Books in Brief

Click to follow
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Nicholas Salaman, HarperCollins pounds 14.99. The author's incorrigible taste for the burlesque makes this a very odd brew. Hieronymous Bosch stays around long enough to confirm the art historian Wilhelm Franger's view that the painter was no moralist but the follower of an Adamite sect which glorified love. Bosch leaves the task of finishing the Hell portion of his triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, to his bastard son Julius, who speeds off to Munster in time to witness the 1553 invasion by cunning Anabaptists, who swindle, then decapitate, Lutherans and Catholics, vandalise cathedrals and introduce bigamy to replenish the population. Meanwhile Salaman keeps up the unnerving black comic banter and Julius carries on Bosching. As one of the novel's simple souls says of Bosch's work, it 'puts you right off the end of the world'. Maggie Traugott

Married to a Stranger by Nahid Rachlin, City Lights pounds 7.99. Seventies Iran is the setting for this novel about a disintegrating marriage that echoes the upheavals in a country on the brink of revolution. Teenage Minou defies her parents to marry Javad, a man with two secrets: he's the editor of a subversive newspaper and has a mistress, the wife of his oldest friend. Stuck at home while he oscillates between broadsheet and bed- sheet, Minou becomes increasingly disenchanted, but escape to join her brother in America needs Javad's written permission. Rachlin, herself an Iranian living in New York, is most successful when writing about the fist-clenching frustration of Minou's life - these are the chapters that seem to come direct from the heart. Carolyn Hart

Red Tides by Dilys Rose, Secker pounds 8.99. Spare, immaculately paced stories: a young mother sleeps through the conference she's escaped the daily grind to attend; a couple try to solve each other's problems and end up exchanging phobias; a patient wanting to ease his psychiatrist's loneliness gives her a hug and only succeeds in terrifying her; reporters in a war zone reproach themselves for not feeding the inhabitants of a starving village, but the villagers are already stalking them for food. Bitterly humorous, Rose constantly contrasts the complacent, ultimately helpless liberalism of the 'civilised' with insurgent raw feeling and deprivation: at once savage and compassionate. Leslie Wilson

Comments