Life

5 new books to read this week

This week’s bookcase includes reviews of Long Island by Colm Tóibín and Evenings And Weekends by Oisín McKenna.

New books to pick up this week
New books to pick up this week

Colm Tóibín is back with his long-awaited follow-up to Brooklyn…

Fiction

1. Long Island by Colm Tóibín is published in hardback by Picador, priced £20 (ebook £9.99). Available May 23

Colm Tóibín’s celebrated Brooklyn offered an understated look at the 1950s immigrant experience and what constitutes ‘belonging’. Its anticipated sequel, Long Island, maintains the low-key approach but fast-forwards to the 1970s. Now settled into Italian family life in the titular Long Island, a shocking revelation prompts protagonist Eilis to reevaluate her now suffocating existence as the ‘Irish outsider’, and to reflect on sacrifices made in pursuit of a crumbling American Dream. Running from America, Eilis tries to reconnect with small-town Irish life but a previous dilemma with potentially seismic ramifications within the close-knit community still looms. Avoiding grandiloquent language or lyrical descriptions of the Irish landscape, Long Island nevertheless hums with the haunting energy of lives unlived, suppressed passions and packs a sustained emotional punch. The characters can be infuriating, but with an assured and poignant tone of quiet resignation woven throughout, this is absolutely riveting writing.


10/10


(Review by Amanda Willard)

2. Evenings And Weekends by Oisín McKenna is published in hardback by Fourth Estate, priced £16.99 (ebook £8.99). Available now

It’s the hot summer of 2019 in London, there’s a whale stranded in the Thames and the characters in Oisín McKenna’s debut novel are struggling with lives in which they feel trapped and powerless. Maggie is unexpectedly pregnant and living in a damp flat that she won’t be able to afford with a baby, so is planning a reluctant return to Basildon with partner Ed, who is far from ready to settle down. Maggie’s best friend Phil is besotted with Keith, a housemate in his warehouse commune, but can’t reveal his true feelings because Keith is dating Louis. Meanwhile, Phil’s so wrapped up in his own life that he hasn’t noticed his mum Rosaleen has something important to tell him. A painfully realistic tale of thwarted dreams and how difficult it can be to show our true selves.


7/10


(Review by Beverly Rouse)

3. Black Shield Maiden by Willow Smith and Jess Hendel is published in hardback by Del Rey, priced £20 (ebook £11.99). Available now

Black Shield Maiden is Willow Smith’s first foray into fiction – yes, that Willow Smith, the singer and activist from a very famous family, penned alongside writer Jess Hendel. It’s historical fantasy through and through – something you can imagine setting BookTok alight. It breathes new life into typical Viking stories that put white men front and centre, when a young Ghanaian girl is wrested from her family and sent into captivity in a strange Northern land. The girl goes by Yafeu and can’t deny her warrior spirit, finding a strange new path in her friendship with an unassuming princess. The story itself is imaginative, but the writing is a touch clunky, and has a scene worthy of a Bad Sex in Fiction Award. This might strike a chord for those who can get lost in the imaginative story (and able to look past the writing), and there’s no denying it’s ripe for a sweeping on-screen adaptation.


6/10


(Review by Prudence Wade)

Non-fiction

4. Cricket In Poetry: Run-Stealers, Gatlings And Graces by Bob Doran is published in hardback by Pitch Publishing, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

As the joy of another cricket season dawns, what better time to recall some of the poetry this unparalleled sport has prompted. Bob Doran takes a well-researched canter through the history of cricket on these shores through two famous poems – Vitai Lampada by Henry Newbolt and At Lord’s by Francis Thompson. Newbolt’s line “Play up! play up! and play the game!” moves uncomfortably from cricket field to battlefield, while Thompson’s “O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!” is a dreamy recollection of his favourite opening pair. Doran charts the vastly contrasting fortunes of Newbolt and Thompson, one a well-heeled if unconventional member of literary circles and the other a drug-taking, Jack the Ripper suspect. It also provides an easy to consume view of cricket’s development across more than 300 years, and picks up plenty of other verses and characters along the way. A quick and easy read, but one a cricket lover will enjoy for a few hours if rain ever stops play this summer.


8/10


(Review by Pete Clifton)

Children’s book of the week

5. Finding Alfie: A D-Day Story by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman is published in hardback by Scholastic, priced £14.99 (ebook £14.99). Available now

Let Michael Morpurgo take you on a journey as he seeks answers to a years-long family mystery. As a child, he admired a painting of a boat when he visited his Aunty Iris and was told tales of her Alfie, who promised to return to her but never did after the Second World War. What happened to Alfie? Some years later, Morpurgo goes in search of piecing the past together on an empowering trail of discovery. Finding Alfie is beautifully illustrated and written in an uncomplicated way that shines a light on the power of memory. Storytelling is one way we can teach children how our brave men and women fought for our freedom. Morpurgo, who was Children’s Laureate between 2003 and 2005, brings this narrative to life ahead of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in a powerful tribute to all those to whom we owe our gratitude.


8/10


(Review by Karen Shield)

BOOK CHARTS FOR THE WEEK ENDING MAY 11

HARDBACK (FICTION)


1. You Are Here by David Nicholls


2. Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne


3. The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo


4. The Puzzle Wood by Rosie Andrews


5. They Thought I Was Dead by Peter James


6. The Instruments Of Darkness by John Connolly


7. Funny Story by Emily Henry


8. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon


9. Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros


10. Lore Olympus: Volume Six by Rachel Smyth


(Compiled by Waterstones)

HARDBACK (NON-FICTION)


1. So Good by Emily English


2. How To Eat 30 Plants A Week by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


3. Less by Patrick Grant


4. Bored Of Lunch Healthy Air Fryer: 30 Minute Meals by Nathan Anthony


5. Knife by Salman Rushdie


6. Somebody Told Me by Danny Wallace


7. The Garden Against Time by Olivia Laing


8. A Better Second Half by Liz Earle


9. An African History Of Africa by Zeinab Badawi


10. You Never Know by Tom Selleck & Ellis Henican


(Compiled by Waterstones)

AUDIOBOOKS (FICTION AND NON-FICTION)


1. Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams


2. My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes


3. The Vanishing of Margaret Small by Neil Alexander


4. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse


5. Atomic Habits by James Clear


6. Rebel Rising by Rebel Wilson


7. Ultra-Processed People by Chris van Tulleken


8. None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell


9. Unstressable by Mo Gawdat & Alice Law


10. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman


(Compiled by Audible)