Book Reviews of the Week: 03.06.20

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

Buy Miss Austen from your local Bookseller:

The Sunday Times bestseller, and set to be a major TV drama

‘You can’t help feeling that Jane would have approved.’ OBSERVER

‘So good, so intelligent, so clever, so entertaining – I adored it.’ CLAIRE TOMALIN 

Already a Sunday Times bestseller, Miss Austen, is a beautifully crafted and extensively researched novel based on the literary mystery that has long puzzled academics and Austenites alike: namely why on earth did Cassandra Austen, older sister of Jane, burn all her sister’s letters? Set in the village of Kintbury (in fact in Hornby’s own house!) in 1840 just as the Fowles last remaining daughter clears out the family home, Miss Austen is a fascinating look at the life and times of the Austens and more particularly Cassandra. Why would she burn the letters? What was she hiding? Did she have an eye on the future as well as Jane’s past? Gill Hornby not only knows her subject inside out but also brings life and drama and historical insight in to the lives of women during that period. This is her third novel and the bestselling author of Hive has penned her best one yet. Emotional, complex and deeply entertaining. A joy and a must-read. 

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby is published by Century £12.99

One Two Three Four by Craig Brown

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‘A ridiculously enjoyable treat . . . Brown is such an infectiously jolly writer that you don’t even need to like the Beatles to enjoy his book . . . brilliant . . . hilarious . . . And at a time when, like everybody else, I was feeling not entirely thrilled about the news, I loved every word of it.’ Sunday Times

‘A celestial combination of writer and subject . . . One Two Three Four is a critical appreciation, a personal history, a miscellany, a work of scholarship and speculation, and a tribute as passionate and worshipful as any fan letter.’ Esquire

‘The perfect antidote to these times.’ Julian Barnes, Guardian

‘Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four is perfect for now. It’s ingenious, wholly original (not a given, what with the subject matter), absolutely gripping, funny, sad and moving. A complete treat.’ India Knight

‘A brilliantly executed study of cultural time, social space and the madness of fame . . . the exceptional strangeness of The Beatles reflects the ordinary oddity of real life. One Two Three Four, by putting The Beatles in their place as well as their time, is by far the best book anyone has written about them and the closest we can get to the truth.’ Literary Review

‘We’re taken on a magical mystery tour . . . Brown seems to have invented a wholly new biographical form. In a polychromatic cavalcade of chapters of varying length, the man with kaleidoscope eyes conveys what it was like to live through those extraordinary Beatles years . . . If you want to know what it was like to live those extraordinary Beatles years in real time, read this book.’ Alan Johnson, Spectator.

Craig Brown’s biography of the Beatles, One Two Three Four, has been loudly lauded since it was published at the beginning of locked down. He tells the story of the Fab Four from the beginnings of the days of super stardom to the very bitter end – but only the good bits. Columnist, critic and satirist extraordinaire, Brown is a veritable writing machine with a gimlet eye for detail and journalist’s ear for a good story and a sharp, witty anecdote. His last book Ma’am Darling: the Biography of Princess Margaret was declared the smash hit of 2016 and One Two Three Four will undoubtedly follow suit. Fab. 

One Two Three Four by Craig Brown is published by Fourth Estate £20.00

On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming

Buy On Chapel Sands from your local Bookseller:

*Memoir of the Year* How we see — and who see and what secrets they choose to share — is at the heart of this exquisitely composed memoir… A peerless detective story that keeps you guessing to the end, The Sunday Times

On Chapel Sands is much more than a search for truth. It is a moving, many-sided human story of great depth and tenderness, and a revelation of how art enriches life. In short, a masterpiece — John Carey, Sunday Times

Cumming skilfully withholds key twists in the tale, revealing them at just the right moment. There are surprises, but no shocks. Her prose is too elegant for such gaudiness – composed and restrained but empathetic — Leaf Arbuthnot, The Times

Brilliant… This book is a love letter to her [Cumming’s] mother, whose warmth, articulacy and survival instincts shine though. It’s also an intimate portrait of a village community, with its storybook characters (butcher, baker, dairyman, bell-ringer, gravedigger) and their wonderful old-fashioned names — Blake Morrison, Guardian

By turns beautiful, wistful, and ominous… the reasons behind the kidnap, and the repercussions, are every bit as complex as any served up by fiction, and, oddly enough, the dénouement — or succession of dénouements — is just as satisfying, perhaps more so… a meditation on the way some people disappear, and time erases memory… so familiar as to be universal, and will probably ring bells with all but the sunniest reader (***** Five Stars) — Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Short-listed for the 2019 Biography of the Year, the critically acclaimed memoire by Laura Cumming is now out in paperback. Recounting the extraordinary circumstances behind her mother, Elizabeth/Betty’s abduction off the beach as a young child in 1929, On Chapel Sands is a hunting, melancholic story of love, loss, secrets and how the whole village of Chapel St Leonard’s was complicit, one way or another, in her mother’s disappearance. A poetic and haunting detective story, Cumming’s uses all her artistic armoury to glittering effect. Deeply affecting. 

On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming is published by Vintage £9.99

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