www.list.co.uk/books MOTORING MEMOIR BRIAN JOHNSON Rockers and Rollers (Michael Joseph) ●●●●●
Reviews Books ALSO PUBLISHED
the personalities who flitted between Covent Garden, Drury Lane and Sadler’s Wells – the pivotal points of Grimaldi’s career – might also have been useful. Andrew McConnell
Stott manages to keep the tone light despite the vast amount of detail he imparts. However, despite an absorbing canter through Grimaldi’s life and times you never quite feel that you are getting a complete hold on the subject’s personality. (Julian Hall)
HORROR COMIC PAT MILLS & OLIVER LEDROIT Requiem Vampire Knight: Resurrection & Danse Macabre/Dracula & The Vampires Ball (Panini Books/Nickel) ●●●●●
Veteran British comics writer Pat Mills takes us into hell as Requiem Vampire Knight finally gets printed in English. Originally released in France where, much like the rest of Europe, there’s a burgeoning comics scene that isn’t obsessed with superheroes and men with capes, Requiem is very much an adults-only tale of vampires, blood, lust and glory.
Our protagonist is a former Nazi who awakens in hell as a vampire, but clings to a misguided sense of honour. It’s a domain ruled by laws opposed to our own as bloodsuckers, werewolves, zombies,
AC/DC singer and sometime amateur racer Brian Johnson measures his ride along the highway to hell above all not in sex, drugs or rock’n’roll, but automobiles. Motors are the Geordie petrolhead’s passion – from E-Type Jags to TVRs, Rolls Royce Phantoms and Range Rovers – and his sense of humour is about as ribald as you’d expect from a hard rocker of his generation. Most chapters – covering subjects ranging from early fumblings in Minis to latter encounters on tour buses – are so brief and smutty that they read like they were scrawled on the back of condom wrappers. One is simply titled ‘The Anal Intruder’, and that’s all we’ll say about that. If Johnson feels the need to squeeze the words ‘fart’, ‘shag’ or ‘blowjob’ into a sentence – or describe a car as a ‘penis extension’ – then he just will. This is probably the perfect gift for anyone you know who likes cars but finds Top Gear too high-brow. (Malcolm Jack)
COMEDY HISTORY ANDREW MCCONNELL STOTT The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi (Canongate) ●●●●●
This sprightly biography of Britain’s most famous clown is prefaced by the Grimaldi family tree. This is a particularly handy illustration, given the Olympic appetite of his father, ‘the Signor’, for copulation. Meanwhile, so dense is the hurly- burly of the early 19th century theatre world that Grimaldi inhabited that a similar depiction of
CONFESSIONAL MEMOIR CATHERINE MILLET Jealousy (Serpent’s Tail) ●●●●●
The success of her 2002 memoir, The Sexual Life of Catherine M, propelled French art critic Catherine Millet into the spotlight as one of Europe’s most celebrated contemporary sexual libertines. Indeed, this blisteringly honest dissection of her numerous carnal conquests arguably paved the way for more recent, mainstream literary erotica, like Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands. Millet’s second confessional offering, Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M, examines the darker side of her pleasure-driven desires and the violent emotional and physical outcomes of the discovery that her long-term partner, Jacques Henric, is conducting explicit sexual affairs with other women.
As in The Sexual Life . . . , Millet abandons any sense of narrative
structure in this rambling and detailed collection of philosophical musings on the nature of her jealousy, self-consciously and willingly compromising the extent to which the reader sympathises with her situation by admitting that she too has been sexually pursuing other men while in her relationship with Henric. But though her cold sense of detachment may have worked in her first memoir, the technique doesn’t ring true when dealing with a feeling as potentially exhaustive and ugly as jealousy.
Even so, its spellbindingly fluid prose makes this an absorbing tale. Descriptions of Catherine M’s intricate erotic fantasies play a particularly crucial role, evolving from the vividly satisfying to aggressively urgent. But ultimately, the book is exasperating in its unrelenting introspection, and its limp, unresolved ending is anticlimactic: a stark contrast to the many fulfilling encounters the author describes so lucidly throughout its pages. (Yasmin Sulaiman)
HISTORICAL TALE BARBARA KINGSOLVER The Lacuna (Faber) ●●●●● What really went on in the household of Frida Kahlo and her painter husband, Diego Rivera? Their stormy relationship,
full of extra-marital flings and break-ups, is probably as famous as their art, and the curiosity factor grows when they sheltered Leon Trotsky during the 1930s. Grounded in history, Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel imagines what happened behind closed doors, through the eyes of their housekeeper, Harrison Shepherd.
Harrison’s mother took him to Mexico after divorcing his American dad, to snag herself an oil-millionaire. A 13-year- old bookworm, Harrison befriends Frida, ‘an Azteca queen with ferocious eyes’, and
becomes accidentally sucked into the revolution. Kingsolver’s epic story – spanning four decades of political upheavals in America and Mexico – is a vivid, colour-soaked depiction of those times. Like Harrison, torn between two nations and two parents, Kingsolver seems pulled between following her characters, and the historical events. It’s a dense, often too wide-stretching plot, but the characters – social climbers, lefties, do- gooders and crooks – make her rich, poetic writing come alive. (Claire Sawers)
5 DEBUT NOVELS Jacqueline Yallop Kissing Alice Arthur Craythorne marries Queenie May just as World War I bursts into action. At its finale, he returns to his missus and kids a very changed man. Atlantic. Laleh Khadivi The Age of Orphans A planned trilogy about three generations of Kurdish families leaving their homeland for the USA starts with the fictionalised story of the author’s grandfather. Bloomsbury.
Nick Stafford Armistice The playwright who adapted Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse to great success debuts with the tale of a young woman's attempt to discover the truth about her fiancé’s mysterious death in battle. Quercus.
Camilla Noli The Mother’s Tale Controversial little number this as Noli’s novella focuses on the dark side of parenting with a mum struggling to cope with having two babies in quick succession and beginning to harbour murderous thoughts. Orion. Jeannette Walls Half Broke Horses Based on the true life of the author’s maternal gran, it focuses on a woman who leaves home at 15 to become a cowgirl and horse trainer. Simon & Schuster.
centaurs and other denizens of the night battle for supremacy. These first two collected volumes kickstart the story and are off at pace as political factions boil over into violence. Oliver Ledroit’s richly detailed art brings this dark and malignant world to glorious life and though it’s a bit cheesy in places, the non-stop action is enough to keep you hooked. (Henry Northmore)
22 Oct–5 Nov 2009 THE LIST 37