Saturday 17 December 1994
Anyone hoping to catch pearls of wisdom from the generous lips of the smart and funny Lauren Bacall might be a little disappointed by this book. Yes she's always had to work, yes she's raised three children on her own, yes she's danced flamenco and stayed up late with the best of them (John Huston, Larry Olivier et al), but that doesn't mean life is complete - Bacall is looking for a man. She was only 31 when Humphrey Bogart died, but several lives and nearly 40 years later it's still the pain of being single that keeps her awake in the small hours. Lauren... you weren't meant to say that.
Sophie's Journey by Sophie Thurnham, Warner Books, £6.99
An eccentric English girl with a donkey decides to go to Romania. The donkey exits stage-left pretty early on, as do Sophie's travel plans when, one warm summer evening, she arrives at the gates of a Moldavian orphanage. Perched high on a ridge, not unlike Bram Stoker's castle, it turns out to be little more than a holding pen for abandoned children, mired deep in their own faeces and misery. What starts as a run-of-the-mill travelogue, turns into a terrifying indictment of a country living on the edge.
Scenes Prom a Poisoner's Life by Nigel Williams, Faber and Faber, £14.99
Fans of the television series will be glad to know that family life hasn't changed much for Henry Farr since he tried to murder his wife at a Wimbldeon drinks party six years ago. The large-arsed Elinor continues to prefer gigantic hardbacks to any attempts at intimacy (at least Henry's) and daughter Maisie, now in her last year at Mary Louisa Haddock's School for Girls, has developed a taste for Strongbow cider and boys as ugly as herself. Henry Farr's ode to fearsome cleaning ladies, farting labradorsand trips to Sainsbury's is as poignant a cry from suburbia as any ever voiced by Mr Pooter or Gerry Leadbetter.
You Don't Have to be Your Mother by Gayle Feldman, Hamish Hamilton, £10.99
If your grandmother and mother have both died of breast cancer, when do your own cells decide to assert their heritage? For Gayle Feldman the moment arrives when she's eight months pregnant with her first child. Unlike her mother and grandmother, she's able to take immediate action, and within the space of three weeks undergoes 50 hours of induced tabour, two biopsies and a mastectomy. Feldman's book is a curiously comforting account of serious illness, and a fascinating insight into New York's medicalestablishment with its fleets of female surgeons and gynaecologists - one wonders how many women in Britain would receive such informed attention?
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