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Book Bites: 28 January

Published in the Sunday Times

Manhattan Beach
***
Jennifer Egan, Corsair, R315

The US has finally joined World War 2 and women are working in jobs that were once the exclusive domain of men. In a Brooklyn naval yard, Anna Kerrigan, supporting her mother and disabled sister, fights to become the first woman diver. After work one evening, she visits a nightclub and runs into Dexter Styles, known gangster, and her absent father’s former boss. The encounter reopens old wounds and raises new questions. Egan crochets the three stories – daughter, father, gangster – into an interesting tale inspired by actual historic groundbreakers. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Logical Family: A Memoir
****
Armistead Maupin, Doubleday, R340

A delight for fans! Who would have known that Armistead Maupin, author of the wildly popular Tales of the City series detailing life in San Francisco from the late ’70s to today, replete with spliffs and gay sex, was a southern Republican conservative? Maupin’s autobiography surprises: growing up white in North Carolina in the ’40s and ’50s is strikingly similar to growing up white in South Africa in the ’70s and ’80s. There’s also his fraught relationship with his parents, his discovery of his gayness, serving in the US Navy during the Korean war – and revelations about some of the people who inspired the characters in Tales of the City, including the identity of the closeted Hollywood A-lister with whom he had an affair. One does get the feeling that Maupin holds back though, perhaps for another installment of his life story. One can only hope. – Russell Clarke @russrussy

Promise me, Dad
*****

Joe Biden, Macmillan, R300

Former US vice president Joe Biden cemented a name for himself as Barack Obama’s second-in-charge and for his role in negotiations with global leaders. This book, however, gives readers a touching portrayal of the man behind the scenes. Biden’s son Beau was diagnosed with a brain tumour during Biden’s term in office and this beautifully crafted story tells of how the family rallied together during those months and how, even after Beau’s death, they remained firm in the face of sorrow. His friendship with Obama is well-known, but here we get an inside glimpse of their dynamics. – Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

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