25th Jan, 2021

Bookcase: A series of moving short stories and a truly inclusive children's book

Leamington Editorial 8th Nov, 2020

This week’s bookcase includes reviews of To Be A Man by Nicole Krauss and Break The Mould by Sinéad Burke.

Settle in with a series of moving short stories, or be inspired by a truly inclusive children’s book…

Fiction

1. To Be A Man by Nicole Krauss is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £16.99 (ebook £7.19). Available now

To Be A Man by Nicole Krauss. Picture: Bloomsbury/PA.

Nicole Krauss’s beguiling set of 10 short stories are so rich and thought-provoking, upon completion you will want to start over again to mine them for any hidden meanings missed.

This marvellous collection examines the role age, power, family, culture and gender expectations play in our relationships.

A woman contemplates her future in an uneasy post-9/11 New York.

A dancer obsesses over the face of an Iranian actor.

A grandmother welcomes an unfamiliar lost husband into her home.

A daughter moves into her late father’s flat to find a stranger living there.

Krauss’ stories feel realistic yet parable-like, with humour, sex and the humdrum mixing with the uncanny.

There is ambition in their detail and scope – touching on lives of all ages from Europe to Israel and the US.

Along the way, Krauss asks challenging questions about what it means to be a man or a woman, and how we connect.

9/10

(Review by Tom Pilgrim)

2. The Searcher by Tana French is published in hardback by Viking, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99). Available November 5

Character is everything in this slow-burn mystery.

Cal Hooper is a retired cop who has left Chicago and a broken marriage behind him, looking forward to a quiet life of fishing, hunting and fixing up a derelict house in the Irish countryside.

He’s then approached by teenager Trey, who needs help investigating his missing older brother.

The real protagonist here is the village itself, with its steady rain and the ever-present squawking of rooks in the trees.

Overall, French holds the novel together well, delivering a rich set of complex characters along a gentle, if slow, pace.

At times, character growth borders on sentimentality, with parallels between past and present made too obvious.

Overall, this is a good read for those who like to take their time with atmospheric whodunnits.

7/10

(Review by Nicole Whitton)

Non-fiction

3. Lost Cat by Mary Gaitskill is published in paperback by Daunt Books, priced £8.99 (ebook £5.09). Available November 5

Gattino is a scraggly stray cat who enters American author Mary Gaitskill’s life while on a writing retreat in Italy.

Despite initial reluctance she rescues him and takes him home to America – but Gattino soon goes missing and Gaitskill embarks on a long, ultimately fruitless, search.

Lost Cat started life as an essay and then became an 89-page memoir – something you could easily devour in a single sitting.

However, much like Gaitskill attempt to avoid accepting the end of her time shared with Gattino, you might find yourself deliberately rationing pages, not wanting to reach the end.

It might help to be a ‘cat person’, but Gaitskill’s search for her lost pet is as much about everything else the human heart searches for: connection, purpose, understanding, a definitive frame for love.

Unpicking the strength of her feelings for Gattino means unpicking other meaningful relationships along the way, as she reflects on the challenges of fostering two city siblings dealt a tougher deal than her own. Gaitskill writes with honesty that feels at once sharp and intricate, raw and tender – it’s a gift.

9/10

(Review by Abi Jackson)

Children’s book of the week

4. Break The Mould: How To Take Your Place In The World by Sinéad Burke, illustrated by Natalie Byrne is published in paperback by Wren & Rook, priced £8.99 (ebook £5.99). Available now

If you’ve ever worried about kids growing up in the digital age, where appearance is often, it seems, valued above accomplishments, this book is a brilliant beacon of hope.

Dublin-born teacher and activist Sinéad Burke encourages young people to celebrate, not shy away from, what makes them different – be it race, gender, disability or anything else – to fiercely follow their dreams and use their voice to make the world a better place.

Using practical activities and highlighting inspiring examples from game-changing people of all ages, including her own achievements – Burke is responsible for the introduction of the word ‘duine beag’, meaning little person, into the Irish language, and was the first little person to appear on the cover of Vogue – the author teaches children that what makes them unique can be a kind of superpower, if they use their perspective to challenge the status quo.

For any youngster feeling the pressure to fit in rather than stand out (and who hasn’t felt that way?) Break The Mould is a wonderfully warm, uplifting and refreshing read.

9/10

(Review by Katie Wright)

BOOK CHARTS

HARDBACK

1. The Sentinel by Lee and Andrew Child

2. Troy by Stephen Fry

3. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

4. One August Night by Victoria Hislop

5. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

6. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

7. Book Of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

8. A Song For The Dark Times by Ian Rankin

9. War Lord by Bernard Cornwell

10. Hidden In Plain Sight by Jeffrey Archer

(Compiled by Waterstones)

HARDBACK (NON-FICTION)

1. How Animals Saved My Life by Professor Noel Fitzpatrick

2. Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

3. A Year At The Chateau by Dick and Angel Strawbridge

4. Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson

5. The Dreamer by Cliff Richard

6. Private Eye Annual 2020 by Ian Hislop

7. Guinness World Records 2021 by Guinness World Records

8. Mountains According to G by Geraint Thomas

9. A Del Of A Life by David Jason

10. Really Saying Something by Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward

(Compiled by Waterstones)

 

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