Books: JoJo Moyes, Heather Morris, Emma Donoghue, Michael Rosen
BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Giver Of Stars by JoJo Moyes is published in hardback by Michael Joseph, priced £20 (ebook £9.99)
WHILE JoJo Moyes's Me Before You series was weepy, feel-good escapism, her new standalone novel The Giver Of Stars, is escapism in the form of adventure and sisterhood. Struggling with the boredom of English teatime small talk and the burden of behaving 'properly', Alice marries American Bennett Van Cleve in an attempt to rescue herself. But upon arriving in his small hometown in Kentucky, in Depression-era America, the charms of marriage quickly dissipate, particularly in the face of her new father-in-law. And so, when a chance to join the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky (a group that really did once exist) – a band of women who supply books to those living remotely throughout the town's surrounding woods and mountains – she saddles up, with the strong, tenacious Margery for company. Knowing, witty and loving, the relationships of these women as they build in confidence and confront the restrictions society and marriage seek to shackle them with is compelling and nourishing. It's a novel with real depth and feeling, hinging on the support to be found in books, as well as each other, while also touching on worker's rights, racism, environmentalism and education.
Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris is published in hardback by Bonnier Books, priced £14.99 (ebook £6.47)
CONVICTED for corroborating with the Nazis, after spending three years at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Cilka Klein is forced to spend the next decade of her life at a Soviet gulag in the Arctic Circle. This much-anticipated sequel to The Tattooist Of Auschwitz focusses on the brutal gulag system but, unlike its predecessor, this book is not based on first-hand experience. Never the less, it is well-written, and well-researched. It is captivating, devastating and even darker than The Tattooist. It will make you despair at the cruelty of humanity, but leave you in awe of the strength of the human spirit. It's not necessarily a book you will 'enjoy' reading – it will leave you emotionally drained by the time you have raced to the final page – but Cilka's story is a powerful one.
Akin by Emma Donoghue is published in hardback by Picador, priced £16.99 (ebook £8.99)
EMMA Donoghue's bestselling 2010 novel Room – later an acclaimed film – told the story of a mother and son living, enduring and bonding in captivity. Akin, Donoghue's latest work, is also a two-hander; here the main characters are relatives, but meet as odd-couple strangers. Widowed New Yorker Noah Selvaggio, almost 80, is returning to Nice having left France as a young boy. Days before he flies he is contacted by social services and asked to look after his great-nephew Michael, whose carers are now dead or imprisoned. The chalk-and-cheese pair not only have to deal with their interpersonal asymmetry but also jet-lag and culture shock when they reach the Riviera. Cutting through that disharmony, though, is a mystery surrounding Noah's French past. Tech-savvy teen Michael is intrigued, and gradually the relations bond. We have seen mismatched travel companions before, but Donoghue's mesmeric writing adds another dimension to the trope.
Voices Of History: Speeches That Changed The World by Simon Sebag Montefiore is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99)
IN THIS anthology of speeches, history heavyweight Simon Sebag Montefiore helps the reader experience the words of people who shaped events and influenced emotions of their time. Speakers span the ages, from Cleopatra in 30 BC and Socrates in 399 BC to Greta Thunberg in 2018. Montefiore's passionate introduction defines what makes a 'good' speech and unpacks how technological changes leave their imprint – television, for example, and now social media and podcasts. Speeches are contextualised against their historical and social background. They are are grouped together into themes including Terror, Freedom and Power. Reading such powerful words from history urges us to pause and consider that the household names disrupting and influencing society today can so easily be folded in with the Boudiccas and Alexander the Greats. It's a book that'll make an excellent gift, or an exciting window on the past for those who love to analyse society and history.
CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK
Michael Rosen's Book Of Play by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Charlotte Trounce, is published in hardback by Wellcome Collection, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.97)
POET and performer, author of over a hundred books, including We're Going On A Bear Hunt and former children's laureate, Michael Rosen advocates the importance of play for everyone, young and old. The book accompanies an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London and has a friendly, lively tone as every aspect of play is explored: Role-play, dreaming, ad-libbing, dressing up and cosplay, toys, art, stories and wordplay. The value of play for developing creativity and its therapeutic role is highlighted and the views of psychiatrists, philosophers and scientists are brought in to back this up. One thing about the book that is not playful is the inclusion of illustrated activities, not always related to the chapters they find themselves in, that interrupt the reader mid-sentence at regular intervals. The book actively encourages jotting down notes, comments and doodles, but the format and paper do not invite participation.