Friday, 28 April 2017

Book Reviews: 28 April

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

OUT NOW

the-surreal-life-if-leonora-carringtonTHE SURREAL LIFE OF LEONORA CARRINGTON by Joanna Moorhead (Virago, £20.00)
At 20, former debutante and art student Leonora Carrington fled to Paris to pursue her affair with older, married surrealist Max Ernst. Her father attempted to have Ernst arrested for exhibiting pornography to break up them up. In 1937, in Paris, Carrington’s dark-eyed, spirited beauty enchanted Picasso, Man Ray, André Breton and Dalí. But Carrington rebelled against their vision of her as a muse and created her own surrealist art, a ‘strange Hieronymus Bosch-style world’ teeming with fantastical bird-men, unicorns and sinister, horned beasts.

During her childhood, Moorhead overheard relatives whisper about her scandalous cousin who disappeared decades ago. Intrigued, she flew to Mexico to meet her family’s black sheep and was ‘dazzled’. Aged 89, and still ‘exuding rebellion’, Carrington shared her story. Reclusive and dressed in black, she lived in perpetual darkness, despite being surrounded by flaming colour and bustle. Part art criticism, part biography, this beautifully written, tender book marks the centenary of Carrington’s birth. Although it lacks detachment, as the author is too close to her subject, it makes you wish you had known Carrington. Having spent much of her life impoverished, she died in Mexico, aged 94. By then, she was the last surviving surrealist and her paintings sold for millions of dollars. Highly recommended.
Rebecca Wallersteiner








mirror-shoulder-signalMIRROR, SHOULDER, SIGNAL! by Dorthe Nors, translated by Misha Hoekstra (Pushkin Press, £10.99)
In present-day Copenhagen, Sonja, a 40-something, single oddball, is worrying about the lack of direction in her life. Lonely and dreamy, she misses the touch and company of a boyfriend and feels inadequate when comparing herself to her pretty, married sister who seems to be avoiding her. Sonja decides to make changes, go hiking and take driving lessons. However, after six months of lessons, she still can’t change gears or cope with ‘mirrors and signalling’. It doesn’t help that her driving instructor is ‘insane’. Her equally bonkers masseuse insists that Sonja is repressing her emotions and that hugging tree trunks will help release them. Struggling to pass her driving test, Sonja instead prefers to let her mind wander back to her childhood in rural Jutland – ‘sitting in the rye fields’ with ‘red deer’ or ‘traipsing through the landscape in her yellow clogs’.

Occasionally irritatingly scatty, Sonja is a character one can warm to, while appreciating her quirkiness. Although little happens, Nors’s prose captures the disappointments, loneliness and desires of middle-aged single life. A heartfelt, darkly funny and addictive read that will leave you longing for more. RW











BOOK OF THE WEEK

the-day-that-went-missingSubmerged memories

THE DAY THAT WENT MISSING Missing by Richard Beard (Harvill Secker, £14.99)
On 18 August 1978, Richard Beard’s nine- year-old brother drowned off a Cornish beach. You would think that the details of such a tragedy would be imprinted on the minds of all concerned, but not in this case. Beard himself promptly began to erase all the details of the day from his memory, including the guilty knowledge that he had left his younger brother in difficulty while he swam back to the shore. Meanwhile, his parents were so committed to normality that they carried on with their summer holiday once their son’s funeral had been held.

Beard’s book is a belated attempt to confront the truths he had previously repressed, and it makes for both painful and riveting reading. His quest has about it a palpable sense of danger as he questions both himself, his siblings and his elderly mother – and the more he strays into forbidden territory, the more his account crackles like an unearthed cable.

Particularly fascinating are his reflections on how his brother’s death, banished from conscious thought, has still managed to surface in his fiction (Beard is the author of six novels). But the talent he foregrounds here is ultimately that of keeping emotion at bay – the devastating product of a scalpel-sharp intellect and an English boarding school education.
Stephanie Cross







COFFEE TABLE BOOK

AN ARTIST’S WAR: THE ART AND LETTERS OF MORRIS AND ALICE MEREDITH WILLIAMS by Phyllida Shaw (The History Press, £30)
Morris Meredith Williams was a book illustrator when he joined the 17th Battalion The Welsh regiment during the First World War. Even in the trenches, he carried his sketchbook and pencils. After the armistice, he was commissioned to make paintings for the official record. His sketches inspired, among others, the Scottish National War memorial, on which he collaborated with his sculptor wife, Alice.

Camouflage-Workers-large-canvas--Final-cmyk

Her work, also featured here, includes a stained glass memorial window and depictions of women’s wartime roles for the Imperial War Museum. Williams’s intricate draughtsmanship captures the drama of battle and quiet moments in the soldier’s everyday life, while his pre- and post-war paintings adopt a less muted mood. This is a thoughtfully edited record of a wartime marriage and creative partnership. JC

PAPERBACKS
PAPERBACKS

THESE GREAT LADIES: PEERESSES AND PARIAHS by Lyndsy Spence (The Mitford Society, £9.99)
Spence is a keen biographer of the female, fabulous and faintly scandalous – her subjects have included Diana Mitford and dazzling courtesan Doris Delevingne. Here she gives us pen-portraits of eight women who have blazed a trail with their style, glamour and disregard for convention. Like Mariga Guinness: a German-born ‘princess of nowhere’ with a passion for grand buildings, who would come down to breakfast draped in a towel – ‘a true aristocrat’, as a guest pronounced her approvingly. Although Spence clearly admires her subjects, their moral and emotional blind spots and less endearing eccentricities don’t go unnoticed. Impressively researched and written in an engaging style reminiscent of the finest cocktail-hour, house- party conversation, this is a captivating book that would have benefited from more careful editing. Juanita Coulson

ALL BEHIND YOU, WINSTON: CHURCHILL’S GREAT COALITION 1940-45 by Roger Hermiston (Aurum Press, £9.99)
Coalition governments have had a bad press, associated with the failure of one party to win a majority. But when the Second World War went up a gear with the invasion of France in May 1940, it was the prospect of defeat in battle, rather than at the ballot box, that caused the downfall of Chamberlain’s government. Churchill formed a coalition with Conservative, Labour and Liberal politicians as well as distinguished technocrats: it was this government that steered Britain to victory. Hermiston describes the cabinet members and how they co-operated and bickered throughout the war, pinpointing the ideological differences and personality clashes between Bevin and Morrison, Beaverbrook and Attlee. A great read, although more journalism than history in an academic sense. Stephen Coulson

THE LADY’S RECIPE READS

Inspired by travel and a rich mixed heritage, these books will take your cooking off the beaten track. By Juanita Coulson 
RECIPEREADS

ZOE’S GHANA KITCHEN: TRADITIONAL GHANAIAN RECIPES REMIXED FOR THE MODERN KITCHEN by Zoe Adjonyoh (Mitchell Beazley, £25)
Cook and writer Zoe Adjonyoh, an Irish-Ghanaian Londoner, believes ‘we’re on the cusp of an African food revolution… it’s the last continent of relatively unexplored food in the mainstream domain’. With her successful pop-up restaurant- turned-permanent foodie fixture, she’s at centre of it all. Zoe now brings her modern take on Ghanaian dishes to a wider audience with this colourful, fun and accessible book. From yam yam and plantain peanut curry to traditional ‘rice and peas’ waakye and a moreish coconut and cassava cake, the recipes conjure up sun-drenched markets and lively family al-fresco gatherings.

FRESS: BOLD FLAVOURS FROM A JEWISH KITCHEN by Emma Spitzer (Mitchell Beazley, £25)
Rowing up in Brighton with Jewish parents of Russian and Polish descent, with a passion for travel and a formidable Algerian cook for a mother-in-law, it’s no surprise that Emma Spitzer’s cooking is a melting pot of influences. The MasterChef finalist’s first cookbook is about enjoyment and flavour: ‘Fress’ is Yiddish for ‘eating copiously without restraint’. There are heirloom recipes like Grandpa Bugga’s turkey schnitzel, and light modern dishes: caramelised butternut squash with whipped feta, and sticky pomegranate salmon. A highlight is the chapter on spices and seasonings: Lebanese 7-spice mix, za’atar, dukkah and harissa are a great way to infuse classics with far-flung flavours.

Tweet us your recipe reads @TheLadyMagazine using #ladyrecipereads
 
 


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