Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

The best of the new books

Selected Stories, By Stefan Zweig PUSHKIN PRESS £9.99 ' Fans of old movies may be familiar with Letter from an Unknown Woman, starring Joan Fontaine, which was adapted from Stefan Zweig's 1922 novella telling the story of a playboy and his amours from the point of view of one of the discarded women. Abortive relationships between men and women dominate this splendid collection, where a touch or a fleeting memory illuminates the cruelty or the ignorance of an individual. In 'Fantastic Night', an Austrian lieutenant remembers the night that changed him from a self-indulgent young man into a caring individual - and during which he stole money, consorted with a prostitute and was almost robbed. As in many of these stories, the more sordid aspects - not necessarily of life, but of character - are revealed. In 'The Fowler Snared', a man's manipulations of a young girl expose his moral vacuity; in 'Buchmendel', a whole society's mistreatment of a Jewish book-pedlar shocks one of his former customers, who had forgotten the old man and, in doing so, behaved just as badly. Human frailties and human cruelties are Zweig's eternal themes...'
The Love Children, By Marilyn French THE FEMINIST PRESS £11.99 (327PP) (FREE P&P) FROM THE INDEPENDENT BOOKSHOP: 08430 600 030 ' When The Women's Room was first published in 1977, it was as if Marilyn French had dropped 'a bomb in the comfortable concentration camp of the American suburbs,' says Susan Faludi. The psychodrama of Mira's stultifying, ball-and-chain marriage to Norm outraged the critics, roused a generation of housewives who had sat, anesthetised, in the dull suburban drawing rooms of East Coast America and became, in part, the fire in the canon of second-wave feminism. Now, some 30 years after that explosive moment comes the follow-up, The Love Children. The final novel French wrote before she died last year, it is not so much a bomb as a round of gunfire aimed at the present day. She had fired such sallies before - in 2006, she bemoaned that 'feminism has almost disappeared from the surface of our society'. With this novel, French takes us back to the beginning to reflect on the ideals of this apparently lost cause...'
Bury Place Papers, By Frank Kermode LRB £14.99 'This collection of 'Essays from the London Review of Books, 1979-2007' not only demonstrates Frank Kermode's dexterity and range; it also shows a sense of humour I hadn't picked up on before. In his 1986 review of three weighty Hemingway biographies, for instance, two of which focused on Hemingway's early years and his first marriage to Hadley Richardson, he comments, with some feeling, on the amount of detail included: 'Although it may seem a little ungracious to say so, for she was an interesting woman, you may feel some regret that a thousand letters from Hadley to Ernest have survived.' Kermode is nothing if not diligent: if he had to read every word of those letters, one senses that he would do so...'

Enrich your mind with a selection of the latest hardback and paperback books.

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Source: Independent

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