Five new books to read this week

Five New Books To Read This Week
This week’s bookcase includes reviews of Matrix by Lauren Groff and The Primrose Railway Children by Jacqueline Wilson
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By Prudence Wade, PA

Are you looking for a gripping thriller or a feminist retelling of history? Take your pick…


1. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty is published in hardback by Michael Joseph. Available now



Liane Moriarty must be one of Hollywood’s favourite authors. Her new novel Apples Never Fall follows in the footsteps of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, telling the story of the tennis-mad Delaney family and the cracks beginning to show in their seemingly happy lives, when matriarch Joy goes missing. Moriarty has the ability to make you feel invested in the characters almost instantly, and her expert storytelling will have the reader turning page after page to discover the hidden truths lurking beneath the surface. The ending is witty and satisfying, but comes with a dark twist.

Apples Never Fall is another enjoyable offering full of intrigue, suspense and surprises, sure to delight both readers and viewers of the TV adaptation already in the pipeline.
(Review by Eleanor Barlow)

2. The Book Of Form And Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki is published in hardback by Canongate Books. Available now



This is a strange, thoughtful book. The Book Of Form And Emptiness is both a deeply moving story of family, loss and love, and a provocative lesson in mindfulness and the art of mastering inner peace.

After his father’s death, Benny Oh starts hearing voices. At first, the voice is his father’s, but then he starts to hear the voices of other things: chairs, mouldy cheese, half-eaten cartons of yoghurt, and even books. His mother, Annabelle, is also grieving. Empty in her own way, she pulls inward and becomes a hoarder. Alone and haunted by the voices around him, Benny retreats to the library where he discovers another kind of family in the colourful characters who gather there, including a homeless poet and a silver-haired girl trying to be a street artist. It is here among the books, that Benny must find his own voice.
(Review by Scarlett Sangster)

3. Matrix by Lauren Groff is published in hardback by William Heinemann. Available now


There’s an abundance of characters throughout history whose narratives have disappeared into the ether. Lauren Groff’s new feminist novel is inspired by the 12th century poet and lyricist, Marie de France – Henry II’s court were aware of her works, but she faded over the years.

Groff uses Marie’s mysterious existence to transport the reader to a grim convent in rural England, where Marie, a bastard child of the crown and the supposed half-sister of Henry II, is sent under the orders of Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. There, Marie uses her privileged upbringing to turn the fortunes of the convent around, and establish something of a utopia.

The pages are almost completely devoid of men – seen, but not heard – with Groff using poetic, melodic and yet fierce writing to breathe volume into themes of power, ambition and success from the perspective of women.
(Review by Charlotte Kelly)


4. Confronting Leviathan: A History Of Ideas by David Runciman is published in hardback by Profile Books. Available now

David Runciman, professor of politics at Cambridge and creator of the Talking Politics podcast, explores the idea of government – what the ‘modern state’ is, how it works and where it came from. Conceived originally for the podcast, these twelve essays have a conversational tone addressing the big questions without getting lost in footnotes. Runciman begins with Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, as the first attempt to describe a recognisably ‘modern’ state, and each subsequent chapter discusses another notable work and its author, some of whom are widely known (Wollstonecraft, Marx), others less so (Fanon, Mackinnon).

Runciman makes an excellent case for what each author contributes to understanding the problems of politics today. The book is a brilliant introduction to the topic for anyone looking to engage with political debates beyond the headlines.
(Review by Joshua Pugh Ginn)

Children’s book of the week

5. The Primrose Railway Children by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Rachael Dean, is published in hardback by Puffin. Available now

Inspired by E. Nesbit’s beloved novel The Railway Children, Jacqueline Wilson has brought the tale up to date. Narrator Phoebe Robinson idolises her dad, but has the usual ups and downs with teenage sister Becks and autistic brother Perry. Their cosy suburban world is shaken when Phoebe’s dad disappears, and the family move to an ancient cottage close to the Primrose Railway station.

Wilson gives voice to the nuances of complex family relationships, and how the siblings respond to what’s not being said. Phoebe’s view of both her mum and dad has changed by the final page. A football shirt replaces the petticoats of the original version, but Wilson keeps true to the essence of the original and hopes more people will be tempted to read it. Children won’t need to have read the original to enjoy this, but they will need stamina – it’s over 500 pages long.
(Review by Bridie Pritchard)

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