Friday, 20 January 2017

Book Reviews: 20 January

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


IstanbulISTANBUL: A TALE OF THREE CITIES by Bettany Hughes (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25)
As a result of the tragic recent events in Istanbul, far fewer visitors will get to appreciate this most extraordinary and achingly beautiful city in 2017. At least, though, the year brings a magisterial new biography of this urban icon, gateway from West to East, and capital of the Late Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires – the ‘city of the world’s desire’ and ‘diamond between two sapphires’.

Bettany Hughes transports the reader on a magic-carpet-like journey through 8,000 years of history, introducing hitherto unknown Neolithic origins and breathing life into the city’s many incarnations – Lygos, Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul – in a vivid narrative dotted with colourful characters and fascinating tangents on subjects such as Janissaries, Gallipoli and the Great Siege of Vienna.

Perhaps the only disap- pointment is that the scope is simply so vast that monumental events, such as the 13-century civil war and the Ottoman conquest of 1453, are necessarily summarised in a few short chapters. This remains, though, the quintessential historical overview of a city racing up the modern political agenda.
Richard Tarrant

LongLive-Great-BarfieldLONG LIVE GREAT BARDFIELD: The Autobiography Of Tirzah Garwood by Tirzah Garwood (Persephone Books, £12.00)
Eileen ‘Tirzah’ Garwood (1908-51) became part of the diverse artistic circle centred around Edward Bawden, which thrived at Great Bardfield, in Essex, in the 1930s. A wood engraver and designer of exquisite marbled papers, she enjoyed early success.

This touching, witty and perceptive memoir, (edited by Garwood’s family), was written after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, in 1942. At Eastbourne School of Art, Garwood was taught by artist Eric Ravilious, whom she married, aged 22, despite her parents’ disapproval as ‘he wasn’t quite a gentleman’ – they had three children. Garwood’s achievements became eclipsed by Ravilious’s brighter star. Illustrated with many wood engravings and photographs of interest (particularly one of Ravilious, who was killed serving as a war artist), it is beautifully written.
Rebecca Wallersteiner


Little-DeathsThe guilty look

LITTLE DEATHS by Emma Flint (Picador, £12.99)
This first novel draws on a sensational 1960s crime: the murder by a young mother, Alice Crimmins, of her two children in Queens, New York. In Flint’s reimagining, Alice becomes Ruth, a twenty-something cocktail waitress who, when we first meet her, is already serving a prison sentence for killing her daughter and son. But almost at once the novel rewinds to the sweltering summer days before and immediately after the children’s deaths, taking us both inside the police investigation and the mind of Pete Wonicke, a wet-behind-the-ears reporter who can’t shake off the feeling that Ruth is innocent.

Little Deaths is part police procedural, part atmospheric homage to the classic noir of Raymond Chandler. But it’s something more besides. Ruth’s apparent refusal to grieve, her short skirts, heavy make-up, drinking and many lovers are what make her, in the eyes of the press and public, so evidently guilty, and it’s how this damning narrative is constructed that is at the novel’s heart.

Moreover, it is not just Ruth’s showy façade that Flint probes: she effectively exposes the disappointments, resentments, fantasies and lies nursed by nearly all those caught up in the tragedy. A taut yet empathetic debut – and a reminder that ‘post-truth’ is nothing new.
Stephanie Cross


Since its first iconic panther brooches in 1914, the legendary jewellery house of Cartier has always had the power to bring beautiful objects to life, creating jewels that become characters in their own right, like those owned by the late Duchess of Windsor.

Cartier magician p62 63The magic of light: a bracelet from the Cartier Magicien collection

This luxurious book showcases Cartier’s latest collection, inspired by the magical play of light on precious stones. The pieces are at once fresh and faithful to the house’s enduring themes: there are sparkling butterflies, prowling panthers, intricate abstract patterns, the illusion of colour in clear diamonds. In the absence of the real thing, what could be better to brighten up dull January days than browsing through this stunning display of jewels? JC


NEGROLAND: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson (Granta, £8.99)
‘Negroland’, according to Pulitzer Prize- winning critic Margo Jefferson, is ‘a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty’, located in the suburbs of Chicago, where she was born in 1947 to a paediatrician father and socialite mother. Her extraordinary book is a dissection of this milieu and, with it, race, class and gender at a pivotal moment in American history. But to call it a memoir is to sell it short: Jefferson constantly chafes at the edges of the form, refusing to play by the rules in a way that gently but absolutely prohibits complacency on the reader’s part. Shortlisted for the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize, this is a slim book, but one that makes a deep and lasting impression. Stephanie Cross

NINEVEH by Henrietta Rose-Innes (Aardvark Bureau, £8.99)
Set in contemporary Cape Town, this exquisitely written novel has an unforgettable heroine. Thirty-something tomboy Katya is a humane pest controller, relocating rather than killing ‘the unlovely and the unloved’. She inherited her trade – though not her methods – from her erratic, dangerous father. She can wrangle mongooses, caterpillars, ticks and even the odd baboon, but a new assignment at the luxury estate of the title poses a different challenge: Katya must confront the pests of her own past. Intricate descriptions of the natural and built environment, teeming with arresting imagery, find beauty even in desolate places. The plot crawls along unhurriedly, but the story is utterly captivating. Juanita Coulson

THE BLACK NOTEBOOK by Patrick Modiano, translated by Mark Polizzotti (MacLehose Press, £8.99)
A reclusive, elderly Parisian writer looks back on the enigmas of his youth in this intensely atmospheric novel by the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for literature. As Jean walks the seedier streets of Paris, armed with an old notebook full of scribbled names and dates, he attempts to unravel haunting events from his twenties. His memories are enacted in a twilit world of down-at-heel cafés and dubious hotels – some long gone, some still standing, they are liminal places where past and present overlap. A compelling meditation on identity and memory, and an evocative portrait of the city. JC


Two books that take the sting out of dieting and detoxing. By Juanita Coulson


There are brave souls out there who are still embracing ‘dry January’. I am not one of them, but I commend the effort. And to help you stay on the wagon till the end of the month, I thoroughly recommend this book, full of booze-free ideas to rescue you from dull lemonade hell. An international wine judge and writer, McGinn seems an unlikely author for a book on temperance, but was inspired by her own dry January experience (to stave off ‘wine face’). The result of her quest for ‘a grown-up drink, without alcohol’ is this collection of recipes for stylish mocktails and cordials, and her pick of the best alcohol-free spirits, wines and beers.

THE LOUISE PARKER METHOD: LEAN FOR LIFE: The Cookbook by Louise Parker (Mitchell Beazley, £20)
Weight-loss guru to the stars, Louise Parker has made her name with sensible, achievable eating plans – while diet fads come and go, she has remained a household name for years. A follow-up to her bestselling first book, this cookbook summarises her food and lifestyle philosophy (‘think successfully’, ‘eat beautifully’, ‘live well’, ‘work out intelligently’), and brings you a selection of no-fuss, exciting recipes. Parker advocates a balanced diet based on whole foods, plenty of exercise and portion control. Her recipes are strong on flavour and enjoyment, including the likes of huevos rancheros and seafood Bouillabaisse.

Tweet us your recipe reads @TheLadyMagazine using #ladyrecipereads

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