Friday, 25 November 2016

Book Reviews: 25 November

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


Gotham-RisingGOTHAM Rising: New York in The 1930s by Jules Stewart (IB Tauris, £20)
The default narrative of interwar New York City tells of two starkly contrasting decades riven by the catastrophic Wall Street Crash of October 1929. Before it, the roaring Twenties of Deco decadence – eternal summers of flappers and jazz, bootleggers and speakeasies. After it, the Great Depression – bitter winters of breadlines and soup kitchens; the homeless gathered around drum fires in Central Park.

In Gotham rising, however, born-and-bred New Yorker Jules Stewart delivers a welcome re-evaluation of the latter decade, a time of unparalleled transformation in the Big Apple. As if to damn hubris and defy depression, the majestic Chrysler building opened its distinctive Deco doors in 1930, only to be supplanted as the world’s tallest skyscraper by the Empire State Building the following year.

Parks, highways, bridges and other New Deal public-works projects sprang up all over the city. Charismatic mayor Fiorello La Guardia smashed the corrupt politics of Tammany Hall and took on the mob. George Gershwin, Fred Astaire and Ethel Merman dazzled audiences on broadway, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman rocked the Cotton Club and Carnegie Hall with big band swing, and the ‘Harlem renaissance’ in art and literature helped establish a new black cultural identity.

Stewart deftly weaves together these compelling tales in a vivid portrait of this iconic city in its defining era.
Richard Tarrant

Portable-ShelterA PORTABLE SHELTER by Kirsty Logan (Vintage, £8.99)
Brave and engaging, this collection of short stories from young Scottish writer Logan explores both mythological and philosophical themes with real aplomb. It centres on a series of ‘truths’ that both Liska and Ruth share with their unborn child. Swearing that they will not tell stories, each character hides the telling of their tales from the other; Liska while ruth is asleep and Ruth while Liska is out at work. This cleverly allows for an engaging and intimate relationship to develop with the reader as they are brought in to share in their secrecy.

The movement between Liska’s and Ruth’s tales, and between the realistic and the fantastical, provides the narrative with a gentle and comforting lilt. This collection thrives on Logan’s wild and vivid imagination and showcases the flexibility of her writing style, switching between lyrical and colloquial – again allowing the reader to be brought into the characters’ intimate confidence.

Original in both style and concept, logan’s personable folklore- inspired stories are a joy to read and hugely evocative, stirring ideas of what a home really means.
Lilly Cox


Mr-Olivers-Object-of-DesireNeeds and wants

MR OLIVER'S OBJECT OF DESIRE by VG Lee (Ward Wood Publishing, £10.99)
Brilliantly capturing the atmosphere and mores of London and Yorkshire in the 1970s, VG Lee’s latest is a witty study of desire at cross-purposes, across generations and conventional gender roles. Mr Oliver, general manager of a hallowed Oxford Street store, is a fastidious dresser, buttoned up in every sense of the word. But as he turns 50, his precision- tailored life comes crashing down. The catalyst is Claire Daker – young and irreverent, in pleated miniskirts and knee socks – the trigger of his obsession and a full-scale crisis.

Adrift without a job, Mr Oliver meets businesswoman Doreen Mildmay, who steamrollers him into a relationship. Over a holiday in her ostentatiously nouveau mansion, Mr Oliver tackles his midlife crisis, surrounded by a cast of equally complex, not always likeable but unfailingly compelling characters. Doreen’s troubled sons; a dashing family friend soon to explode out of the closet, and Doreen herself: a go-getter who can’t get the one thing she really wants – requited passion.

The full details of Mr Oliver’s downfall are revealed at a teasing pace. For all his misogyny and misplaced anger, it is impossible not to warm to (and also want to slap) him. The same applies to Doreen, at once maternal and predatory, bullish and vulnerable. insightful and spiced with bittersweet humour, these dispatches from the coalface of middle age are a hugely entertaining read.


PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST by Anna Reynolds, Lucy Peter and Martin Clayton (Royal Collection Trust, £29.95)
Accompanying Buckingham Palace’s exhibition, this lavishly illustrated catalogue takes us on a delightful whirl through portraits and self-portraits of artists collected by royals through the centuries. There is David Hockney’s luminous self-portrait created on an iPad, David Dawson’s photograph of Lucian Freudpainting The Queen, a bankrupt rembrandt’s melancholy self-portrait, and cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson’s 1810 satirical watercolour of the bohemian artist’s life.


On a darker note, Cristofano Allori painted his own handsome head in his Judith With The head Of Holofernes (1613) – chopped off and gripped by its curly hair, in the hands of his tempestuous ex-lover. Highly recommended. Rebecca Wallersteiner 


WHO KNEW?: Answers To Questions About Classical Music You Never Thought To Ask by Robert A Cutietta (OUP, £10.99)

Ever wondered why it is not the done thing to clap between movements of a classical work? Or why orchestras tune to an oboe? American academic, music educator and broadcaster Cutietta unravels these and many more musical mysteries in his hugely entertaining and informative book, inspired by questions from listeners to his radio programme. The average aficionado will learn much, but even seasoned concert-goers and the musically trained are bound to find interesting insights and things they didn’t know. He is particularly brilliant on the intense microcosm of the symphony orchestra – ‘a social culture, a political system… a business and a monarchy all at the same time’ – tracing its often perplexing traditions and rules to their historical roots. Learned but lively and accessible, bar the occasional dense technical passage: a perfect gift for inquisitive music lovers. Juanita Coulson

THE LAST DAYS OF LEDA GREY by Essie Fox (Orion, £13.99)
In the sweltering summer of 1976, young journalist Ed Peters comes across a haunting photograph at a Brighton Lanes junk shop, showing a mysterious young woman called Leda Grey, muse and lover to silent movie director Charles Beauvois. The more that Ed uncovers about Leda, and when it transpires she is still alive, the more absorbed he becomes in her story and mysterious past. Fox’s descriptive passages are gripping and beautiful but, especially at the beginning, some of the dialogue feels a little contrived, like a script rather than real conversations. An enjoyable novel, but it would make an even better play. Helena Gumley- Mason


Our pick of the year’s cookbooks make for perfect presents – or inspiration for your festive entertaining. By Juanita Coulson



The ultimate modern cooking bible: an ideal gift for children who are flying the nest, but also an essential reference book for every kitchen.

JAMIE OLIVER’S CHRISTMAS COOKBOOK by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph, £26)
The cheeky chef shows he’s still got it with failsafe recipes for the festive season: from smart starters to edible gifts and all the trimmings.

SIMPLE: EFFORTLESS FOOD, BIG FLAVOURS by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley, £25)
Brilliant for those who are short of time but still want fabulous food: recipes involving minimum fuss but providing maximum impact.

PRIDE AND PUDDING: The History Of British Puddings, Savoury And Sweet by Regula Ysewijn (Murdoch Books, £20)
Social history meets cookery writing in this charming illustrated book on the quintessentially British thing of joy that is pudding.



THE WEEKEND BAKER by Paul Hollywood (Michael Joseph, £20)
The Great British Bake Bff judge takes inspiration from cities around the world for cakes and pastries with cosmopolitan flair.

A HANDFUL OF FLOUR: Recipes From Shipton Mill by Tess Lister (Headline, £27)
It’s the flour of choice for top bakers and chefs, and its makers at Shipton Mill make a strong case for why good stoneground flour matters.

PIERRE HERME: CHOCOLATE by Pierre Hermé and Sergio Coimbra (Flammarion, £40)

Sculptural and intricate chocolate creations from a master of the art, with striking photography – but not for beginners or those in a rush.



CENTRAL by Virgilio Martinez and Nicholas Gill (Phaidon, £39.95)
Peruvian food is hot, hot, hot right now, but there is more to it than ceviche, as this book by the chef at lima’s celebrated central restaurant shows.

COOKING WITH LOULA: Greek Recipes From My Family To Yours by Alexandra Stratou (Artisan, £20)
Authentic Greek home cooking, as inspired by the author’s grandmother – brilliant recipes accompanied by moving reminiscences.

OTTOLENGHI: THE COOKBOOK by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury Press, £27)
This updated edition of the influential classic is a must for fans of Middle Eastern flavours and healthy dishes with flair – great for vegetarian ideas.

THE SAFFRON TALES: Recipes From The Persian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan (Bloomsbury Publishing, £26)
This vibrant travelogue- cum-cookbook is a fragrant journey through iran’s culinary heritage – with top notes of rose water, pomegranate, saffron and dried limes.

SUMMERS UNDER THE TAMARIND TREE: Recipes And Memories From Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani (Frances Lincoln, £20)
Original dishes from contemporary Pakistan, served up with usmani’s evocative recollections of her childhood in the country.



NADIYA’S BAKE ME A STORY: 15 Stories And Recipes For Children by Nadiya Hussain (Hodder Children’s Books, £14.99)
Easy, tasty recipes that children can make, and delightful stories to read while they’re cooking, from the Gbbo sensation and baker of The Queen’s birthday cake. Pumpkin and spice flapjacks, anyone?

AROUND THE WORLD WITH THE INGREEDIES: A Taste Adventure by Zoë Bather and Joe Sharpe (Laurence King, £12.99)
A godsend for parents of fussy eaters, this tale of a round-the-world taste journey aims to stimulate curiosity for new flavours and textures. Good luck.

THE KEW GARDENS CHILDREN’S COOKBOOK: Plant, Cook, Eat! by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig (Wayland Books, £12.99)
Colourful, engaging and informative, great for teaching children about the whole soil-to-plate journey – with simple tips for growing vegetables, plus yummy recipes.

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