8th May, 2021

Bookcase: First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami and Stronger by Poorna Bell

Rugby Editorial 26th Apr, 2021

THIS week’s bookcase includes reviews of First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami and Stronger by Poorna Bell.

A literary giant is back with a new short story collection, and a grieving widow discovers her mental and physical strength…

Fiction

1. First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel, is published in hardback by Harvill Secker, priced £16.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel. Picture: Harvill Secker/PA.

A man reviews a fictional Charlie Parker record in a now-defunct literary magazine.

The memory of a girl clutching a Beatles record triggers bittersweet reflections.

A talking macaque monkey steals the names of the women he loves.

These are just a few of the tales in Murakami’s latest short story collection, all told from the perspective of a narrator in the first person singular, as the title suggests.

Murakami has a gift for reflecting on the philosophical, mixing the everyday with the surreal.

Whether he’s laughing at absurdity or lamenting a lost love, there is a meditative quality to his writing – the words are so serene and comforting, it feels like the literary equivalent of slipping under a warm blanket on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Although his female characters felt disappointingly reductive at times, the stories were still enjoyable to read and are sure to satisfy both hardcore Murakami fans and those looking for an introduction to his work.

8/10

(Review by Liz Connor)

2. Tall Bones by Anna Bailey is published in hardback by Doubleday, priced £12.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

When teenager Emma ditches her friend Abi at a party in the woods, she doesn’t know it will be the last time they see each other.

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey. Picture: Doubleday/PA.

Abi’s disappearance unlocks the hidden secrets of their small town Whistling Ridge, with Abi’s father Samuel having a significant hold over the entire community through his role as preacher.

Tall Bones alternates between past and present exploring various characters and how they, fuelled by rumours and resentment, come to terms with Abi’s disappearance.

It is slow moving, but this fits the eerie narrative.

Cleverly written, Anna Bailey’s debut shines a light on the darker and more oppressive side of small-town society.

Exploring strong themes including abuse and religion, the novel has an almost Gothic feel.

7/10

(Review by Sophie Morris)

Non-fiction

3. Stronger: Changing Everything I Knew About Women’s Strength by Poorna Bell is published in hardback by Bluebird, priced £16.99 (ebook £8.99). Available April 29

Stronger: Changing Everything I Knew About Women’s Strength by Poorna Bell. Picture: Bluebird/PA.

Poorna Bell is a journalist, formidable public speaker and author.

One lesser known strings to her bow is her sideline in competitive amateur powerlifting – a hobby that helped lift her out of the deep malaise following the death of her husband in 2015.

Rob, a successful journalist himself, took his own life after a battle with depression and heroin addiction, and Stronger contains the lessons Bell has learned since then.

She can now lift over twice her own body weight, but the most striking account contained in the book is the holistic effect lifting has had on her mental health.

Aimed at female readers, Stronger charts her journey in starkly person terms – but there is something here for readers of any gender or age: that strength comes in many forms.

7/10

(Review by Alex Green)

Children’s book of the week

4. The Incredible Record Smashers by Jenny Pearson, illustrated by Erica Salcedo, is published in paperback by Usborne Publishing, priced £6.99 (ebook £3.99). Available April 29

Jenny Pearson’s follow-up to her 2020 children’s debut, The Super Miraculous Journey Of Freddie Yates, is another feel-good adventure packed with as many laugh-out-loud moments as it is quirky world record facts.

The Incredible Record Smashers by Jenny Pearson, illustrated by Erica Salcedo. Picture: Usborne Publishing/PA.

The Incredible Record Smashers tells the story of 11-year-old Lucy: after her mum is hospitalised with depression, Lucy comes up with a daring plan to help make her happy.

Together with her best friend Sandesh, the madcap heroes attempt to break a world record of their own in a crazy escapade that involves watermelons, kumquats and a run in with two loveable baddies.

It bravely tackles the serious issue of mental health, but with a light touch that is accessible to young readers.

Friendship is at the heart of the story, showing how happiness can be found in the least expected places.

9/10

(Review by Holly Williams)

BOOK CHARTS

HARDBACK

1. Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

2. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

3. Turn A Blind Eye by Jeffrey Archer

4. First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

5. A Court Of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas

6. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

7. The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine

8. Slough House by Mick Herron

9. Legacy Of War by Wilbur Smith & David Churchill

10. Girl In The Walls by AJ Gnuse

HARDBACK (NON-FICTION)

1. Working Hard, Hardly Working by Grace Beverley

2. Pinch Of Nom Quick & Easy by Kay Featherstone & Kate Allinson

3. The Madness Of Grief by Reverend Richard Coles

4. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

5. Beeswing by Richard Thompson

6. What I Love About You by Studio Press

7. Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

8. In The Thick Of It by Alan Duncan

9. Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli

10. Together by Luke Adam Hawker

(Compiled by Waterstones)

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