BOOKS: PICK OF THE WEEK

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The Independent Culture
If you're a little boy who still wets the bed, imagine the terror of having to borrow the class bully's pyjamas. The rest of your classmates have travelled down to the school skiing holiday by coach, but your father has insisted on driving you down separately, a day after everyone else has settled in. As if you weren't already obtrusive enough, your dad then drives off with your suitcase still in the boot of his car, taking with him all your clothes and the carefully packed rubber sheet.

Trying not to pee through the top bunkbed mattress onto the bully beneath, is not, unfortunately, the worst misfortune facing poor Nicolas, the lonely misfit child-hero at the centre of Emmanuel Carrere's chilling novel Class Trip. Locked inside the troubled head of the increasingly panicky boy, this sinister and tenaciously memorable story, vividly plays out Nicolas's fears.

Emmanuel Carrere has recently been working on the film version of his haunting psychological drama but this week the prize-winning Parisian author visits Britain to take part in a nationwide tour of top French- language writers. Joining Carrere is Patrick Chamoiseau from Martinique who reads from his new swirling Creole novel Solibo Magnificent, about a storyteller who chokes to death on his own words; and Tahar Ben Jelloun from Morocco, whose State of Absence explores the legacy of silence and fear in Mafia-controlled Sicily.

Marking International Women's Day, Camden's Women in Focus festival features a week-long programme of free events with women writers. For reliably vivacious company choose audiences with crime writer Val McDermid (Mon); or improv-actress Stella Duffy who strikes a blow for singletons with her sassy urban fairytale Singling Out the Couples in Thursday's evening with jaunty fantasists Liz Jensen and Deborah Levy.

French Writers Tour, Arnolfini Bookshop, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol (0117 929 9191), Tues, 7.30pm pounds 2/pounds 1

Waterstone's, 20 St Margaret's St, Canterbury (01227 456343), Wed, 7pm pounds 3

L'Institut Francais, 17 Queensbury Place, London SW7 (0171-838 2144), Thur, 6.30pm free Women in Focus (0171-911 1652). Crime writers, Waterstones, Camden High St, Mon, 7pm; Duffy, Jensen, Levy, Compendium Bookshop, Thur, 7pm.

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