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A Hundred Doors

Michael Longley (Jonathan Cape)

Our other poetry heavyweight's latest tome focuses on family, with poems dedicated to individual grandchildren, and to his father, plus the echo of the First World War as a melancholy undertow. Having survived a writer's block in his 40s - "middle age is tricky for poets" as MacNeice said - he is now, like Heaney, in the full flow of his Yeatsian maturity.

The Omnipotent Magician

Jane Brown (Chatto -amp; Windus)

Those of us with mere pot-planted Belfast mini-gardens to noodle about in can only wonder at the sheer size and scale of the designs of Capability Brown. Whether it was Royal parks or indeed Blenheim Palace, he defined what the notion of a classic garden was. From Gardener's World to the Chelsea Flower Show, his influence is everywhere.


Gore Vidal (Abacus)

The crashing Gore's first set of memoirs is nothing less than a through-the-looking-glass version of the middle period of the 20th century. Suitably there are old queens aplenty, from the short Truman Capote getting short shrift, to 'the bird' Tennessee Williams, remembered with tenderness. This is Vidal at his waspish best.


Niall Ferguson (Penguin)

Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilisation, replied that he "thought it would be a very good idea". Mr Ferguson would beg to differ no doubt and, in a typically provocative way, he outlines how the West came to dominate the world both materially and politically. How much of that, we might ask, was because we seem to end up bombing so much of it?


James Kaplan (Sphere)

This book's subtitle, The Voice, says it all. Kaplan gives the kid from Hoboken a novelistic treatment, dealing with his traumatic early years, his marriages and serial infidelities, but always it's Sinatra's music, with its ability to redeem all manner of bad behaviour and dodgy connections, that dominates.

I Remember Nothing

Nora Ephron (Transworld)

Au contraire, Ms Ephron, you remember everything, or else you wouldn't have survived the jungle that is Hollywood, but it pays to play the ditzy elder stateswomanso that's what you do, with your usual wit and style.

The Slap

Christos Tsiolkas (Atlantic)

This week's biggest seller is a big slice of Aussie comedie humaine, set in the suburbs but brimming with the kind of antipodean bassline guaranteed to offend some and delight others. It takes place at a barbie in Melbourne, what else do you need?

Michael Conaghan


From Belfast Telegraph