Lodge, Gytha (2020) Watching from the Dark. M. Joseph. As Zoe is murdered her boyfriend Aidan is listening on Skype. Although he is desperate to report what he heard he is fearful of engaging with the police. DCI Jonah Sheens (in his second outing) and his team take on the case. What is the motive? No-one has a bad word to say about Zoe, a warm-hearted artist with a needy circle ‘friends’. As Zoe’s last months are recounted we come to understand her emotional vulnerability, the unreliability of her friends and boyfriend, and the dangerous secrets that surround her. Almost everyone in her circle is a suspect. A taut and compelling police procedural. Rating: 8.5/10.
Schaitkin, Alexis (2020) Saint X. Celadon. When her 18-year sister Alison is found dead in a remote Caribbean waterfall pool, whilst on holiday, 5-year old Claire’s life is broken. The circumstances of Alison’s death remain a mystery, but the story is cause célèbre. Years later, Claire (now Emily) is living and working in New York when she encounters Clive Richardson, one of the men suspected of murdering Alison. Claire doggedly stalks Clive while her own sanity starts to unravel. This is a brilliantly haunting and original “true crime” story of grief and obsession. Much more than a mystery. Rating: 9/10.
Enright, Anne (2020) Actress. J. Cape. Norah has watched her mother, Irish theatre legend Katherine O’Dell, from the wings her entire life. This is a story of stardom and the nature of celebrity, from the stages of London’s West End and Dublin, to the glamour of post-war Hollywood, captured by Norah. Norah’s search for the truth about her beloved mother’s past uncovers disturbing secrets that led to madness. Enright’s mother-daughter romance is a slow remorseless dissection of a life that is both dark and wondrous. Rating: 9/10.
Andrews, Julie (2019) Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. I have always been a fan of Julie Andrews – seen most of her movies, so this second volume of her memoir was partly a nostalgia trip. Her phenomenal rise to fame in her earliest films, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, has made her a Hollywood legend. What struck me most about Julie and her personal story was her candour and positivity. Her body of work, chaotic family life, mercurial husband, eclectic group of hangers-on, and Hollywood itself, all come in for upbeat treatment. “A spoonful of sugar”. Rating: 8/10.
Weller, Sheila (2019) Carrie Fisher: A life on the edge. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Carrie Fisher – Hollywood daughter, movie star and intergalactic princess, writer, habitual drug user, bipolar disorder sufferer, and complicated woman, has an indomitable life story. Weller’s biography is an intimate portrait, told in great detail wth lots of tidbits, supported by heaps of first-hand sources. This bold and vulnerable woman was a smart straight-talker, loved by those in her orbit. Carrie wrote four memoirs and four semi-autobiographical novels, not sure there is much more to tell! Rating: 8/10.
Kilmore, Karina (2020) Where the Truth Lies. Simon & Schuster. Investigative journalist Chrissie O’Brian is desperate to escape her past. Daily she struggles to numb the pain. When a dockworker who has confided in her turns up dead Chrissie is determined to find out the truth. She becomes caught-up in a clash between the waterfront unions and big business, putting her own life in danger. Chrissie is an exciting, if flawed, new Aussie crime fighter in a big city newsroom, with a hacker off-sider. Gritty debut thriller. Rating: 8/10.
Moore, Demi (2019) Inside Out. 4th Estate. This is a raw and very personal narrative of a life lived in the public arena. It chronicles Demi’s story from chaotic childhood, to the meteoric heights of a movie career, brought down by personal demons and wayward husbands, to finally reaching a state of self-revelation. The actress, now in her late fifties, has dealt with rape, substance abuse, body image issues, infidelity, constant media scrutiny, and a miscarriage, but has raised her head above the bar as a champion of pay parity for Hollywood women, an activist and philanthropist, and a loving mother. Overall not a bad celebrity memoir. Rating: 8/10.
Davies, Catrina (2019) Homesick: Why I live in a Shed. Riverun. Catrina at the age of thirty-one decides to return to the Cornish landscape of her childhood. She sets up home in her father’s former office, an derelict old shed at a cross-roads. The shed has no amenities but she goes about making it her home, accompanied by mice, rats and insects, as the wind whistles through the walls. This is a memoir of homelessness, dropping-out, solitude, and personal struggle; and about foraging, surfing, and being one with nature. Whereas I embraced the quirkiness of her busking travelogue The Ribbons are for Fearlessness, I lost patience with Davies’ self-indulgence in her Walden adventure. UK’s housing crisis laid bare. Rating: 8/10.
Glenconner, Anne (2019) Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown. Hodder & Stoughton. Lady Glenconner’s life has been one of privilege, filled with wealth, glamour, and drama, and latterly great sadness. The eldest daughter of the Earl of Leicester, Maid of the Honour at the Queen’s coronation, Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret, friend to the royal family, and pottery saleswoman, she married the eccentric (and unpleasant) Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner, whose claim to fame was as the flamboyant owner and developer of the legendary party island of Mustique in the Caribbean. She warmly speaks of her 25 years as Princess Margaret’s companion, makes no excuses for her life and difficult marriage, and does not dwell on family tragedies. A no-fuss memoir that holds a stiff upper lip throughout. Entertaining. Rating: 8.5/10.