Book reviews: A Widow’s Story | Five Days to Die | Shaprely Ankle Preferr’d

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William Leith takes a look at the pick of this week’s paperback releases


by Joyce Carol Oates

(4th Estate, £8.99)

Rating: *****

ThiS is one of Joyce Carol Oates’s very best books. It’s a memoir in which she tells of the death of her husband. She captures the pain and confusion with an exceptional grace. One day her husband, Ray, a literary editor, is eating breakfast. He doesn’t feel quite himself. He goes to the hospital; it turns out he has a chest infection. Then suddenly he’s not there, and it’s this fact, and its strangeness, that Oates grapples with brilliantly.


by Katia Lief

(Ebury, £6.99)

Rating: ***

We know, from the start of this thriller that the bad guy is really bad, in a forensic, pathological style. And then we meet the family he will prey on. Mum, dad, kids, on holiday in Cape Cod. Mum is a former musician turned music writer. She goes to the supermarket. There’s an oddball in the store. Is he following her? Then she is chloroformed and abducted. Back home, her family waits. And waits. It looks like the killer has the upper hand. Our big hope is John Geary. He’s a retired FBI profiler. But he’s sharp. Expertly done.


by Francesca Beauman

(Vintage, £8.99)

Rating: ****

FOR most of its history, which began in 1695, the lonely hearts industry has been a sort of secret, says Francesca Beauman. Often, people would answer ads, fall in love, get married and pretend they’d met in some other way. The road to greater openness began in the 1970s, with gay ads; now lonely hearts ads are often about sex rather than marriage. This book, a history of the lonely hearts industry, is also a clever history of sexual emancipation. Men used to place more ads. Now women do. But not everything has changed. “Men,” says Beauman, “seek youth and offer financial security, while for women it is precisely the other way round.”