Paperbacks

<i>When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon</i> by Frances Park | <i>Life &amp; Death in Eden</i> by Trevor Lummis | <i>The Rose Grower </i>by Michelle de Kretser | <i>The Nudist on the Late Shift</i> by Po Bronson | <i>The Copper Scroll Decoded</i> by Robert Feather
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The Independent Culture

When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon by Frances Park (Chatto, £10, 243pp)

When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon by Frances Park (Chatto, £10, 243pp)

Frances Park - Washington chocolatier turned novelist - writes about make-up with the kind of passion usually reserved for truffles and fudge brownies. Best known for her children's book, My Freedom Trip (based on her mother's flight from North Korea), Park's second adult novel explores the mean-spirited world of junior high, and the unsettling power of boysenberry lip-gloss.

Sisters Cleo and Marcy Moon couldn't be more different. Cleo is gorgeous and wild, a magnet for all the neighbourhood boys. Marcy is studious and shy and lives her life vicariously through the pages of American Teen. They bump along happily enough but paths diverge when their father dies, and Marcy is left to pick up the pieces. Twenty years on, with resentment running high, the sisters find themselves on course for sibling meltdown. Middle-aged Cleo has transformed herself into a successful manufacturer of gourmet sauces while Marcy lives on an Indian reservation.

The girlhood sections of the book work well. Like Amy Tan and Gish Jen before her, Park describes the difficulties facing second generation children - daughters as alien to their mothers as their blonde-haired classmates. The grown-up chapters are less convincing, with the hippie/ yuppie dichotomy as trite as some of the writing. Marcy wants to rescue her young nephew from his sterile home life, Cleo is too busy promoting her Cha Cha Cha Chili Sauce to be a good mom. After a showdown in the desert, Cleo and Marcy rediscover the joys of sister power, and with it a new food product: "Marcy's Marvelous Soup. Mega Money for the White SkyTribe". (EH)

Life & Death in Eden by Trevor Lummis (Phoenix, £7.99, 255pp)

A seaman turned historian, Lummis briskly recounts the story of the Bounty (Bligh emerges as a skilled mariner but a terrible man-manager), but he is mainly concerned with the fate of the nine mutineers who, accompanied by 18 Pacific islanders, settled on Pitcairn. When their hideaway was discovered 20 years later, John Adams, the sole male survivor, ruled over a tranquil society of his own making. Lummis brilliantly explores the bloody power struggle which produced this earthly paradise. perfect book for the beach.

The Rose Grower by Michelle de Kretser (Vintage, £6.99, 299pp)

Forget tulips: de Kretser's debut reclaims the rose as history's more classical flower. In Gascony, a young woman nurtures a passion to create a repeat-flowering crimson rose, the first of its kind in Europe. But events such as the French Revolution and the arrival of a wayward American balloonist conspire to hinder her. This is a period of history that has inspired novelists like Michÿle Roberts and Hilary Mantel to passionate heights, but de Kretzer's quieter tale of unrequited love exudes its own low-key charm.

The Nudist on the Late Shift by Po Bronson (Vintage, £6.99, 252pp)

Novelist PO Bronson has a knack for turning the world of high finance into tasty bite-sized stories. His most recent book The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest, described a Silicon Valley startup, his latest is an overview of life in the Valley for its legions of programmers, salesmen and entrepreneurs. His engaging geeks include Ben Chiu, an immigrant who finds himself head of a $46.6 million electronics company; the eponymous nudist; and David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo, worth $500 million, who uses his office floor as a bedroom-cum-filing cabinet.

The Copper Scroll Decoded by Robert Feather (Thorsons, £8.99, 384pp)

Not as nutty as it sounds. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls bears a tantalising list of 150 tonnes of treasure. Valued at £1bn, not a single item has been identified. According to Feather, a religious scholar with a metallurgical background, the quantity has been overstated. Still, a trove worth £5-10m is not to be sniffed at. Hoarded by an obscure sect, the gold is probably hidden in Jerusalem, possibly in Egypt or Ethiopia. Feather's view that "the chances of finding it after 3,000 years are not too good" may strike some as optimistic.

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