Book reviews: The Sugar Barons | Spring | With The Kisses Of His Mouth

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William Leith pores over this week’s paperback releases


by Matthew Parker

(Windmill, £8.99)

Rating: ***

How important is sugar? We know how unhealthy it can be, and how it seems to get into everything. Maybe, as a society, we’re addicted to it. In this diligent book, Matthew Parker tells us lots of other horrible things about sugar. It’s not just bad for us; it’s the cause of endless inhumanity. He takes us to the Caribbean in the 1600s, to the original plantations, where man’s lust for sugar was the driving force behind slavery; the details are appalling. It will make you reflect on today’s world too.


by David Szalay

(Vintage, £7.99)

Rating: ****

What a beautifully written novel — and what a seedy bunch of people! James is a broken-down entrepreneur, formerly a paper millionaire from the dotcom era; his friend, Freddy, is a boozy sponger. They are like characters from a Patrick Hamilton novel, and Szalay is immensely talented. James and Freddy set up a scheme with a dodgy racing trainer; meanwhile, James’s girlfriend is behaving oddly. Szalay gets everything right: the atmosphere, the suspense, the inner lives of his characters. Absolutely superb.


By Monique Roffey

(Simon and Schuster, £8.99)

Rating: ***

In this sex memoir, Monique Roffey tells us that just as she’s about to finish with her boyfriend, she opens a letter — from a woman he has just dumped. What? She rants and raves. “I threatened to kill him,” she tells us. Then she runs off — towards a new life of sexual adventure. She logs on to Craigslist and has lots of encounters with men, all very frankly described. She does Tantric sex. Still, she misses her ex, who is, she tells us, a bald, unhealthy chap with bad teeth and a hacking cough. Sometimes you’ll think it’s really a book about love.