Books: five new books to read this week

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FICTION

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen is published as a hardcover book by Fourth Estate, priced at £ 20 (eBook £ 12.99). Available now

JONATHAN Franzen’s gripping new novel, Crossroads, takes us to New Prospect, Illinois. Here, behind a small ‘c’ polish of conservative respectability, we find a melting pot of American insecurities. The head of the Hildebrandt family is Russ, an associate pastor of the Early Reformed Church, but as Christmas approaches, this community leader risks straying from his God and his marriage. His wife, Marion, questions her own future as she grapples with a traumatic past, as their children stray from the herd, falling into sex, drugs and the Vietnam War. One by one, Franzen dissects each family member’s anxieties and their retreat into temptation – each of them rich, complex, and a novel in itself. Promised as the opening salvo of a trilogy, from Crossroads it’s tempting to wonder which direction Franzen will take as he retraces some of America’s most disturbing days.

9/10

Ian parker

Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat is published as a hardcover book by Faber & Faber, priced at £ 12.99 (eBook £ 14.99).

EDITH prepares for his death. A privilege and a last rite that not all receive, especially those who die by the thousands during a global pandemic. Years later, she’s completed the national memorial she was commissioned to make and, a carrier of the AG3 virus, fixes issues as the deadly disease finally catches up with her. As Edith closes the door to her studio in Burntcoat with her lover Halit, the book captures the suffocating isolation we can all remember from recent lockdowns. It articulates the total separation of the past, the before and the now with brutal clarity, birdsong in place of circulation and those left irrevocably changed, suffering as the virus recedes. But it’s more than that – a goodbye reveling in bodily pleasure, pain, and touch with visceral, saturated prose. Words, like the virus, linger. Perhaps, as wood is transformed by fire, we too can remake ourselves.

8/10

Jemma’s crew

April In Spain by John Banville is published as a hardcover edition by Faber & Faber, priced at £ 14.99 (eBook £ 8.99).

IN HIS latest compelling detective story, John Banville returns to his heavy-drinking Irish pathologist, Quirke. While on vacation with his enigmatic psychiatrist wife in the Basque city of San Sebastián, he sees a half-forgotten face. A restless and curious Quirke tries to identify the young woman – long dead – and sets off a series of events threatening to uncover a political and family scandal and lead to deadly consequences. April In Spain is a brooding and controlled book, which gradually unveils the mystery while taking the time to explore issues related to Irish politics, contrasting cultures, social class, relationships and love. The tension of the building unfolds across beautifully observed 1950s London, northern Spain and Dublin. Banville’s intricate and expertly crafted characters – from cold-blooded killer Terry Tice to Quirke’s determined daughter, Phoebe – are portrayed in tense and insightful prose. A fascinating story that deserves to take the time to appreciate.

8/10

Tom pilgrim

NON-FICTION

Peak Mind by Amishi Jha is published as a hardcover book by Piatkus, priced at £ 20 (ebook £ 9.99)

WITH all of the daily challenges of living in the 21st century, our attention can be drawn in all directions as we juggle busy home lives and work duties. Things can slip away when we are easily distracted, with our minds wandering – so we are not living our life fully in the present moment. Neuroscientist Dr. Amishi Jha has dedicated her career to researching what we can do to increase our focus, be more aware, and more present in the present, which can improve our response to times of high stress. Jha specializes in mindfulness, and the results of her many experiences, which she shares in depth in this book, prove that we can strengthen our focus by practicing just 12 minutes a day. If you are new to meditation this is easy to understand as Jha speaks to the reader on a personal level and doesn’t overcomplicate matters. She writes in a way that is easy to understand.

8/10

Karen sykes

CHILDREN’S BOOK OF THE WEEK

The Bear and Her Book by Frances Tosdevin, illustrated by Sophia O’Connor, is published in paperback by UCLan Publishing, priced at £ 7.99 (no eBook).

The bear is a curious soul – like any child, she wonders what lurks beyond the borders of her domain. In The Bear and His Book, the main character goes on an adventure and meets new creatures, including a crab, a crocodile, and a lizard, doing his best to help them all. Its payoff at the end is both surprising and fulfilling, both for the bear and for the reader. This storybook tells of the wonders that await all curious minds, full of beautiful descriptions and illustrations by Frances Tosdevin and Sophia O’Connor. It’s education for any child or adult looking to push their boundaries, and will be a well read addition to any shelf.

9/10

Roddy brooks

RESERVATION CARDS FOR THE WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 9

CARDBOARD (FICTION)

1. The Man Who Died Twice, The: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

2. Beautiful people, where are you by Sally Rooney

3. Carrefour by Jonathan Franzen

4. Realm of the Cursed: Realm of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

5. Sharpe’s Assassin: The Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell

6. The cat that saved Sosuke Natsukawa’s books

7. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

8. He Was a Broken Heart by Stéphanie Garber

9. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

10 How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

(Compiled by Waterstones)


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