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Book reviews February 2023

February hardback highlights. What are you reading this month? 


Spare, by Prince Harry

Leaving aside Prince Harry’s numerous takedowns of the Royal Family (his family, let’s not forget) in this much-trailed autobiography, this is essentially the desperately sad story of a boy who lost his mother at a young age and never seemed to recover – who would? But what Harry needed when it came to writing his life story – and didn’t get – was a decent editor, someone to provide wise counsel and suggest that certain matters would be better left between himself, his father and brother.

Harry, however, up to his neck in Hollywood therapy-speak, is adamant throughout that his ‘truth’ needs to be told, even if that ‘truth’ has, as many have pointed out, only a loose connection, in many instances, with hard historical fact. It’s also a strange book, the ghost-writer finding it hard, at times, to stay in the background, as in a bizarre passage discussing Einstein and the nature of time. This despite Harry proudly claiming to have only read one book (perhaps it was Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and the General Theory).

In time this will no doubt be regarded as the desperate outpourings of a damaged middle-aged man who had his youth tragically taken away from him. In the meantime a dignified silence would not go amiss from the sage of Montecito.

Published by Bantam Price £28 Pages 416 ISBN 0857504797


Confessions, by Edward Stourton

Faced with the knowledge that the prostate cancer he had lived with for seven years would probably end his life sooner rather than later, that the “finishing line had become that bit clearer”, the veteran broadcaster contemplates the highs and lows of his 40-year career as well as the Catholic faith that has sustained him through everything. This frank, enjoyable, memoir also details Ed’s colourful family background, and recalls heady days at Cambridge and witnessing history in the making as a foreign correspondent before he encounters the no less treacherous environs of the Today Programme.

Published by Doubleday Price £20 Pages 284 ISBN 9781788705875


Aesop’s Fables, by Caroline Lawrence

Aesop’s Fables, small tales of wisdom credited to a slave and storyteller who lived in Ancient Greece six centuries before Christ, have been a part of our heritage ever since they were first collected, 300 years after Aesop’s death. Although Classics scholar and author Caroline Lawrence has brought the stories right up to date in this treasurable collection, they have lost nothing in their transition to the modern idiom, and are enhanced by Robert Ingpen’s charming illustrations.

Published by Welbeck Price £20 Pages 192 ISBN 9781913519902


Sugar Street, by Jonathan Dee

On the run from his old life an unnamed male narrator attempts to start again in a new city, far from prying eyes. But he soon discovers it is more difficult than he thought to set aside his former life of privilege and opt for existence rooted in kindness and simplicity. Possessing the pace and plot surprises of a thriller, Dee’s novel also manages to be a searing portrait of contemporary America.

Published by Corsair Price £16.99 Pages 224 ISBN 9781472151964


On Days Like These: My Life in Football, by Martin O’Neill

As a player, with Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and Northern Ireland, and as a manager, with Celtic, Leicester, Aston Villa and the Republic of Ireland, Martin O’Neill has always been one of football’s most engaging and articulate figures. This fascinating biography does not disappoint, revealing what life has been like at the highest level of the game for nearly 50 years, the exhilarating highs and devastating lows, the triumphs and disappointments, all the time guided by the credo, “no hurdle insurmountable, no travail insuperable, no dream too remote.”

Published by Macmillan Price £22 Pages 368 ISBN 9781035008469


The Road, by Christopher Hadley

This beguiling mixture of history, myth, archaeology and literature charts historian Christopher Bradley’s search for an elusive Roman road in Hertfordshire, attempting to peel away the changes wrought by the passing centuries. Evocatively written, it also an examination of how, from when they first set foot in Britain in 43AD, the Romans created a remarkable network of roads that left its mark forever on the British landscape and imagination.

Published by William Collins Price £20 Pages 320 ISBN 9780008356699

Written by Simon Evans


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