Books: Paperbacks

The Sunken Kingdom by Peter James (Pimlico, pounds 8.99) The misleading sub-title - ''The Atlantis Mystery Solved'' - makes the book sound like another load of extra-terrestrial trumpery. In fact, it is perfectly sane. After surveying the persistent belief in a lost continent, James advances a plausible hypothesis - based on the original source in Plato - that Atlantis was an Aegean city, lost in a Bronze Age earthquake. But this fascinating notion almost disappears under a welter of padding, including a blokeish account of Socrates ("he loved a drink and a Iaugh") and numerous unfathomable genealogies of the gods. For the price, the maps are a disgrace.

Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1820-1895 by John Keay (Murray, pounds 15.99) Keay is a good man to go into the mountains with. His great chunk of a book is packed with staggering achievements by a cast of scarcely credible characters, ranging from the mysterious pioneer, Col Gardiner, who went semi-native (a tartan turban) and had to clamp "a pair of steel pincers round his gullet" to facilitate drinking following a throat wound, to the Great Game hero, Younghusband, who continued cold-water dips when high in the Pamirs (the water froze in his tub before he could undress). Keay knows the territory well and tells his tales with great verve.

Naples '44 by Norman Lewis (Eland, pounds 8.99) Perhaps Lewis's finest work, this stylish diary covers his time as a Field Security Officer in the first, dangerous year after the Allied invasion. Though on the brink of starvation, the Neopolitans insisted on maintaining una bella faccia and a vigorous interest in sexual activities. The result is a memoir both shocking and hilarious. Its cast includes a professional Zio di Roma (a "Roman uncle" who brings a touch of class to funerals) and a gynaecologist who "specialises in the restoration of lost virginity". Often scathing about his fellow invaders, Lewis comes to admire his vivacious hosts.

The Breezes by Joseph O'Neill (Faber, pounds 5.99) Lightning never strikes twice, except in the Breeze family. Joseph O'Neill's chirpy tale of a suburban Irish family that survives two weeks of consecutive disasters will appeal to those of a neurotic cast of mind. Car accidents, late arrivals and health scares haunt the life of Johnny Breeze, who by the end of the novel has developed rings under his eyes as black as his father's, though a new nonchalance to telephone calls in the middle of the night. A second novel with a nice feel for the troubled warmth of family life, and the perils of stepping outside. The luck of the Irish has never been worse.

The Visitation by Sue Reidy (Black Swan, pounds 5.99) Yet another novel about growing up Catholic, but at least its setting, Sixties New Zealand, makes a refreshing change. Catherine and Theresa Flynn are obsessed by the lives of the saints, and spend many hours recreating their bloody deaths in the back yard. But it's only when the Virgin Mary actually appears to them (with rosebuds between her toes and a message for the Pope about contraception) that the girls start to take their vocation as martyrs seriously. Religious kitsch and Kiwi provincialism hang in the air like the after-smell of Mrs Flynn's mutton chops.

King David by Allan Massie (Sceptre, pounds 6.99) Allan Massie's biblical epic about the life and times of King David reads like a really bad B-movie. Everyone speaks in an archiac tongue more appropriate to Star Trek aliens, and it's almost impossible to keep a handle on all the characters (Doeg the Edomite, Achish of Gath and Adonijah the Goatskin) without frequent reference to the book's daunting "List of Characters''. A few passages detailing the "good, not evil'' passion that exists between David and Jonathan, son of Saul, occasionally peps up the proceedings, but even the slaying of Goliath manages to fall flat.

Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham (Penguin, pounds 6.99) In this generational novel of the Stassos family of New Jersey there is the usual litany of American woes: Homecoming Queens, incest, divorce, valium addiction and tract housing. But somehow Cunningham manages to keep the clouds of dysfunction sufficiently whippy to maintain reader interest well after 1958.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?