Quick reads: From London to Bronte Country

Alberto's Lost Birthday by Diana Rosie. Mantle, £12.99 (ebook £6.02). Review by Sarah Warwick

This Is London: Life And Death In The World City by Ben Judah
This Is London: Life And Death In The World City by Ben Judah

Alberto has never had a birthday – at least, he can’t remember having one. Scandalised, his little grandson Tino persuades him to retrace his steps, and find where he might have lost it. So begins a charming road trip for the pair – and the reader – through the cobbled towns and lemon groves of dusty, fragrant Spain. With echoes of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, this is a family story with links to world events, and Rosie adeptly balances the wider narratives of 20th century Spanish history and culture with those of her characters. While a lighter touch would make the plotting less obvious – the book’s charm and warmth carries it through.

This Is London: Life And Death In The World City by Ben Judah. Picador, £18.99 (ebook £7.19). Review by Simon Peach

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London is a kaleidoscopic, ever-changing city as more and more people make it home. Ben Judah, an acclaimed foreign correspondent hailing from the capital, does an exceptional job exploring the lives of new arrivals looking for a better life, immersing himself in their world. From cold, hungover mornings at Victoria Station, the capital’s Ellis Island, to sleeping rough with Romanian beggars in a subway, the writer goes above and beyond to tell the stories of London’s seen but unheard. The book is a wonderfully-written, fascinating account of modern-day life, offering a glimpse of the world from those arriving in the city hoping for a better life.

This Is The Ritual by Rob Doyle. Bloomsbury, £16.99 (ebook £10.79). Review by Roddy Brooks

Rob Doyle pulls no punches with his writing style in this collection of short stories. Ireland and the Irish form a large part of Doyle’s subject matter, a clear case of the writer writing about what he knows best. From the pronounced profanities of John-Paul Finnegan, who is introduced on a ferry trip to Ireland, Doyle skips to the disparate lives of Ireland’s vanished literary outlaw Killian Turner, a woman taking part in a sleep experiment, a depressed young man encountering a tramp and a man’s fixation with his girlfriend’s red shoes. If you like your reading with a healthy dollop of realism, Doyle’s newest offering will find a happy home on your bookshelf.

Yuki Chan In Brontë Country by Mick Jackson. Faber & Faber, £12.99 (ebook £6.47). Review by Jade Craddock

Yukiko has travelled all the way from Japan to England, ostensibly to see her sister Kumiko in London, but ultimately to visit Haworth, fabled home of the Brontës. While the older Japanese women on Yukiko’s tour are overcome to be in the Parsonage where the Brontës penned their famed novels and to walk the same atmospheric moors that the sisters walked before them, Yukiko has no interest in some long-dead authors. She is in Haworth to follow the footsteps of her mother. Mick Jackson’s novel is a subtly haunting and strangely affecting read. And whilst the plot, like Yukiko herself, is somewhat curious, the sentiment of the novel is utterly authentic.