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'I would have loved more children, but we all make decisions in life and you can't go back and re-run them'

Book Reviews

By Hannah Stephenson

Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway is often compared to Bridget Jones, thanks to her calamitous moments. The most famous of these happened last year, when her crotch - sporting nude-coloured support pants - was accidentally flashed to the nation as her co-presenter, Ben Shephard, scooped her up and pretended to dunk her in a pool of muddy water.

"I've made such a fool of myself so many times on TV. When you've flashed your crotch in front of the nation, it's hard to get nervous about anything ever again. It was my worst nightmare," she laments.

"My feeling was one of total horror. I mean, Ben picked me up without any warning. I was panicking about my phone, because I thought he was going to throw me in. The floor manager looked up and said, 'We saw everything'. Then I had to go back through everything, frame by frame, to see just how much had been revealed.

"It was awful, but I am still speaking to Ben."

Relaying the story with wide-eyed mock horror, laughter never far away, it's clear Garraway has been around long enough not to take life too seriously. She may have been horrified that her nether regions were exposed for a nanosecond on national TV, but she can laugh at herself with the best of them.

She's now tackling middle age - she'll be 50 this year - with The Joy of Big Knickers, an upbeat, positive and humorous book which looks at middle age for the modern woman.

It's partly anecdotal - we learn her thoughts on cosmetic surgery, embarking on a sex challenge with her husband, changing her couch potato habits and eating more healthily - but there's plenty of research in there which addresses the problems and feelings of today's women as they reach this phase of life.

She admits that she had her own mid-life crisis while writing the book, when she walked into the office at Smooth Radio, where she presents a daily show, on her 49th birthday and they'd decked it out for her 50th.

"It made me think, 'But I am going to be 50 and it feels like a very big number, where you should have achieved things, or be content with things'. I thought, 'I'm still overstretched, overworked, feeling like I'm not being as good a mum as I should be, or as good at work as I should be'. I needed to take stock.

"I needed to look at exercise, eating, and the great thing about my job is that you not only have super-glamorous famous people who seem to have got it all sorted, to take advice from, but also as a journalist, I know how to find answers from experts."

She's worked on breakfast TV for nearly 20 years, interviewing everyone from heavyweight politicians to film stars including Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise.

There have been times when Garraway has wanted to enhance her own looks, although, so far, she has resisted Botox and going under the knife.

"I wanted a facelift quite obsessively for ages. But everyone said it wouldn't make any difference at all. My husband thought I was bonkers. He said, 'Don't do that!' He thinks it's ridiculous. He wouldn't want me to do it.

"The make-up artist at Good Morning Britain said, 'You do have to think about everything else', because we see all the good work and we see all the bad work in this chair. We see all the weird nips and tucks where people have gone too far. You need to look at all the other things first like exercise and diet because they create the youthful energy that we're all after, rather than being wrinkle-free.

"I'm not saying I'd never have a facelift long-term," she continues. "Never say never."

Garraway's been married for 11 years to her second husband, former Labour adviser Derek Draper, whom she met through a mutual friend at GMTV.

"We went for drinks in London and she invited him along, telling him there was this girl at GMTV she really wanted him to meet. He thought it was Andrea McLean.

He had Googled the wrong person. I think he was a bit disappointed when I turned up because Andrea's gorgeous.

"We got on straight away. I thought he was - and still is - very interesting."

Married in their late-30s, they have a daughter, Darcey (10), and seven-year-old son, Billy.

"I would have loved to have had more children. I would have probably ended up one of those people who appear in the newspaper with 25 kids.

"But you make decisions at the time. You can't go back and rerun. Do I wish I'd had a child with a person I dated in the sixth form? No."

While researching the book, she learnt about how sex can be good for you both physically and mentally. When her friend turned up one day looking radiant and confessed she'd embarked on a two-week challenge, in which a couple have sex once a day for 14 days, Garraway decided to give it a go.

"We tried the 14-day challenge. Derek was like, 'What, sex once every two weeks?' I said, 'No, once every day for two weeks'," she recalls, laughing.

"Derek very methodically carved out time for us with his red pen and our spreadsheet schedule," she says wryly.

But on day seven, calamity struck.

"I was lying in the bath with the scented candles on, getting ready for a romantic evening. He took the children to the park, slipped on some wet leaves, broke four bones in his foot and spent the evening in A&E - and that was it."

Her husband, she notes, is now back on his feet, albeit with a walking stick. They're planning a romantic weekend in Rome - but not with the purpose of resuming the 14-day challenge.

"He's probably a bit scared - I'm not sure he could get insured for it now."

As for work, she writes warmly about her GMB pals and, although TV has a reputation for being ruthless and cut-throat behind the scenes, it's not something Garraway has encountered.

"You never get stories about Good Morning Britain, or any of our team fighting with each other. Piers (Morgan) has livened things up, but not in an internal way. It's just Piers being Piers. I know him really well and he's actually a very kind and loyal person. He's definitely brought an energy to GMB which is different."

For now, she's planning a huge party for her 50th birthday and is positive about the future.

"On my lovely journey, I've sometimes felt it could be downhill from here, but that isn't always a bad thing. It's better than an uphill struggle."

  • The Joy of Big Knickers by Kate Garraway is published by Blink, £14.99 

Saga of the Calais 'jungle' should be shocking, but fails to captivate reader

Children's book of the week: The Jungle, By Pooja Puri, Ink Road, £7.99, Review by Ella Walker

It's frustrating that, in tackling the Calais jungle, a world that, until October last year, teemed with all the pain, despair, hope and opportunity a captivating story would need, Pooja Puri's The Jungle fails to really wallop you.

Because a story like this should.

It should shock, upset and mobilise readers; at the very least it should trigger some kind of emotional reaction.

But it doesn't, even though our fairly well-drawn lead, Kenyan teenager and refugee Mico, is without his family, trying to scrape together a life among the tarpaulin, aggression and rubbish-strewn migrant camp.

We travel the settlement with him as he fixes up stolen bikes, plays peacekeeper between his disparate, desperate friends, and dodges the belligerent Ghost Men (people traffickers), but there's little nuance - and even less depth - to his back story, or that of the characters he rattles between.

The introduction of the scrappy, yellow rucksack-wearing Leila, who spurs Mico on to look beyond the metal fencing of the jungle, doesn't provide quite the catalyst to make the narrative zing, either.

The story doesn't captivate, or convince, and, despite its potential, it's just not powerful enough to get a real good grip on you.

Millennial love story lacking in authenticity

Fiction: Exit West, By Mohsin Hamid, Hamish Hamilton, £14.99, Review by Liz Ryan

Mohsin Hamid's fourth novel - he is the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize - opens promisingly with the meeting of Nadia and Saeed, two slightly oddball 20-somethings, in a nameless city that is sliding toward civil war.

At first, I was wholly convinced by Mohsin's delicate depiction of their passion, acted out in a bizarre millennial world which encompasses both emotional reliance on social media and sectarian throat-slitting.

The country's descent into barbarism is all the more horrifying for being glimpsed through the narrow prism of two self-absorbed lovers.

But the lovers' escape from the conflict is achieved via a lurch into magical realism.

Unfortunately, this robs the novel of a key detail of the migrant experience - the physical brutalities of the passage to Europe.

Thereafter, the characters lack agency and their travails cease to be interesting.

Writer cuts to chase in this breathtaking murder mystery

Fiction: Let The Dead Speak, By Jane Casey, HarperCollins, £12.99, Review by Darragh McManus

Perhaps ironically - or, now that I think about it, perhaps not - crime fiction has long proven fertile ground for women writers. Since her debut in 2010, Jane Casey has briskly carved out her own space in the field.

The latest instalment, Let The Dead Speak, is my introduction to her work. I tore through it in more or less one sitting.

We open on a brief prologue, in which beautiful, but intellectually challenged 18-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her mother's Putney home after a weekend with her (divorced) dad in his country pile. Blood is spattered all over the walls and the carpets.

The case comes to Maeve, newly promoted to detective sergeant. Working alongside her old sparring partner Derwent, and newbie Georgia, and under the watchful eye of their boss Una Burt, Maeve begins her inquiries.

The first stumbling-block to a quick resolution is this: there's no body. So the killer/killers had to have moved it. A sniffer dog leads them to an unoccupied house nearby and soon the secrets and lies of this nice middle-class street begin to be revealed.

Casey assembles a superb cast of characters, whether heroes, potential villains, or innocents, swept up in the rushing stream of events.

Crucially, she doesn't linger too long on colouring in the background and fleshing out the actors.

The story is dizzyingly complex at times - a broiling, festering stew of betrayal, blackmail, zealotry, obsession, envy, violence, repression and (imagined or real) damnation, but it never becomes unwieldy or nonsensical.

There are gear-shifts that surprise and twists that always make sense and feel right. There are also moments of almost excruciating tension.

Clever, assured, skilful and often thrilling, Let The Dead Speak grips you from the jump and doesn't let go.

Combining Garrett's musical and cooking careers produces a tome to really savour

Non-fiction: Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls, By Graham Garrett, Face, £35, Review by Eliot Collins

The first time I met Graham Garrett, he described to me one of his favourite food and travel experiences. It was a well-trodden journey to a cider house in San Sebastian, where a large group of hungry gastronomes were handed a mug, perfectly shaped for lapping up a newly cracked barrel of local cider. Alongside the fresh apply booze was a locally hunted hog, spit-roasted and shared among friends like a ye olde post-hunt celebration.

I haven't had the chance to follow in his footsteps, but it's on the bucket list. I think this demonstrates a beautiful common trait in all great chefs: a passion for food that is social, cultural, meaningful and adored.

Garrett is in a position to share these stories another time in another book (hopefully), but for now these tales are of the world of music.

It's not often you come across a book that combines the hard graft and delectable recipes of a Michelin-starred chef with the anecdotes and stories of a rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls is a highly unique read. When Garrett was bashing the skins of his toms-toms with glam rock band Dumb Blondes, Panache and Ya Ya back in the 1980s, I was just starting to eat solids.

Reading his account of this decade with a musical lens really provides a perspective I can appreciate and be somewhat envious of.

Garrett gives readers an interpretation of British classics with an element of finesse in "eat off the page" recipes for sausage rolls with foie gras, smoked haddock salad and Eccles cake.

There is something for all eager cooks, with more than 50 recipes ranging from sweet and savoury snacks to full-on indulgent dinners.

My favourites are the spiced mackerel kebab, lamb bacon, sweetbread, peas and roast suckling pig.

Influenced by Britain, the Mediterranean, Japan and beyond, Graham demonstrates his passion for great flavours that are big, bold, subtle, humble and elegant.

I'm not sure if his hands are more cut up from the dozens of fills he made holding on to a splintering pair of Vic Firths, or de-boning game birds with a razor sharp Sabatier under the watchful eye of Nico Ladenis.

Either way, this modest artist deserves a pat on the back for this highly engaging and well-selected tome.

Ex-Tele man’s account of six decades on riverbank deserves place among classics

Non-fiction: Casting Back: Sixty Years of Fishing and Writing, By Peter McMullan, Rocky Mountain, Books, £20.35 from Amazon, Review by Maurice Neill

Peter McMullan's book is a treasure trove not just for anglers and those who appreciate a well-written story, but for naturalists and environmentalists tracing the decline of our waterways over the past six decades, for it provides a unique eyewitness account of what we have neglected and lost.

The book offers valuable insight for policymakers in the age of tourism, for it places sports fishing in its proper economic context and reveals how progressive legislation in North America has helped save stocks of wild fish.

In Canada's British Columbia, it provides employment and wealth in rural areas and offers decent sport for anglers.

In Northern Ireland, angling has been undervalued by successive administrations at Stormont, despite the goodwill of the EU, many cross-border dimensions and the attention to development shown by governments in the Republic.

The 80-year-old Ulsterman began his career as a journalist at the Belfast Telegraph and recalls the quality of the angling available here in the 1950s and 1960s before he settled in the Canadian province of British Columbia and made another island his home.

"Too much has been lost, has already been ruined beyond recall, but here on (Vancouver) island there is still hope and much that is worth saving for future generations," he writes.

His story begins in the days when Ireland's native trout were plentiful and 30lb salmon and pike commonplace. He has visited all the great game fisheries in the north of Ireland and recalls his experiences with remarkable detail and great affection.

His earliest piece is about his schooldays in England, where he fished for tench and pike. He first wrote about angling for the Belfast Telegraph in 1955 and in 1956 joined the herring fishermen of Portavogie.

In 1959, he reported the proposal for an Angling Trust - modelled upon a similar initiative in the Republic. He then takes us off around the world to locations most anglers only dream of, from New Zealand to the Bahamas, and recalls encounters with magical fish and a few bulls and bears.

The library of good angling books would fill many rooms, but McMullan's splendid memoir deserves its place among the classics of TC Kingsmill-Moore, AA Luce, Thomas McGuane, Negley Farsons and Norman McClean.

Could this Utopia ever become a reality?

Non-fiction: Utopia for Realists By Rutger Bregman, Bloomsbury, £16.99 Review by Kate Wilkinson

Much of the world's population has seen dramatic positive change over the past few centuries; our diseases get treated and many of us have enough to live comfortable lives.

We are living in the "Land of Plenty"; a place people before us could only imagine in their utopian dreams.

But where do we go from here? Rutger Bregman, the 28-year-old Dutch historian, wants universal basic income, a 15-hour working week and open borders. These are the goalposts for his new utopia, set forth in this book.

Bregman has many tightly spun arguments, case studies and statistics to support giving people free money.

In 2009, 13 homeless men in London were each given £3,000 as part of an experiment.

After a year-and-a-half, all of them had used the money in positive ways.

The arguments for shorter working weeks and open borders are less developed, but Bregman's account of global economic history is impressive.

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