Book Reviews: 20 June

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


Books-June20-ASongForIssyBradley-176A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY by Carys Bray (Hutchinson, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
A Mormon family has its beliefs tested to the limit following the death of the youngest child, Issy. The other family members are forced to confront their religious convictions as emotions run high: adolescent volatility jostles with parental guilt and the open, confused hopes of the next youngest, Jacob. Their outlooks often clash, but all have two feelings in common: grief and doubt. The author, herself a former Mormon, presents an insightful look at the faith and its impact in times of trial. She is careful not to be overly didactic. The language is casual, the characters involved but not complicated. Each brings an approach to the faith that is personal, and it is possible to empathise with them quickly.

Bray’s debut novel is rewarding: touching and informative, it highlights the importance of an unbreakable family tie.
Philippa Williams

Books-June20-ForOnceInMyLife-176FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE by Marianne Kavanagh (Text Publishing Company, £10.99; offer price, £9.89)
What if you find your soulmate too late in life, when following your heart’s lead will result in collateral damage all round? Mutual friends told Tess and George, who were at Manchester University at the same time but never met, that they would get on, but fate conspires to ensure their paths never cross.

Ten years on they do, and it’s like tuning a crackly radio – suddenly, everything is perfect. But each of them is already committed and George also has a child.

Kavanagh keeps the reader guessing: will this quietly witty romp end in Brief Encounterstyle self-denial, or in self-indulgence in the manner of Anna Karenina (aka disaster)? The subject of soulmates is close to every woman’s heart and this author’s lightness of touch masks her skill at skewering appalling people. An enjoyable holiday read for all ages.
Mary Killen

Books-June20-FictitiousDishes-176FICTITIOUS DISHES by Dinah Fried (Harper Design, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
This original and attractive book captures some of the best-known scenes from literature with beautifully shot images of the food they describe. From Kerouac’s apple pie and ice cream to Proust’s madeleines, Fried has reproduced a banquet of evocative dishes that are almost characters in themselves.

It is not a cookbook, but a celebration of meals that are about more than what’s on the plate. Franz Ka“fka’s The Metamorphosis is poignantly represented by a series of dishes, some unedifying, in keeping with the novel’s unsettling tone. Melon and grapes on a beach illustrate Robinson Crusoe’s desperate situation. There is also a decadent selection of finger food from The Great Gatsby. Footnotes add the necessary weight and context.

Clever in its artistry and design, this is a fresh and bold tribute to fi ction and food.
Marie Matthews


Books-June20-TheMakingMrBolsover-176A modern misfit
THE MAKING OF MR BOLSOVER by Cornelius Medvei (Harvill Secker, £12.99; offer price, £11.69)
Biographers often suffer for their art – think of Boswell, whose battle with gonorrhoea delayed his Life Of Samuel Johnson until everyone who knew the great man had died. But for the political biographer, life can be even harder. In fewer than 200 pages, Medvei has produced a brilliant parody of the genre and its practitioners, recounting the life of a librarian and former civil servant turned unlikely revolutionary.

Deserted by his wife, middle-aged Andrew Lynch, aka Mr Bolsover, leaves his semi-detached home in Lewes to live in a hollow near the A275. Like Rousseau, Bolsover’s return to nature awakens his political consciousness.

When his letters to the Sussex Journal go viral, he starts a political crusade that propels him to the heights of local government – before betrayal and a final reckoning with authority catch up with him.

But there is more to the book than the rise and fall of Bolsover: in the tension between the biographer and Bolsover’s nephew, the author gives an authentic voice to an idealist struggling to accept the reality of his subject.

Blending the sublime with the suburban produces some of the best humour, and Medvei has it down to a fine art: effortlessly juxtaposing anarchist theory with speed bumps captures the conceit and the banality of local politics. Stephen Coulson


THE GLAMOUR OF ITALIAN FASHION SINCE Ž‘’“ edited by Sonnet Stanfi ll (V&A Publishing, £35; offer price, £30)

The words ‘Made in Italy’, when sewn in a garment, conjure up superior craftsmanship, rich textiles and effortless but luxurious style. This lavish book (with polished gold jacket) traces the rise of the Italian fashion industry, from its beginnings in post-war austerity to the global powerhouse it is today. Beautiful photographs capture the journey, from the Sala Bianca couture shows of the 1950s and the Hollywood films that put Italian fashion on the map, to the iconic brands that still shape the international fashion landscape today.


Think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday… Pucci prints… Paolo Roversi’s photography. Bellissimo!
Juanita Coulson


OMG BABY! by Emma Garcia (Hodder Paperbacks, £7.99; offer price, £7.59)
Viv is pregnant with her best friend and lover Max’s baby. She has to deal with her pregnancy while struggling to set up a business and work out why her estranged mother has suddenly returned. Garcia injects her quirky sense of humour into this tale, which at times will have you laughing out loud.

Although a light and easy read, it manages to ask profound questions about the importance of family.
Rebecca Maxted

LOVE & FALLOUT by Kathryn Simmonds (Seren Books, £8.99; offer price, £8.54)
When charity worker Tessa opens her front door to find a TV crew assembled, ready to ‘make her over’, she has no idea of the chain of events and emotions this will trigger.

Coerced by her husband and best friend, Tessa takes part in the programme, hoping it will give some coverage to her latest campaign. The last thing she expects is to dig up her past.

Alternating between the present day and her time at Greenham Common Women’s Youth Camp in the early 1980s, Tessa finds herself forced to reassess her life, her relationships and her choices.

A tale of love, loss and the meaning of sisterhood: engrossing and compelling.
Lilly Cox


Books-June20-PeaceOfMind-176PEACE OF MIND: BECOMING FULLY PRESENT by Thich Nhat Hanh (Bantam, £10.99; offer price, £9.89)
In this guide to meditation practices to relieve stress and promote wellbeing, the renowned Zen teacher and author addresses the reader in straightforward language. These are exercises anyone can do – and benefit from. Many have jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon, but this is the genuine article.


  • LONGBOURN by Jo Baker
  • THE REMAINS OF THE DAY by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • BELOW STAIRS by Margaret Powell


NORTHANGER ABBEY by Val McDermid, read by Jane Collingwood (Whole Story Audiobooks, £20.41; no offer price)
A clever, contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s classic by the Scottish crime author, in which young heroine Cat Morland gets more than she bargained for at the Edinburgh Festival. Irresistible.


On the 700th anniversary of the fateful clash between England and Scotland, two new titles bring the battle to life


This week marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Over two bloody, muddy days, in the shadow of Stirling Castle and against all the odds, Robert the Bruce’s relatively small force of Scottish pikemen routed Edward II’s much larger army of splendidly mounted knights, archers and infantry. The Scots’ unlikely victory secured their nation’s independence and changed the course of British history.

No wonder, then, that as Scotland prepares to vote on its future, thoughts – and publishers – have turned to this fateful clash. In Bannockburn: The Battle For A Nation (Birlinn, £12.99; offer price, £11.69), Alistair Moff at, a former director of Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe, brings the melee and its preamble vividly to life. This is ‘living history’, an account more concerned with the colourful characters’ strengths, weaknesses, and often grisly ends than a trudge through the sources. Experts may find Moff at’s account a little too ‘creative’, but this is a swashbuckling read, as frenetic as a fast-paced thriller. From the braying and champing of the vast English war horses to the sense of fear and claustrophobia within the tightly packed Scottish ranks, Bannockburn is as fresh as a postcard mailed from the day itself.

James Robertson’s Robert The Bruce: King Of Scots (Birlinn, £12.99; offer price, £11.69), offers a lively, pictorial account of the drama. Bolstered by Jill Calder’s vibrant illustrations, it is as much for older children as adults, but avoids oversimplifying the battle and the complex factors that led to it.

But whichever book you read, don’t expect to finish it unscathed. You’ll be left feeling as if you were actually there.


Order by phone 0843-060 0035
By post Send your cheque, payable to The Lady Bookshop, to: The Lady Bookshop, PO Box 69, Helston TR13 OTP