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Bromsgrove Advertiser: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander

A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.

By Sarah O'Meara

New fiction

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £12.99. Available now.

Nathan Englander, named one of the "20 writers for the 21st century" by the New Yorker, has written several international best-sellers including The Ministry Of Special Cases.

His latest book is a collection of eight short stories, each exploring various aspects of Jewish life, a constant theme in his work.

Particularly well done is the title story, which gives a glimpse into two different marriages after a well-intended parlour game reveals the brutal reality of one of the relationships.

Also noteworthy is Sister Hills, which starts on the eve of the Yom Kippur War and follows a deal struck between two women to save a gravely ill child.

The stories are excellently crafted, unpredictable and often deeply troubling, raising uncomfortable questions while always maintaining a sharp wit.

8/10

(Review by Amanda Nunn)

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella is published in hardback by Bantam Press, priced £18.99. Available now.

With only weeks to go before her wedding, Poppy Wyatt loses her priceless engagement ring and her mobile phone at a hen weekend brunch.

Worried about the consequences it will have with her prospective in-laws and fiance Magnus Tavish, Poppy begins a frantic search of the hotel.

As panic levels hit the roof, she sees an abandoned phone in a bin. Convincing herself it's finders keepers, Poppy decides to keep the phone and use it as a temporary contact number so the hotel staff can get in touch with her when they find the ring.

However, the phone, which is a corporate mobile belonging to business consultant Sam Roxton, leads to an unprecedented, soul-searching adventure as the young physiotherapist begins to see her life in a new light.

I've Got Your Number has all the ingredients that make a Sophie Kinsella potboiler. Poppy is charmingly goofy, and the outcome is predictable.

Humour is what keeps the storyline interesting and the use of footnotes add that extra touch to Poppy's playful wit.

5/10

(Review by Nilima Dey Sarker)

Pantheon by Sam Bourne is published in hardback by HarperCollins, priced £12.99. Available now.

Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland has a new thriller released under his pen name Sam Bourne.

Set in the time of the Second World War, Pantheon tells the story of Oxford academic James Zennor, who returns from a morning's rowing to find his wife and young son missing, with a brief note giving little clue as to their whereabouts.

James, idealistic but ultimately frustrated, physically and psychologically wounded from experiences in the Spanish Civil War, sets out on the trail of his wife and son, following them to Yale University in America.

What he discovers there is not only deeply disturbing but has massive implications for the course of the war, and, possibly, humanity itself.

The story takes a while to get going but once it does, the plot is intriguing and complex.

James's torment and impetuousness is well described, his character becoming more sympathetic and believable as the story reaches its conclusion.

7/10

(Review by Claire Ennis)

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is published in hardback by Headline Review, priced £14.99. Available now.

Inspired by the snow maiden from Russian fairytale Snegurochka, Eowyn Ivey's debut novel The Snow Child takes us back to the cold wilderness of 1920s Alaska.

Elderly couple Jack and Mabel are struggling to cope with the harsh winter and lack of food, while the grief at the loss of a stillborn child is driving a wedge in their martial life.

Just after the first snowfall, a sudden impulse leads Mabel and Jack to build a child out of the snow. The snow child disappears the next day but an unexpected visitor arrives at their doorstep - a little blonde, blue-eyed girl of unearthly beauty who calls herself Faina.

The childless couple decide to take her under their wing but not without apprehension - is this a dream come true or just another heartbreak waiting to happen?

Ivey weaves a delicate, enchanting tale of love, life and hope. Descriptions of the cold Alaskan landscape are breathtaking and the dialogues between Faina and the principal protagonists evoke a sense of magic realism that is bound to captivate the readers.

9/10

(Review by Nilima Dey Sarker)

The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach is published in hardback by Fourth Estate, priced £16.99. Available now.

Chad Harbach's debut novel, a mere 10 years in the making, has already attracted a good deal of attention, some would say hype, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The story - about a college baseball player, Henry Skrimshander, who appears destined for the big leagues until he suffers a chronic attack of the yips - is a likeable one with well-drawn characters.

An enthusiasm for baseball is not essential but has probably helped the book appeal to fans of a certain kind of American literary fiction.

There are hints of Jonathan Franzen and F Scott Fitzgerald and a definite whiff of a New Yorker short story, while Herman Melville features so prominently he is almost a player in the drama.

However, Harbach's writing never feels explicitly designed to push buttons as Skrimshander moves from carefree amateur to young athlete on the brink of professional riches but paralysed by doubt and responsibility.

8/10

(Review by Scott Dougal)

New non-fiction El Narco: The Bloody Rise Of Mexican Drug Cartels by Ioan Grillo is published in trade paperback by Bloomsbury, priced £12.99. Available now The drug war has cut a bloody path through the recent history of Mexico, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.

Backed by massive profits and facilitated by corrupt officials, drugs have become a billion dollar industry in Mexico.

El Narco has spawned not only one business but three - drugs, contract killing and kidnapping for ransom compete equally for the attention of the cartels and gangs who run the business on each side of the United States border.

The profits have become so big and the population of Mexico so anaesthetised to killing and torture that shooting and decapitation have almost become the norm.

Ioan Grillo, a journalist who has lived and worked in Mexico for more than a decade, writes from personal experience of military operations, mafia killings and drugs busts which make his debut book a compelling record of the most bloody of businesses.

7/10

(Review by Roddy Brooks)

All The Madmen: Barrett, Bowie, Drake, Pink Floyd, The Kinks, The Who And A Journey Into The Dark Side Of British Rock by Clinton Heylin is published in hardback by Constable, priced £20. Available now.

Perhaps best known for his writings on Bob Dylan, rock biographer Clinton Heylin tackles several icons of British music in one swing in his latest offering.

Despite the broad and ambitious title, what starts as a quest into the madness of some of the greats, including David Bowie, Syd Barrett and Nick Drake, ends up being an essential biography of each, and of the 1960s and 1970s era of British rock.

While it may be carving out a niche, that of men-of-a-certain-age, the book panders to its audience brilliantly, and steers clear of the trap of recycling well-known urban legends, sticking to the facts throughout.

It's a well-researched piece of work, and one that doesn't get hung up on one person for too long before throwing another mad genius into the mix.

It is a solid and in-depth investigation into why so-called 'madness' in rock music was considered fashionable during Bowie's heydey, and why its collective legacy has lived on through to the present.

This work might alienate some, like the music it references, but overall this is another successful work from Heylin.

8/10

(Review by Lewis Young)

Felling The Ancient Oaks: How England Lost Its Great Country Estates by John Martin Robinson is published in hardback by Aurum Press, priced £30. Available now.

The spectacle of the country estate has fallen into the shades of the past, remembered only in faded photographs.

Architectural historian John Martin Robinson has brought a number of these once grand estates together in this beautifully rendered book, to share their sad stories and to reveal in photographs and drawings the splendour that is no more.

Some, such as Costessey Hall in Norfolk, fell victim to the decline in fortunes of their owners after the Great War. Whereas Witley Court in Worcestershire, with it's magnificent facade and gardens, was ultimately brought low by fire.

The foolishness of individuals and the march of industry, towns and time all contributed to their decline. This book is a timely reminder of those great estates that no longer exist.

10/10

(Review by David Loughlin)

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