December Picks

story-of-the-lost-childFerrante, Elena (2015) The Story of the Lost Child. Europa Editions. In Ferrante’s final Neapolitan novel the protagonists are now mature women, once again domiciled on the mean streets of Naples. Elena is now a respected writer, and Lila an unstoppable entrepreneur. As they challenge and become more deeply bound to the ruthless anger and brutality of their neighbourhood they face serious consequences, for themselves and the ones they love.  A deeply personal and relentless conclusion to this rich portrait of friendship.  Rating: 9/10.

applied-spiritualityAgnivesh, Swami (2015) Applied Spirituality: A spiritual vision for the dialogue of religions. Harper Element. Swami Agnivesh is a holy man, social worker and political activist, with a focus on how spirituality can be applied to our daily lives. He puts forward his views from an interfaith vantage point, drawing on his decades-long work with the underprivileged, arguing that many of the world’s problems can be solved using ‘proactive social spirituality’. Winner of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award) 2004. Insightful. Rating: 8/10.

hot-milkLevy, Deborah (2016) Hot Milk. H.Hamilton. Sofia, an anthropology graduate in her mid-20s, has delayed her thesis to accompany her mother to an exclusive medical clinic in Spain to try for a diagnosis of the ailment that is affecting Rose’s legs. Sofia is struggling with her mother’s dependence and seeks to relieve the tedium of the treatment by short interludes. Are Rose’s complaints real or hypochondria?  A 2016 Man Booker shortlisted title, but I pretty much abandoned it after a few chapters, skimming the rest. Unlikeable characters, messy and depressing.  Not for me.  Rating: 7/10.

empty-mansionsDedman, Bill & Newell, Paul Clark (2013) Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. Ballantine Books.  Empty Mansions is rich mystery of wealth and loss that connects the Gilded Age of the Nineteenth Century with a battle for a $300m fortune in the Twenty-First. At its heart is reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, daughter of W.A Clark one of America’s richest men. On her death at the age of 104 she had become so secretive that she had disappeared from view. She lived for years in a hospital room, although she was in robust health, all the while owning palatial homes in New York, Connecticut, and California, and an amazing art and jewellery collection. As her assets were sold off to fund her donations was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her care and money?  Dedman and Newell unravel of the life of the shadowy Huguette  and her intimate circle. Engrossing, fabulous and well researched. Rating: 9/10.

quick-the-deadMoody, Susan (2016) Quick and the Dead: An Alex Quick Mystery. Severn House. When she finds a murdered body in her business partner’s bedroom, former police inspector Alex Quick, sets out to solve a mystery. Her business partner, acclaimed art historian Dr Helen Drummond, is missing.  The more Alex uncovers the more she comes to realise how many secrets her friend has held from her: is Helena a victim or is she a killer? Readable whodunit by a prolific crime writer. Rating: 7.5/10.

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