Arts

Books: New from Simon May, Abigail Dean, Hafsa Zayyan, Ellery Lloyd, Lesley Parr

How To Be A Refugee, a poignant memoir by philosophy professor and author Simon May

NON-FICTION

How To Be A Refugee by Simon May is published in hardback by Picador, priced £20 (ebook £12.99)

IN THIS engrossing and poignant memoir, philosophy professor Simon May examines the roots of his confused sense of identity and provides a new perspective on some of the 20th century’s darkest days. May, the child of German Jews, was raised in Britain as a Catholic, and was forbidden by his parents to identify as Jewish, German or British. Instead, he inherited from them a sense of being an eternal refugee, forever in search of home but forbidden ever to arrive. To try and unlock this mystery, May embarks on a voyage of discovery, interviewing relatives, researching documents and visiting key scenes from his family’s past. The key lies in his mother and her two sisters, who grew up as fully assimilated Germans, keen to distance themselves from a Jewish background that had proved lethal for many. May later recounts the difficulties of his own journey to German nationality, discovering the spectre of anti-Semitism is still very much with us. A fascinating, moving and troubling read.

8/10

Dan Brotzel

FICTION

Girl A by Abigail Dean is published in hardback by HarperCollins, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99)

THE subject of colossal amounts of hype, Girl A is the story of Alexandra ‘Lex’ Gracie, one of seven children held captive by their menacing father, and the first to escape his clutches. Now grown up and working as a lawyer, Lex must decide, along with her siblings, what to do with the house they’ve inherited – the scene of their hellish childhood – and try to come to terms with her traumatic past. Dark and deftly crafted, Girl A is an impressive debut that tackles a horrifying topic with subtlety and empathy. While it might not be as mind-blowing as the build-up suggests, it’s definitely on a par with some of the greatest psychological thrillers of recent years.

8/10

Katie Wright

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan is published in hardback by Merky Books, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99)

We Are All Birds Of Uganda explores home, identity, love, and loss across the generations in turbulent times. Young, ambitious lawyer Sameer is ready to spread his wings. Faced with choices between his career, family expectations and long-standing friendships, Sam’s journey takes an unexpected turn from London to the vibrant colours, smells and tastes of East Africa. It is there that Sam uncovers his family history as he searches for his place in the world. Unflinchingly honest but tempered by its humanity, this is a novel for our times from the #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize winner. It’s a complex and delicately flavoured dish to be savoured and digested slowly.

8/10

Emily Pennink

People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd is published by Mantle in hardback, priced at £14.99 (ebook £7.99)

PEOPLE Like Her is a darkly cynical indictment of social media. Set in the world of online parenting influencers, the marriage of successful Insta-mum Emmy Jackson and novelist husband Dan is under strain as they grapple with the ethics of making money from sharing their real lives, while a threatening presence imperils their seemingly idyllic existence. Ellery Lloyd – the pseudonym for husband-and-wife writing team Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos – nail the murky details of influencer culture. The story takes its time to get going with a slower-paced first half – and the occasional cliché – but the second part speeds up with twists that keep you guessing until the final page. It’s an entertaining read that will leave you ready for a digital detox.

7/10

Jessica Frank-Keyes

CHILDREN’S

The Valley Of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr is published in paperback by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, priced £6.99 (ebook £5.59)

LESLEY Parr’s debut novel taps into the emotions of wartime evacuation from London; particularly the difficulty of enjoying a new life while desperately missing your old one. Jimmy takes out his anger, loneliness and fear on his little brother and new foster family in a Welsh mining town during World War II – until he finds a skull hidden in a tree and needs help to unravel a decades-old mystery. Comparisons to Goodnight Mister Tom are inevitable, but Parr’s accessible writing and engaging plot is very much aimed at modern pre-teens. It teeters thrillingly on the edge of scary, and covers serious topics like relationships, bullies, prejudices and religion without sounding preachy. Chapter-opening illustrations and secret messages to decipher are extra beautiful touches to keep readers turning the pages.

7/10

Natalie Bowen

BOOK CHARTS

(Hardback Fiction)

1. The City Of Tears by Kate Mosse

2. Luster by Raven Leilani

3. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

4. Girl A by Abigail Dean

5. The Survivors by Jane Harper

6. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

7. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

8. The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor

9. The Shape Of Darkness by Laura Purcell

10. Troy by Stephen Fry

(Compiled by Waterstones)

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