Book reviews


Solar by Ian McEwan is published by Jonathan Cape, priced 18.99

Ian McEwan, who was awarded a CBE in 2000, returns to contemporary concerns with his latest novel, Solar, taking the climate change debate as its cue.

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Michael Beard, an ageing physics professor, Nobel laureate and serial adulterer, is living off his past professional glory and emerging from the wreckage of yet another marriage.

The plot ambles along as Beard seeks to advance climate science technology among a sceptical public. The narrative's pace seems much like Beard's own progress towards old age.

Yet the story is quintessential McEwan – flowing, irresistible and crowded with details of character that are forever shifting sympathy.

And, with his portrayal of Beard, the Booker winner finds new range in his voice, masterfully blending satire and comedy with the suspense and pathos that have long been his forte.

9/10 Review by Daniel Bentley

On The Broken Shore by James MacManus is published by HarperCollins, priced 20

Leo Kemp is living an idyllic life teaching marine science on Cape Cod, next to the mysterious ocean that we do not yet fully understand.

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Then his son drowns and his life falls apart. His marriage crumbles and he no longer fits in at work.

As his troubles multiply he falls overboard in a tempestuous sea on what is supposed to be his last field trip before he is fired. Kemp is missing, presumed dead – leaving his family and the community in shock.

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Among the wreckage are friends, lovers and a bewildered daughter, seeking the truth. But why are there these rumours about a man being seen swimming with the seals in the ocean?

Has Kemp fulfilled his ambition to "shed the skin of humanity that clothed him" and become something else? Written with taut precision – MacManus is a journalist – the story unfolds on land and at sea and leads to a remarkable final episode.

8/10 Review by Jonathan Grun

One Day In May by Catherine Allicott is published by Michael Joseph, priced 12.99

Thirty-nine-year-old Hattie Carrington is a very content single mother with a prospering antiques business, a handsome young boyfriend and a bright teenage son.

But one fine day in May, Hattie's life is thrown into turbulence when she visits her sister in rural Little Crandon for a prospective interior design contract.

Hattie's past begins to haunt her when an encounter with an old college friend unfurls memories of her heartbreaking first love – the gorgeous-but-married MP Dominic Forbes.

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From the author of A Crowded Marriage and The Old-Girl Network comes a delicious new chick lit that oozes love, warmth and passion in the bustling streets of London and the idyllic villages of Britain and France.One Day In May promises to charm the female audience with its candid tale of love and zest for life.

6/10 Review by Nilima Dey Sarker

Blood Knots by Luke Jennings is published by Atlantic, priced 16.99

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Fishing divides opinion: You are either for it or you are against it. But to dismiss Blood Knots as an angler's memoir is to do it a disservice.

It's more a rite of passage, such as under-age drinking, illicit smoking, dormitory raids, climbing trees and bunking off.

It also speaks of the strained relationship between father and son and the odd friendship between the author and soldier Robert Nairac, who was killed during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The story also examines the bond between strangers whose only link is the desire to dangle a worm on the end of the hook in the hope that some creature will mistake it for an easy lunch.

Luke Jennings, who was long-listed for the Booker Prize for his novel Atlantic, paints a colourful picture of growing up and for that alone Blood Knots is well worth picking up.

7/10 Review by Roddy Brooks

88 – The Narrow Road: A Brief Guide To The Getting Of Money by Felix Dennis is published by Vermilion, priced 14.99.

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I read Felix Dennis's How To Get Rich more than a year ago because I'd heard the publishing millionaire being interviewed on radio and he was wise and funny.

His book was equally so, and it felt not so much a self-help guide, rather an absorbing chat with one of Britain's greatest entrepreneurs.

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The Narrow Road is Felix Dennis in pocket book form, without the diverting life story that made his first book such a joy.

But the wisdom is still there, in the form of 88 succinct lessons about all aspects of making money.

Subjects include raising capital, hiring and firing people and business ownership. Philosophical ideas about courtesy and tenacity are also covered.

It's a mine of useful advice.

8/10 Review by Matthew Dickinson


Percy Jackson And The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan is published by Puffin, priced 6.99.

Hot on the heels of the first Percy Jackson offering hitting the big screen, the half-blood hero is back.

Percy's fast approaching his 16th birthday – a date he fears, as it's when the prophecy of his life is due to come true.

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He knows he faces a decision that could result in his death, but he can't think about it too much as evil Kronos has taken over his arch-nemesis Luke's body and is about to wreak havoc on the gods.

Kronos plans to destroy New York, using a monster typhoon to distract the gods away from Olympus.

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Rick Riordan, a former teacher and winner of multiple awards for his children's books, puts Percy at the heart of the action at every turn. Fans won't be disappointed.

8/10 Review by Caroline Davison