The author of My Brilliant Friend has a new book to read, plus Alastair Campbell writes a moving memoir about his experiences with depression…
Once again we are in Naples, the setting of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. The city is a mix of rich and poor, making the divisions between the lives of its inhabitants feel physical. Adolescent Giovanna lives at the top of the city while her father’s estranged relatives remain below, and through her eyes, we see the slow unravelling of the assumptions that have sustained her family’s life. The truth, as her mother’s friend Costanza tells her, is difficult, but the novel’s thoughtful, emotionally incisive prose guides us smoothly through forthright Giovanna’s pursuit of it with all its complications. Ferrante’s spell is as surely woven as ever, and by the time we meet much-maligned aunt Vittoria, you are hooked.
(Review by Lucy Whetman)
Legendary author Haruki Murakami has already given Mieko Kawakami his seal of approval, even if Breasts And Eggs is deemed too scandalous for many in Japan, with its discussions of everything from menstruation to sex. The first part of the novel sees Natsuki – a wannabe writer living in Tokyo – visited by her sister and niece, with her ageing hostess sister having developed an obsession with breast implants. Perhaps because the book started as a short story, the second part seems like another novel: nearly ten years on, Natsuki has become a professional writer and is trying to figure out if she can have a baby as a single woman – near-impossible in Japanese society. It’s an interesting examination of what it means to be a parent and the strictures of being a woman in Japan, but the second part could have been a lot shorter and tighter. Nevertheless, Kawakami’s writing is just as memorable as Murakami’s heartbreakingly beautiful prose – this is her first full-length book published in English, and there will no doubt be more to come.
(Review by Prudence Wade)
Ruth Jones hit the top of bestseller lists with her debut novel Never Greener, so does the actress and writer’s second offering live up to her first? She takes a different tack for Us Three; ambitious in its scope, it follows the friendship of three Welsh women – Catrin, Judith and Lana – from their teens across the next four decades. It follows the ups, the downs and the complications after blindly promising to be BFFs forever. It feels part coming-of-age, part redemption, and it is at times sweet and charming, but rarely laugh-out-loud funny. Jones’ writing is accessible, and one or two of the characters are genius (Patricia is the unlikely breakout star) but Us Three doesn’t have the same gripping, page-turning power of her first novel – the shocks simply aren’t that shocking, and instead, there’s a gentle, heartwarming hum throughout.
(Review by Lauren Taylor)
4. Living Better: How I Learned To Survive Depression by Alastair Campbell is published in hardback by John Murray Press, priced £16.99
In this deeply honest exploration into the human mind, journalist and mental health campaigner Alastair Campbell delves into his experiences with depression and his search for a cure. The former Downing Street advisor articulately reflects on these issues in sharp detail, creating an all-encompassing and intricate look into mental health. He tackles the impact depression can have on the individual and those close to them, through recounting his own demons and talking to others. This incredibly nuanced read will resonate with anyone who has experienced depression or witnessed it in anyone else, with suggestions and guidance on how to manage it. In short, it will strike a chord with almost all of us.
(Review by Edd Dracott)
Children’s book of the week
You can’t read anything by Terry Pratchett without thinking of Discworld, the 41 hilarious fantasy novels he wrote. This series of fantastical stories, written when Pratchett was 17, are the undeniable product of his limitless imagination. However, as you might expect from a teenage author, the stories lack the satire, well-rounded characters and insightful observations of society – all elements we’ve come to expect from Pratchett. The stories themselves don’t have much meat, but with engaging illustrations, it’s clearly aimed at a new generation of Pratchett fans. Short in length, they’re perfect for bedtime reading – but while younger fans might enjoy the fun and nonsense, there’s little of the signature Pratchett sizzle.
(Review by Nicole Whitton)
You may also be interested in…