PAPERBACKS

Pig by Andrew Cowan, Penguin pounds 5.99. Winner of a cabinet-full of literary awards, Cowan's debut novel is a poignant, bitter-sweet meditation on the traumas, delights and absurdities of growing up. Set on the peeling, ramshackle margins of some dead-end new town, it is the story of Danny, a futureless 15-year-old who determines to look after his grandfather's ancient pig after the old man is forcibly removed to a retirement home. Accompanied by his Indian girlfriend Surinder he creates in his grandparents' garden a summer's refuge from the racism, squalor and hopelessness of the world beyond. The gauche intensity of adolescence is conjured with great understanding, as are the corrosive effects of bigotry and urban poverty. Over all, however, looms the pig, an ailing, arthritic creature whose doomed existence stands as an ominous metaphor for all that surrounds her.

Walt Disney - Hollywood's Dark Prince by Marc Eliot, Deutsch pounds 9.99. The debunking of the West's cultural icons continues apace with this mesmerising and meticulously researched hatchet job on America's legendary cartoonist. Far from being the squeaky-clean uncle everybody took him for, the creator of Bambi and Mickey Mouse was, it transpires, a plagiarising, alcoholic, neo-fascist anti-semite - and that was on his good days. Scattering anecdotes and scalpel-sharp insights in all directions, Eliot propels us through Disney's life and work, from his grim Kansas childhood to his virtual canonisation as symbol of all that was fine and healthy about America. En route we discover a bitter, spiteful, emotional husk who broke strikes, spied for the FBI and who, in the trademark emotional wholesomeness of his animations, was apparently seeking redemption from the purgatory of his own private life.

Twenty Twenty by Nigel Watts, Sceptre pounds 5.99. Watts' rip-roaring fourth novel takes us firmly into Ray Bradbury territory, conjuring images of a futuristic world slumped in terminal, dust-blown decline. Books have been replaced by the sterile horrors of digiback, trashy motel rooms cost $420 a night and the Earth has succumbed to "existentialist crime": "acid spraying, spiking food with poison, dousing with gasoline - it was the new entertainment." Against this apocalyptic backdrop a diseased author types out the remainder of his days in the blasted wastes of northern Canada whilst at a remote Californian research institute scientists work to develop a new virtual reality holiday program for armchair tourists. The two scenarios gradually uncoil towards each other, providing not merely an adrenaline-pumping thriller but also an imaginative critique of the way in which human perceptions are increasingly distorted by the onward rush of technology.

Women in England 1500-1760: A Social History by Anne Laurence, Weidenfield pounds 12.99. Not, perhaps, the most inspiring title, but this remains a meaty, masterful and engrossing study of gender and society from the Reformation to the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Working within a voluminous frame of reference, and skating gracefully from the individual to the general, Laurence explores the jungle of early modern female experience with the sagacity and enthusiasm of a feminist David Attenborough. Marriage, childbirth, sex, work, faith, crime, education - each is hoisted from time's sump and illuminated with charismatic prose. It is much to her credit that she has steered a clear course between the Scylla and Charybdis of feminist historiography, presenting women as neither the victims nor heroines of society; although her overall thesis - that during this period opportunities for females to work and hold office gradually diminished - is undeniably pessimistic.

Consequences by Helen Muir, Pocket Books pounds 5.99. Like a cobra launching itself at a juicy toad, Helen Muir pounces with venomous wit on the twilight world of middle-aged romance. Pushy Hooray journalist Ruth Bly meets and falls for depressive narcoleptic cartoonist Leonard Derbyshire at a singles soiree at the Melstar Hotel. Their juddering, ill-fated courtship is conducted amid a swirling cast of glorious weirdos - flamboyant, snow-rinsed editor Conroy "Sweetie" Sweeting, cross-dressing cavalry officer Captain Tania Galway-Lamb - and leads inexorably to the outer reaches of romantic misadventure. Weaving rib-tickling satire with social commentary, Muir creates an elastic world where eccentricity is the norm and sexual banana-skins lie round every corner.

The Penguin Companion to European Union by Timothy Bainbridge and Anthony Teasdale, Penguin pounds 9.99. This is the closest you're likely to come to a clear, concise and readable account of what the European Union's all about, and hence required reading for anyone with the remotest pretensions to elementary Euro-nous. A series of mini-essays, arranged alphabetically, it leads us with admirable clarity and lack of techno-jargon though the history, composition and machinery of the EC. It's the sort of thing you want beside you during News At Ten to explain all those acronyms against which Tory Eurosceptics fulminate so entertainingly.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport