Book reviews: Five new lockdown reads for readers of all ages to enjoy
:: Find You First by Linwood Barclay is published in hardback by HQ, priced £20 (ebook £9.99).
YOU know you're in safe hands when you settle down with a Linwood Barclay novel, and Find You First is no different. Layered with nuance, in it Barclay turns the idea of someone searching for their biological father completely on its head – this time it's father and tech billionaire Miles looking for his possible children, all of whom are suddenly in grave danger.
A vibrant cast of characters come from all walks of life in a relatable cross-section of society, posing questions about money, power, reputation and happiness. Meanwhile, cleverly concurrent plots play out the dichotomy of good and evil – an exercise in the age-old 'nature vs nurture' debate.
This classic race-against-time thriller is somewhat predictable, but superbly entertaining and deliciously enjoyable nonetheless.
:: Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford is published in hardback by Faber & Faber, priced £16.99 (£6.99).
IN 1944, a bomb lands on the Woolworths on Bexford High Street and five children are instantly killed – atomised in seconds. Yet, in another timeline, the bomb never lands and Jo, Val, Vern, Alec and Ben continue living through the rest of the 20th century, and all the social, sexual and technological transformations that come with it. They love, marry, separate, divorce and are bereaved, with five stories told through snapshots spanning sixty years.
Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford is uplifting and bittersweet, and the writing reads like poetry at times. With light woven throughout, it is a moving story of missed opportunities, second chances and unfulfilled potential.
:: A Net For Small Fishes by Lucy Jago is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £16.99 (ebook £11.89)
IN HER first work of fiction, biographer Lucy Jago gives a fresh take on a poisoning that threw the court of King James I into disarray. Instead of focusing on the scandal itself, Jago follows the lives of the supposed villains: the Countess of Essex Frances Howard, and her friend Anne Turner.
The author's focus on the relationship between the two women – with no holds barred – does not quite promote sympathy for the pair, but still lays bare the crippling patriarchal society of the early 1600s.
While not entirely foreseeable, with hindsight, the twists do seem a little inevitable. Nevertheless, it's perfect for those looking for a gripping historical fiction title.
NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE WEEK
:: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know by Adam Grant is published in hardback by WH Allen, priced £20 (ebook £9.99). Available now
ORGANISATIONAL psychologist Adam Grant wants us to maintain an open mind and think like a scientist. With examples of how we might effectively challenge our own or others' ill-founded beliefs, the emphasis of Think Again is on cases where confidence outweighs competence.
However, it feels like something of an afterthought when he does mention the reverse scenario, such as studies showing that women typically underestimate their leadership skills while men are more likely to overestimate them.
Given that those of us who most overrate our abilities are least likely to be aware of it, and those with the least privilege are arguably more likely to question their own perspective, some readers might be left wondering whether the need to rethink applies to them or not.
CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK
:: Antiracist Baby by Ibram X Kendi, illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky, is published in paperback by Puffin, priced £7.99 (ebook £5.99)
IBRAM X Kendi is a leading voice in the fight for racial equality, and has written a children's version of his book How To Be An Antiracist. With cute and inclusive illustrations, it shows the simple ways little ones can be antiracist – from celebrating all our differences to confessing when they've been racist.
Of course, some of the issues raised will be too advanced for a baby to grasp, but the point is to start thinking about them from a young age and to challenge any unconscious biases.
The book ends with useful notes for parents and carers on how to encourage positive conversations around race from a young age, and a glossary explaining what words like 'race' and 'racism' actually mean.
With a fun rhyming scheme, it's the perfect picture book if you want to actively raise a child as antiracist, but don't know where to start.
BOOK CHARTS FOR THE WEEK ENDING FEBRUARY 13
1. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
2. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
3. Slough House by Mick Herron
4. Luster by Raven Leilani
5. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
6. Girl A by Abigail Dean
7. A Bright Ray Of Darkness by Ethan Hawke
8. No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
9. Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford
10. The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths
(Compiled by Waterstones)