT usually someone who's drawn to reading non-fiction. I've never owned pets, either. But I had a feeling that Everybody Died, So I Got A Dog, the debut from journalist Emily Dean, would be a touching and inspirational read – and I was right. The topic of grief can be an uncomfortable one to talk or read about, but this memoir tackles loss in such a beautifully candid way, with just the right amount of humour. It's as full of hope as it is heartbreaking. Much of Dean's life is out of the norm º her chaotic childhood (some of her anecdotes caused me to full-on belly laugh), followed by a career surrounded by celebrity friends. But the idea you can learn to rebuild yourself and move on with your life, even after the darkest of times, is something we could all do with being reminded of sometimes. Just a warning: You may find yourself Googling 'how to adopt a dog' once you've finished.

9/10

Georgia Humphreys

CHILDREN'S BOOKS

Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka is published in hardback by Gecko Press, priced £7.99

THIS adorable flip chart book from award-winning Japanese illustrator Tatsuhide Matsuoka is full of humour, and animals' bellies as they leap giddily in the air. It's all about jumping, with Matsuoka (anatomically correctly) drawing the comical 'boings' of grasshoppers, kittens and fish, and, erm, less successfully, snails. Sure, it's not ground-breaking and lacks any kind of plot, but for one to three year olds, it's lovely, funny, and will have them wanting to jump on their beds. Grown-ups, too.

8/10

Ella Walker

Stories For Boys Who Dare To Be Different 2 by Ben Brooks, illustrated by Quinton Winter is published in hardback by Quercus, priced £20 (ebook £11.99)

SUBTITLED 'Further tales of amazing boys who changed the world without killing dragons', this collection of one-page biographies of men who ought to inspire – but often aren't given enough credit – is as bold and brightly coloured as the first instalment. There are names you'll likely recognise, like artist Jackson Pollock, singer Ed Sheeran and Prince Harry. However, it gets more interesting when you stumble across the likes of Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta, novelist Jean Genet, and Ruben Figueroa, whose organisation aims to reunite missing migrants with their families. It dumbs down nothing, with suicide, race, homophobia, abuse, disability, incarceration, police brutality and homelessness recounted matter of factly, and in a way that's accessible, however old the reader.

9/10

Ella Walker

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