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5 new books to read in lockdown

This week’s bookcase includes reviews of The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding.

Prudence Wade
Wednesday 17 March 2021 09:24

Order your copy of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s highly anticipated new novel, or read a new classic by Jacqueline Wilson…

Fiction

1. The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen is published in hardback by Corsair, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

In The Committed, Viet Thanh Nguyen continues the story of his 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning debut, The Sympathizer. A Vietnamese-French communist agent finds himself in chic 1980s Paris where he is plagued by the horrible deeds he perpetrated in the name of the revolution, by the existential angst of his split identity, and his growing anti-communist sympathies. The Committed ties all these strands together in a high-stakes crime thriller, as enemies made during his exile in Los Angeles return to haunt him, and he falls into running drugs for a shady figure called the Boss. Like its predecessor, the rollicking, darkly comic plot serves as a vehicle for the protagonist’s stream of consciousness musings on colonialism, racial identity, loss, love and middle age, with references to psychiatrist Frantz Fanon and poet Aime Cesaire thrown in for good measure. It’s a thrilling alternative to the Western narrative.8/10(Review by Alex Green)

2. Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced £14.99 (ebook £10.49). Available now

Sonya had it all – the bright lights of a career on the London stage, romance, fast cars and lovers. But then life got in the way, or rather, the latest addiction did, designed to fill the void left since her mother died when she was a child. Drawing on her life as an actress, Lisa Harding weaves together a heart-warming tale of a mother’s love and a battle against demons – some real and others the work of the mind. Keeping the pace high and the action flowing, Harding grips your attention as Sonya’s plight peaks and troughs. With dialogue as crisp as what Sonya slurps from a bottle of white, Harding serves up a hard-hitting insight into the life of a failed actress.8/10(Review by Roddy Brooks)

3. The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse is published in hardback by Bantam Press, priced £12.99 (ebook £5.99). Available now

Sarah Pearse’s The Sanatorium sets a spooky scene – from the snowy setting to the fate of the guests, right up to the final twist. Detective Elin accepts an invitation to celebrate her estranged brother’s engagement at a new hotel high in the Swiss Alps. As a storm blows in, guests start to go missing. The reader really gets behind the reluctant heroine-cum-detective who must undergo an investigation into her past if she is to solve the mystery in time. Pearse uses ‘the unknowns’ of the book to get under your skin, and her ability to build tension is second-to-none. If you like a jumpy or gruesome thriller, this is for you.7/10(Review by Julia Saqui)

Non-fiction

4. Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, And The Truth About Where I Belong by Georgina Lawton is published in hardback by Sphere, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

For more than 20 years, Georgina Lawton’s white mother and father pretended to her, themselves and anyone who asked, that she was their child, even though her skin colour indicated she was mixed-race. After her father dies, Lawton discovers the truth: her biological father was a black man. Lawton’s determination to identify her racial heritage, while her mother refuses to provide any details, is powerful and uncomfortable. It probes the damage caused by Britain’s culture of shame, almost offhand racism and white privilege. Unfortunately it is rather unevenly written: veering from pacy, engaging investigations into the importance of hair to black identity, to more rambling sections describing her anguish, which would benefit from a tighter edit. Perhaps it’s an indication the journalist’s quest to reconcile herself with the long hidden truth is not yet complete.7/10(Review by Natalie Bowen)

Children’s book of the week

5. The Runaway Girls by Jacqueline Wilson is published in hardback by Doubleday Childrens, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.99). Available March 18

Two lives collide in The Runaway Girls: a rich girl in a fancy mansion and a poor girl brought up on the streets, on the run from the police and trying to survive in Victorian London. Both have lost someone close to them, and they need a friend. Together they beg and face terrible difficulties, jail and the workhouse, never knowing who they can trust, as even the nicest seeming people can turn out to be horrible. The story shows how two completely different people can come together and make an unstoppable team – and how brave children can be. Some scenes – such as the one in the workhouse – will make your heart beat really hard. If you like Jacqueline Wilson’s stories or want to find out what life was like for children in the 1800s, you will love this book.8/10(Review by Julia Ballard)

BOOK CHARTS FOR THE WEEK ENDING MARCH 13

HARDBACK (FICTION)1. Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell3. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex4. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman5. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart6. Daughters Of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson7. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi8. Not Dark Yet by Peter Robinson9. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett10. The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab(Compiled by Waterstones)

HARDBACK (NON-FICTION)1. One: Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones2. Beyond Order by Jordan B Peterson3. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy4. The Complete Gardener by Monty Don5. No One Can Change Your Life Except For You by Laura Whitmore6. Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries (Volume 1): 1918-38 by Chips Channon7. Tap To Tidy by Stacey Solomon8. Tales From The Farm By The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen9. Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera10. The Soul Of A Woman by Isabel Allende(Compiled by Waterstones)

AUDIOBOOKS (FICTION AND NON-FICTION)1. The Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett2. Beyond Order by Jordan B Peterson3. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides4. The Story Of China by Michael Wood5. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig6. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman7. Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro8. A Promised Land by Barack Obama9. Dear Child by Romy Hausmann10. A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson(Compiled by Audible)