For those who love a good book, JLife’s Elaine Bermitz presents her hotly tipped selection of recent reads.
Wilson Indeed by Steve Walsh
An intriguing first book of a series, in which a teenage boy meets the girl of his dreams – quite literally in a dream, and then in real life. The place they meet turns out to be a fantastical zone in which certain people, of which there are two, can absorb facts astonishingly quickly and use them to influence events in the real world. Odd, peculiar and well written, it’s neither fantasy nor theoretical, more an imaginative romp and a gripping yarn. It does provide a good plot and being set in Manchester, provides the reader with interesting points of connection. The ending leaves the possibility for further novels along the same lines and it’s easy to see that another one could be as interesting.
How to be a Refugee by Simon May
Simon May is the son of a proud and talented German who came to England as a young widow with two young sons, her husband having died of a heart attack when Simon was just five. She was a talented violinist, cultured and a part of the idealistic upper class who thought they would never be touched by the growing barbarism of 1930s Germany. Conflicted in the extreme by her Judaism and her passionate belief that there was no culture on earth more sensitive to the arts than the German people, she spent her life denying her religion, and spending her time exclusively with Jewish emigré intellectuals. Passing on this confusion to her son, who never felt part of any religious group, nor at home in any country except Germany, the place responsible for killing almost his entire family. Much more an account of how much one’s early years affect a person for the rest of their life, it should have been entitled ‘how to reconcile yourself to your childhood’. Grandparents, mother, aunts and uncles all stayed where they were during the war, denying their religion, lying to themselves and others about who they were and ending up alone, confused or disbelieved. I just couldn’t put it down.
One of the Family by Nicky Campbell
A popular presenter on TV and BBC Radio 5, Nicky Campbell enjoys a high profile and with it a huge amount of affection from the public. A shame, then that for much of his life he has suffered from a sense of not belonging, and worse. His second memoir allows the reader to delve deeply into the world of someone who is unable to accept his achievements for what they are. He tells a heart-wrenching story of someone who, knowing that his mother rejected him at birth, chose to believe, despite the love of a nurturing and charming stepfamily, that he counted for nothing. His overwhelming desire for approval is definitely mitigated by the lovely Maxwell, a dog he is given by his wife when he is at his lowest emotional point, and whose unqualified affection gives him hope. Even so, though he has the love of his wife and daughters he is compelled to search for and piece together the reasons behind his mother’s rejection. The story is worth the read and made me even more sympathetic to those who haven’t had the basic building blocks of life that a happy childhood can provide.