Friday, 02 September 2016

Book Reviews: 2 September

The Lady reviews of the latest books available to buy or download now.

OUT NOW

books-A-Smell-of-BurningA SMELL OF BURNING : The Story Of Epilepsy by Colin Grant (Jonathan Cape, £16.99)

When the author Graham Greene was diagnosed with epilepsy, he noted that – alongside cancer and leprosy – it was the condition that the public feared most. But while the stigma surrounding at least one of these illnesses has all but vanished in the 90 years since Greene’s diagnosis, our response to sufferers of epilepsy is still often coloured by prejudice.

The erroneous belief that epilepsy is linked to mental illness persists, and as recently as 2010 Chinese epileptics were referred to as having deen gan tsing: ‘crazy seizure disorder’. The sight of another human being violently fitting can be terrifying and yet, as Colin Grant writes in this highly readable memoir-cum-medical and cultural history, the epileptic is left terribly vulnerable in the wake of a seizure.

Grant’s interest in the condition is personal: his younger brother, Christopher, died while suffering an epileptic fit at the age of 39. Yet even within the author’s family, the condition caused division: to the brothers’ father, a man born in Jamaica in 1928, Christopher’s ‘head trouble’ was a frightening curse; to their devoutly religious grandmother it was a blessing, an opportunity for Jesus to show his mercy. As he explores changing and competing perspectives, Grant offers a fascinating window into a disorder around which so many questions still remain. Stephanie Cross











books-Evelyn-WaughEvelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited by Philip Eade (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £30)

Fifty years after Evelyn Waugh’s death from a heart attack, aged 62, Philip Eade’s challenging biography draws on 80 previously unpublished love letters, written by Waugh to the beautiful Teresa ‘Baby’ Jungman, one of the wildest of the Bright Young Things with whom he was obsessed in the 1930s. It reveals a softer side to his personality, different from the brilliant, acerbic wit that previous biographers have focused on.

If the book has any drawback, it is its length, and the slow pace of the early chapters detailing Waugh’s boyhood. As a child, Waugh was loved by his mother but neglected by his father, who favoured his older brother. Waugh’s resulting insecurities led to him bullying younger boys, including Cecil Beaton – they became lifelong enemies. Eade examines Waugh’s complex love life and how it influenced his fiction; his homosexual relationships at Oxford inspired Brideshead Revisited. After the breakdown of his first marriage, Waugh proposed to Baby but was turned down.

Waugh’s second marriage, to Laura Herbert, his reserved ‘white mouse’, lasted until his death and produced seven children. Baby acted as godmother to their daughter and, according to Eade, inspired ‘every character – male and female – in Waugh’s masterpiece A Handful Of Dust.’

A fascinating read, although there could have been less about Waugh’s personal life and more about his novels, which were, after all, his greatest achievement and are still widely read. Rebecca Wallersteiner




BOOK OF THE WEEK

books-book-of-the-weekSave or delete?
THE TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, £16.99)
It is 1937 and every night in Leningrad, and across the Soviet Union, people disappear – victims of Stalin’s purges. Roman Markin, an artist, is employed in the Department of Party Propaganda and Agitation to remove images of the ‘purged’ from the official photographs.

To test his loyalty to the Party, Markin is forced to remove his brother from a family photograph following the latter’s arrest and murder. While obscuring his brother’s image into the folds of their father’s suit in the photograph, Markin remembers him by painting his face over the images of others he has edited out. Until one night, the knock is at Markin’s door.

This unsettling opening sets the scene for a collage of short stories about today’s descendants of the purged, ranging from the industrial squalor of Kirovsk in the Arctic Circle, to war-ravaged Chechnya. These precisely crafted tales weave together the lives of criminals, mercenaries, lovers and artists throughout modern Russia. As the book progresses, they come together in Dickensian fashion: redemption combined with closure.

Marra’s sharp prose is alternatively ironic and poetic, giving a sympathetic voice to the most dispossessed characters, although some of the dialogue is too unconsciously American to be convincing.

A memorable book on memory and how we try to remember.
Stephen Coulson





COFFEE TABLE BOOK

books-coffee-table-book

100 YEARS OF ARCHITECTURE by Alan Powers (Laurence King, £30)
The period between the early 20th century and the present day has seen some of the most radical developments in architecture, with technology, postmodernism and globalisation expanding the influences that shape the built environment. This stunningly designed book features the key movements, buildings and creative powers of the period. From the curves and contrasting textures of Gaudí’s Gothic revival-influenced modernism to the stark, imposing structures of Le Corbusier’s Brutalism and Cook’s intriguing zoomorphic details, the images present a rich visual record of the period, while the accompanying commentary explores the interplay of ideas, sociopolitical change and architectural design.
Juanita Coulson 


PAPERBACKS

books-paperbacks

THE BIG CAT MAN: An Autobiography by Jonathan Scott (Bradt Travel Guides, £20)
Television presenter, award-winning photographer and artist Jonathan Scott shares his insights, adventures and anecdotes from an extraordinary, enviable life spent in the wild places of the world, particularly among the great feline predators of the Maasai Mara.

His is also a safari life, in the literal Swahili meaning of the word (‘journey’), for the Big Cat Diaries presenter describes his decades-long battle with dissociation, a condition eventually alleviated by the spiritual peace he found with his beloved wife Angie.

It all makes for an engaging, thoughtprovoking read, presented by Bradt Travel Guides in truly sumptuous style, richly illustrated with Scott’s own sketches and photographs.
Richard Tarrant

THE SANTIAGO SISTERS by Victoria Fox (Mira, £7.99)
Calida and Teresita are Argentinian twins separated in their teens when Teresita is adopted by wealthy British actress Simone Geddes. As the beautiful Teresita becomes more successful, her abandoned sibling pursues her own career as a photographer. Apart for years, they are finally reunited by a vengeful attack.

Fiery, fast-paced and filled from start to finish with debauchery and shocking revelations, Fox’s whirlwind novel is hard to put down. Peppered with stunningly beautiful characters, exotic settings and a twisted plot full of betrayal, lies and lost love, it will have you hooked from page one.

If you are taking a late summer holiday, pack this book: it’s the ultimate beach read.
Rebecca Maxted


THE LADY’S RECIPE READS

From Levantine feasts to elegant comfort food: great easy recipes for late-summer entertaining. By Juanita Coulson

books-recipe-reads

THE PALOMAR COOKBOOK by The Palomar (Mitchell Beazley, £25)
The first book from the team behind The Palomar restaurant in Soho, this stylish tome is a celebration of multicultural family cooking in the melting pot that is today’s London. It’s about the meeting of heritage and modernity, ‘food that tells stories, of where we’re from and where we’re going,’ as Layo Paskin writes in his introduction.

The recipes draw on the culinary traditions of Southern Europe, North Africa and the Levant, interpreting them in an innovative way. Liven up your meze board with the likes of spiced olives with rose petals and balsamic vinegar, or try Jerusalem Mess, a Middle Eastern version of the favourite English summer pudding. Taste-bud travel at its finest.

TOAST HASH ROAST MASH: Real Food For Every Time Of Day by Dan Doherty (Mitchell Beazley, £20)
This is the go-to book for when you crave comfort food, but with an elegant twist, maximum flavour and minimal effort. Dan Doherty follows up his first cookbook, named after Duck & Waffle, the popular City restaurant where he is executive chef, with one dedicated to the favourite dishes he cooks for family and friends.

Refreshingly un-cheffy, the recipes are based around eggs, all things on toast, hearty hashes, quick savouries and sweet bakes. There is an inspired chapter on dishes to beat a hangover – the Ultimate Griddled Cheese Sandwich works a treat, and can be made in the most befuddled of morning-after states. Ricotta, pear and honey on toast is a brunch classic in the making.

Tweet us your recipe reads @TheLadyMagazine using #ladyrecipereads


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