SOCIAL COMEDY JO BRAND Sorting Out Billy (Review $312.99) 0

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Martha. Sarah and Flower have serious problems. Martha's 38. single and seven months pregnant. Flower is failing as a stand up comic and Sarah just can't find a stitch to wear. But things get out of hand as Martha and Flower discover that Sarah's boyfriend has been beating her (ip and resolve to sort him out once and for all.

I like Jo Brand. I think she's funny. So I was really hoping her first novel would be a hilarious romp through familiar feminist territory possibly covering new themes and. at the very least. taking in cakes. Sadly. Sorting Out Billy is from the tedious ‘and then. . . and then . . .' school of writing. complete With one dimensional characters. stilted dialogue and absurd situations: and, it would seem, little or no editing. There was one joke that would have made me laugh. but it was on page 200 and I'd lost the WI“ to live by then. (Anna Shipmani

SHORT STORES RONALD FRAME Time in Carnbeg (Polygon SUSS” O...

for his latest book. Scottish author Ronald Frame. the writer of the award Winning [he

I. ariterri Bearers. has adapted a collection of

his own short stories for radio centred around the fictional Perthshire spa town of Carnbeg. While such a setting might at first seem twee and quaint. Frames stories are far from it. his incredibly subtle and precise prose detailing the horror. disa;)pointment. conflict and unfulfilled dreams that lie behind the closed doors of a polite society.

So we get tales of broken marriages. seasonal visitor's. missing persons. society matchmaker‘s. lonely old maids. (lo\.-.'iisi/ing city folks. hippy shopkeepers and much. much more. the stories spread in time over the last 100 years or so. Although only loosely connected by geography these superb and poignant stories do have a \.'.'ondrously accumulati\.e effect. painting a rich and multi

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layered picture of a seemingly real community and all the complexity and human frailty that entails. (Doug Johnstonel


RORY MACLEAN Falling for Icarus (Viking S‘ l 13.99) .0

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The basic premise: Rory Maciean is struggling ‘.'.’llll grief follou'xing his mother's death. In a ‘.’lf3l()li he is told to head for Crete. build an aeroplane to help him fly lcarus- style and cope


Lighthousekeeping (Fourth Estate S‘tiw 0..

wrth his loss. The promo blurb says: “a unique and movrng meditation on how a dream can transform sadness and how faith can be restored by the kindness of strangers.‘ I say: rubbish.

No doubt MacLean's intentions are earnest but the prose that drivels on in cosy. bland terms is enough to turn you against him. Every description is couched in cliche and the ‘colourful' characters he and his wife encounter are sketched with condescension. His tone is of a guest on John Peel's Home Truths who talks with delight. reflection and amusement about a really (lull thing. This has proved a winning formula for Radio :1. so this might be a hit; or it might plummet into the Aegean sea With an unheard splash.

(Ruth Hedgesi



The Book of Proper Names

(Faber £9.99) .00

From beginning to end. The Book of Proper Names is a curious. fast— paced read. The story centres on Plectrude who. quite apart from her unfortunate name. doesn't get the best starts in life. Her tE)-year- old mother Lucette murders Plectrude's father before killing herself soon after the birth. leaving her sister Clemence to raise the

‘Part precious metal, part pirate‘, Silver, the orphan heroine of Jeanette Winterson’s eighth novel, is a mythical little miss who could only ever exist in story form. Arriving in a lopsided house in the windswept Scottish coastal town of Salts, her birth-write - a gift from the god who abandoned her is evident from the first page, her lyrical imagination picturing a fisherman’s ‘splintered hull’ shoring ‘long enough to drop anchor inside my mother’. Her father gone and mother swiftly blown over a cliff, she endures the care of a repressive schoolmistress before being taken in by the blind, Homeric Iighthousekeeper Pew, whose schooling in the Jekyll and Hyde tale of Babel Dark, a 19th century minister of the town, splits and doubles the narrative back across the girl’s romantic obsession and


Although the characters seldom approach reality, Winterson’s autobiographical element to Silver notwithstanding, they are compelling creations, referencing writers as diverse as Woolf and Dickens through Silver’s subjective delivery. It’s all playful, inventive stuff, particularly the personable arrivals of Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Darwin to send Dark’s gothic world spinning, and Winterson’s sometimes frustratingly aphoristic style is leavened by the charm of Silver’s quixotic quest for self-fulfilment. When that quest is suddenly realised, in balmy, dreamlike sequences around Greece and Italy that seem to come from nowhere, it all rather peters out into a redundant dip into Tristan and Isolde and snuggling-under-the-covers contentment. Perfectly nice, but with a somewhat tired resolution. (Jay Richardson)


child as her own.

Over the following pages. the story of Plectrude's peculiar life unfolds: her school days. the actions of an over—iirdulgent Clemence. her obsession with ballet to lli(} [)()lltl ()f ll()£ll destruction. This is a very short novel but within it there are some particularly t..'/ell-tdr'a\.'./n depictions of childhood. The narrative has a tendency to Jerk along wrth little explanation but despite this. it does draw you in. That is until you get to the end. Amelie Nothomb's unusual conclusion is introduced and over in a matter of pages and it just feels rather flat.

(l lelen Monaghani

(:Wllyll /\lli()l3l()(‘ili;\i>ll\i’ JOAN HANNINGTON

I Am What I Am

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Like any genre. the autol)iograohy has its pitfalls. Self—indulgence can often mar the focus of the story. ‘.'.’llll(} lack of narrative Judgement can disturb the fluidity; .Jcan llarrnirfgt<>r‘:'s true story about her tourney to become one of Britain's most notorious diarnsnri thieves proyides the reader ‘.'.'llll a hearty slice of botl‘,

lhe early part of the book gives a nod to the Dave Pet/er not Xi (Nix/a (Ia/lei," /? fanrei school of prose. with llanniirgtan's personal testimony as a child i‘itua l“. abused it‘-. her father. t's a factor that nicely illustrates. but never really explains, her entry into a '.'.’()tl‘.l' of crime or tier one. apparent notoriety. \N’rrtfen for the latter part like a gangster lllt)‘.'l(‘: script. llanningtoir's (itllllll‘itll (aunts make for easy .i".l exhilarating (ti-adii‘g. But (iltiinately/ fun ‘.'."‘.i.’ ,’ A!“ is a strange 'i‘,l)ll(l of girth i‘ealisi" and pop culture fodder. (Anna lVllllillt

'.‘.'.:. .‘ -'- THE LIST 99