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Book Bites: 22 March 2015

Lucy Wood (Bloomsbury)
Book buff
Whether you like ghost stories, explorations of relationships – particularly those between mothers and daughters – or simply enjoy beautiful descriptive writing, this novel ticks all the boxes. Ada and her daughter Pepper return to her mother’s dilapidated, damp, remote house to scatter Pearl’s ashes in the river that borders the property. Slowly the crumbling house and the few locals suck them in, as Pearl’s grumpy and not entirely ghostly presence gets stronger. A beautiful, life-affirming novel, brilliantly executed.
- Margaret von Klemperer

The JournalistThe Journalist
Jos Scharrer (CreateSpace)
Book buff
This fictionalised memoir of the author’s great aunt, Flora Shaw, is rather complex. You applaud and admire Shaw for being one of the first female editors of a newspaper. In the 1890s she served as “Colonial Editor” of The Times of London and saw it all: The Jameson Raid, the Klondike gold rush, the Anglo Boer War and the founding of the state of Nigeria. But one struggles to like her: Scharrer doesn’t hold back the fact that the formidable Shaw was a supporter of the British Empire and fervently believed in its imperialist expansion.
- Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

John Sandford (Simon & Schuster)
Book thrill
Sandford is that rare crime-series writer who makes each instalment new and fresh, a remarkable achievement when the settings are small rural towns where nothing much seems to happen. Trippton, on the Mississippi River, is present-day America’s equivalent of Miss Marple’s St Mary Mead – until Virgil Flowers from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrives to help an old friend investigate a series of dognappings – which leads to a chain of murders. Sandford’s stories are searing, yet humorous and always affectionate.
- Ayesha Kajee @ayeshakajee

Wolf in White VanWolf in White Van
John Darnielle (Granta)
Book buff
This is the perfect book to read if you are feeling sad. It will make you realise you’re not so bad off after all. Sean is an odd boy who survives a shotgun blast to the face and grows into an odd man who runs an adventure game called Trace Italian through the mail. The game leaks into the real world with fatal consequences for a couple of silly teenagers. Author John Darnielle is the frontman for California indie folk-rock band The Mountain Goats, but never fear, this is not at all apparent in the book, which reaches heart-rending depths.
– Jennifer Malec @projectjennifer

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