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August Paperback Reviews

Simon Evans makes his pick of the latest paperbacks

Diana_remembering_the_princess_book_coverDiana, by Ken Wharfe and Ros Coward

Twenty-five years on, the life and legacy of Diana, Princess of Wales, is as contested as ever. Was she a media manipulator, constantly concerned with burnishing her public image, or an empathetic champion of the poor and overlooked? The answer is probably somewhere in between, but there’s no doubting whose side the authors of this hagiographic tribute are on, and it isn’t King Charles and his courtiers. Ken Wharfe was Diana’s one-time protection officer, and Ros Coward the author of an officially sanctioned portrait of the Princess, and they draw on personal knowledge of Diana and her circle to provide a candid portrait of this enigmatic figure. They also have interesting things to say about developments in the Royal Family since her death, again born out of personal knowledge of those involved.

Published by John Blake Publishing Price £9.99 Pages 288 ISBN ‎9781789466652

Inn_Search_of_Birds_pubs_people_and_places_book_coverInn Search of Birds, by John Lawton

Pubs and birders go together naturally, as anyone who has finished a day spent seeking out elusive kites or great-crested grebes with a reviving pint will testify. And this charming book is for them, a mixture of natural history, social history and celebration of that particularly endangered species, the great British pub.

The author wrote much of the book during the Covid lockdowns, all too aware that many of the pubs bearing bird-related names and signs he covers so brilliantly may already be extinct, but from The Blackbird on London’s Earls Court Road, to the Yellow Wagtail in Yeovil, it’s a hugely enjoyable melange of memories, history and pub quiz facts that’s perfect for your next bird-watching expedition.

Published by Whittles Publishing Price £18.99 Pages 240 ISBN ‎9781849955065

Tourists_how_the_British_went_abroad_to_find_themselves_book_coverTourists, by Lucy Lethbridge

The story of Brits abroad is, as Lucy Lethbridge observes in her fascinating study of changing attitudes to travel, one of “both optimism and disappointment, of hopes raised by the promise of the view at sunrise and dashed by the cloud, or the crowd, that obscures it.” The problem is that the explosion in foreign travel over the past 60 years has been reliant on the very technology and modes of transport that diminish what Lucy Lethbridge calls “the search for arcadia”.

What’s so refreshing is how the author brings the voices of ordinary British travellers to life while also charting the rise of guidebooks and the assorted bric-a-brac of mass tourism, such as the remarkably thorough ‘what to take guides’ for the first-time traveller that, had they been followed to the letter, would have necessitated several trunkloads of clothing and bathroom supplies.

Memories of Seventies Spanish seaside holidays and the accompanying fears about funny foreign food were, she suggests, not so far removed from the medieval pilgrims who would set out to discover “something more spiritual, more primitive, than life at home”. Then, as now, they would return “not with a cockleshell as a trophy but with a status-enhancing suntan.”

Published by Bloomsbury Price £10.99 Pages 318 ISBN ‎ 9781408856291


The_Palace_Girls_book_coverThe Palace Girls, by Emma Royal

When Milly Hendry’s parents were killed in the Blitz she was taken in by her aunt, who worked at the Royal Army of Cleaners in Buckingham Palace no less. Now, with the war over, the nation appears to be on the road to recovery, but all is not well in the Royal household as the King’s health continues to decline. Below stairs, the staff, who Milly has come to regard as family, gather to celebrate her 21st birthday, but the day takes an unexpected turn when a letter arrives out of the blue containing secrets from Milly’s past. Suddenly the future does not seem so clear after all. Downtown fans will enjoy this well-crafted novel from Emma Royal, the pen-name of established romance writer Katie Ginger.

Published by Century Price £8.99 Pages 380 ISBN ‎978-1804945483

Dr_Who_The_Waters_of_Mars_book_coverDoctor Who Target novels

Back in 1973 a range of Doctor Who novels was created by Target Books to cater for fans of the TV show who, in those pre-video days, hankered for more adventures involving their favourite Time Lord during the six months of the year the show was off air. Initially the range featured recently screened adventures involving the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, but soon expanded to include stories from the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras, most unseen since their original transmission and many having been destroyed, with the novelists forced to work from shooting scripts.

Target published novelisations of almost every Doctor Who serial aired between 1963 and 1989, with only a few notable exceptions, and BBC Books began reissuing these paperbacks in 2012, expanding the range five years ago to include all-new novelisations of modern-era Doctor Who episodes.

New additions to the range include The Waters of Mars by Phil Ford and The Planet of Ood by Keith Temple, both among the most memorable episodes from the David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor era. The Zygon Invasion, by Peter Harness, is from the Twelfth Doctor era, when the Time Lord was played by Peter Capaldi, and there’s also a Thirteenth Doctor novelization, Kerblam! by Peter McTighe as well as Stephen Gallagher’s Warriors’ Gate and Other Stories which goes right back to Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. All five books are priced at £9.99 each.



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