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April 2023 paperback reviews

Pick of the paperbacks with Simon Evans

How_to_Fix_Northern_Ireland bookHow to Fix Northern Ireland, by Malachi O’Doherty

For decades Northern Ireland seemed to be a deadly puzzle that was seemingly impossible to solve. How could you ever reconcile two communities divided on religious, sectarian lines that had such divergent and contradictory aspirations, the one to be part of one country, the other to stay part of another? And so the killings continued, atrocity piled upon atrocity until, weary of war, the two sides came together in an uneasy peace that has held, pretty much since the signing of the momentous Good Friday Agreement, 25 years ago.

Malachi O’Doherty has written extensively on the issues that have faced Northern Ireland, his most recent book being an excellent account of Bloody Sunday and its aftermath. Here, drawing in part on his own experience, O’Doherty suggests that the issue facing Northern Ireland is not geographical but cultural and sectarian, and only when deep-seated divisions surrounding, for instance, education, class and language, are resolved will there ever be true peace on the island of Ireland.

Published by Atlantic Books Price £16.99 Pages 308 ISBN 978-1838958527


A_journey_through_lost_britain_Shadowlands bookShadowlands, by Matthew Green

Travelling across Britain, historian Matthew Green uncovers lost communities – villages, towns and cities that were lost to nature, disease or geography. He provides thorough and erudite potted histories of places such as Dunwich, “Britain’s lost Atlantis”, the lost city of Trellech in the Welsh Marshes, the lost port of Winchelsea and Skara Brae’s Neolithic settlement, and although Matthew’s poetic flourishes are sometimes misplaced, he succeeds in bringing the locations vividly to life. It’s also a very personal book, the author’s discovery of “how our country has come to be shaped by absences” reflecting how his own life had “come to be defined by what was no longer there.”

Published by Faber Price £10.99 Pages 348 ISBN 9780571338030


Tales_of_a_Country_Parish book

Tales of a Country Parish, by Colin Heber-Percy

During the Spring of 2020, as the world was plunged into lockdown, country vicar Colin Heber-Percy began writing a daily newsletter in which he poured out a mixture of reflections, concerns and uplifting stories to keep in touch with his similarly isolated parishioners. It became an internet sensation, with Heber-Percy’s bulletins being eagerly consumed in places far away from his Wiltshire parish. His endearing mixture of the spiritual and the mundane translates easily to this funny, endearing book, which details everyday life in his parish and includes reflections on life, nature, spirituality – and whether it is possible to find heaven in a Londis shop.

Published by Octopus Price £9.99 Pages 286 ISBN 9781780725611


The rising tide bookThe Rising Tide, by Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves’ Vera novels will of course always be associated with the wonderful Brenda Blethyn, who plays the “large and shabby”, but always on the money, elderly detective in the long-running TV series. It’s hard to believe this is only the tenth in the series of novels so ubiquitous have they become and it’s as compelling as always. Vera is called upon to investigate a group of friends who meet at Holy Island every five years to commemorate the friend they lost there 50 years ago. One of their number has been found hanged and Vera has to uncover what really happened all those years ago and how it may have provoked someone to murder.

Published by Pan Price £9.99 Pages 397 ISBN 9781509889655


Ballroom girls bookThe Ballroom Girls, by Jenny Holmes

Anyone who recalls dancing at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom during their summer holidays will love this latest romance from the ever-reliable Jenny Holmes. Set in the summer of 1942 it finds Sylvia, daughter of one of Blackpool’s most eminent ballroom dancing teachers, and destined for great things on the dance floor, secretly taking lessons in the popular new Latin dances, much to her mother’s displeasure. Then there’s Pearl, who sells fish and chips by day but spends her Saturday nights dancing with best pal Bernie and Joy, who lost her family in the Blitz but sees a hope of new love when she is invited to a dance by dashing Tommy. Two more books in the series are already on the way.

Published by Penguin Price £7.99 Pages 403 ISBN 9781529176537

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