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28th Oct, 2021

Bookcase: Featuring reviews of Bewilderment by Richard Powers and On Freedom by Maggie Nelson

Bromsgrove Editorial 27th Sep, 2021

This week’s bookcase includes reviews of Bewilderment by Richard Powers and Endgame by Malorie Blackman.

A Booker Prize-nominated novel and a new offering from a Pulitzer Prize-winning favourite, this week is jam-packed with great reads…

Fiction

1. Bewilderment by Richard Powers is published in hardback by William Heinemann, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

Bewilderment by Richard Powers. Picture: William Heinemann/PA.

Astrobiologist Theo Byrne has spent his career searching the skies for life beyond the cosmos; he’s also a recent widow fighting to protect his 9-year-old from a system that wants him labelled with Asperger’s.

When Robin is threatened with expulsion from school, Theo whisks him away to camp under the stars, painting new potential planets in the sky as he tries to convince them both life can thrive under even the most impossible circumstances.

When they get home, Theo signs Robin up for an experimental neurofeedback therapy using recordings of his dead mother’s brain activity to help stabilise his emotions. Richard Power’s Booker Prize-shortlisted novel is both brutal and heart-warming, intimate and profound.

A masterfully curated story of love, grief and loneliness, quietly building to an inevitable and devastating close.

9/10

(Review by Scarlett Sangster)

2. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead is published in hardback by Fleet, priced £16.99 (ebook £8.99). Available now

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead can’t seem to stick to one genre, and his latest novel is something completely new.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. Picture: Fleet/PA.

Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Harlem Shuffle is a noir thriller with a colourful cast of compelling characters.

Hardworking Ray Carney has his own furniture shop – but he also has a criminal side inherited from his father, and this gets him into various scrapes and capers.

While some of the writing is beautiful, other parts are bombastic – not everyone will like this, but it feels fitting for the type of tale Whitehead is trying to tell.

The main drawback is the novel is in three parts, jumping a few years between each one; while it shows Carney creeping further into criminality, it threatens to hinder the flow and feels more like a series of short stories.

While not as groundbreaking as some of Whitehead’s previous books, it’s fast-paced and fun – with the more serious background of racism and the 1964 Harlem riots.

8/10

(Review by Prudence Wade)

3. The Wolf In The Woods by Dan Brotzel is published in paperback by Sandstone Press, priced £8.99 (ebook £6.99). Available now

Colleen and Andrew’s marriage is in trouble.

The Wolf In The Woods by Dan Brotzel. Picture: Sandstone Press/PA.

A shared alcohol problem, conflict over their botched handling of a wayward son and general midlife malaise force them to ditch suburbia and head to a country cottage for a week of bucolic solitude and sobriety.

However, in the woods, their seemingly jovial and endlessly accommodating landlord, the ‘wolf’ of the title – seems eager to steer their voyage past the rocks of impending divorce, but is all as it seems?

Full of cutting insights into the reality of long-term relationships but not at all short on heart-warming humour, The Wolf In The Woods is a sometimes sinister but tenderly told tale of ‘be careful what you wish for’.

8/10

(Review by James Cann)

Non-fiction

4. On Freedom by Maggie Nelson is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £20 (ebook £9.99). Available now

Maggie Nelson continues to defy confinement to any genre with her new non-fiction title, On Freedom.

Nelson’s complex breakdown of what it might mean to be free attempts to provoke the reader into very, very deep thought – so much so, it may put off those looking for lighter reading.

The book looks at the many intricacies of freedom, through four concepts: art, sex, drugs and climate.

She weighs up our complicated love affair with the very idea of how we define freedom itself, and how it may not just be a certain thing we can achieve at once, almost to a mind-boggling end.

Nelson’s sharp segue into more academic language and heavy analysis proves slightly too much.

While the narrative and overall question on freedom seems bold and broad, the topics on which she chooses to analyse it through narrows the book’s reach.

6/10

(Review by Sophie Hogan)

BOOK CHARTS

HARDBACK (FICTION)

1. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

2. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

3. The Wisdom Of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie

4. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

5. How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

6. Empire Of The Vampire by Jay Kristoff

7. The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller

8. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

9. The Dark Remains by Ian Rankin & William McIlvanney

10. Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

HARDBACK (NON-FICTION)

1. And Away… by Bob Mortimer

2. This Much Is True by Miriam Margolyes

3. Redhanded by Suruthi Bala & Hannah Maguire

4. Big Panda And Tiny Dragon by James Norbury

5. Together by Jamie Oliver

6. Shackleton by Ranulph Fiennes

7. Watching Neighbours Twice A Day… by Josh Widdicombe

8. Guinness World Records 2022 by Guinness World Records

9. Odd Boy Out by Gyles Brandreth

10. The Story Of The World In 100 Moments by Neil Oliver

(Compiled by Waterstones)

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