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Book Bites: 20 September 2015

The Improbability of LoveThe Improbability of Love
Hannah Rothschild (Bloomsbury)
****
Book Fling
A book that presents itself, at first, as an easy, ​predictable​ read: “Girl finds picture, picture turns out to be worth a fortune, girl finds boy with a heart.” But this crime caper has more layers than an ornate trifle. There are lessons in art history, ​World War II’s​ ghosts, heartbreak and vile deeds. Food slips in, becoming a major plot point. The large and eclectic cast of characters includes the painting. Full of spunk, vanity and observations collected during its 300 years, the masterpiece has no qualms about telling readers to “Piss off.” I grew rather fond of the audacious chap.
- Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

It's a Long StoryMy Life: It’s A Long Story

Willie Nelson (Little Brown)
****
Book buff
Willie Nelson has plenty of experiences to draw as he crafts his four-score-and-two epic bio with warmth and wit. One of the many parts of his past that Nelson makes no apology for (along with less-than-diligent marital fidelity, heavy drinking and an ongoing devotion to dagga) is listing the songs that influenced his own writing and the enduring hits he’s written. He’s a paradox who’s as loving as he is irresponsible; as generous as he is single-minded; and talented as he is obstinate. This book is a “Shotgun Willie” showcase.
- Bruce Dennill @BroosDennill

TightropeTightrope
Simon Mawer (Little Brown)
***
Book thrill
Mawer’s first novel about Marian Sutro, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, was always going to be a tough act to follow, but this sequel, which moves into the Cold War and the nuclear era, is equally taut, scary and vivid, written with stylish pace and punch. Mawer delves deep into the twilit slippery world of spies and counter-spies, betrayal and clashing passions; he reminds us of the hell of Nazi concentration camps and of the potential horrors of nuclear war; and his sultry, dangerous heroine shows once again how to be a survivor. Le Carré could hardly have done better.
- David Pike @pikedavey

When the Moon Is LowWhen the Moon is Low
Nadia Hashimi (HarperCollins)
****
Book buff
Fereiba survives a tormented, motherless childhood, narrowly escaping marriage to a brute of a boy. She finally finds love and a promising teaching career when war breaks out in Afghanistan. Fearing that the rocket-strewn streets are no longer safe, Fareiba crosses mountains and borders on an impossible pilgrimage to London. Hashimi captures the essence of what it means to lose one’s dignity and to carry the label “refugee” around one’s neck. Poignant, poetic and relevant to our time, its powerful story had me reading from cover to cover in one sitting.
– Annetjie van Wynegaard @Annetjievw

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