Jessie Burton’s debut novel, The Miniaturist, became an international bestseller and her latest work is just as ambitious. A dual time frame novel, the action begins in 1967 with young Caribbean immigrant Odelle Bastien getting to grips with her new life in London and a job at a prestigious art gallery. She becomes embroiled in the discovery of a notable artwork from the Spanish Civil War, and it is then that the reader is taken back in time to its creation, The Muse is a taut thriller, combining art, politics and romance and a brilliantly realised story.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx. Fourth Estate, £18.99 (ebook £9.99). Review by Harriet Shephard
Barkskins took Annie Proulx five years to write, and at more than 700 pages long, it’s easy to see why. As a history graduate, Proulx has indulged her passion by detailing North American history from 1693 right up until 2013. The story starts as Rene Sel and Charles Duquet arrive in New France (Canada) to chop trees for the odious and rather comical Monsieur Trepagny. The rest of this epic novel follows the ancestors of this pair, and shows how the human race has damaged the world’s forests over the last 300 years. Those interested in deforestation may love Barkskins, but most will find it more of a chore than a treat.
How To Find Love In A Bookshop by Veronica Henry. Orion Books, £12.99 (ebook £7.99). Review by Nicola Wilson
Set in Peasebrook, a chocolate-box Cotswolds town, Veronica Henry’s latest novel is a light, romantic story of one girl’s attempt to keep her father’s charming, but financially precarious, bookshop open when she is called home after his death. If only we all had a bookshop in our lives that could deliver us what Peasebrook’s does: meaning, community, true love and, of course, a happy ending. This is a predictable but endearing romp through a legion of small-town characters and their complex, intertwined lives. It’s also a love story to bookshops and reading, with the various ‘top 10 lists’ interspersed between chapters. Perfect deckchair reading.
Paper: Paging Through History by Mark Kurlansky. Norton, £17.99 (ebook £10.44). Review by Bridie Pritchard
Mark Kurlansky, who wrote best-selling books Cod and Salt, paints a picture of how such a seemingly simple product as paper arose out of need and how it spread over time across continents. This canter through social history is most interesting when it focuses on paper’s specific roles, for example, in Chinese burial rituals. And while for many years the death of paper has been predicted – to be replaced by the paperless office, the ebook and email. Kurlansky expertly argues a case for its continuing survival.