First Thoughts

The Kid, Sapphire Hamish Hamilton, €17.15

SAPPHIRE’S new novel picks up years after her previous book Push, which was turned into award-winning film Precious, starring Gabourey Sidibe and Mariah Carey.

Following the tragic death of his mother Precious, nine-year-old Abdul Jones is left to fend for himself. With no guardian or other family, Harlem-based Abdul is forced to move from a foster home to the troubled St Ailanthus boys’ school with other orphans, where he is abused, both mentally and physically, and later leaves to stay with a woman who claims to be his great-grandmother.

Discovering an extraordinary talent and passion for dance, the teenager uses the art form as his therapy as he tries to escape his past and heal his wounds through performance — but years of abuse take their toll.

Like Push, The Kid travels through time, flashbacks and memories to deliver a punchy story.

All That I Am

Anna Funderr, Viking, €14.99; Kindle £6.49

Review: Daniel Bentley

ANNA FUNDER won the Samuel Johnson Prize for her first book, Stasiland, a highly personalised but non-fiction account of the secret police in Communist East Germany during the Cold War.

This time around the Australian writer takes pre-war Germany under the Nazis as her starting point, charting the lives of a group of intellectuals who opposed Hitler’s rise to power and found themselves exiled from their homeland as a consequence.

While based in fact and on real lives — one of the characters is a personal acquaintance who lived the later years of her life in Melbourne — All That I Am is written as a feat of Funder’s imagination as she explores the personal hopes, loves and fears that her painstaking historical research could not unearth.

The result is, like Stasiland, an original and convincing take on an already intensively-trawled period of history. Poignant and moving.

A Cruel Bird Came To The Nest And Looked In

Magnus Mills, Bloomsbury, price €17.15, Kindle £6.92

Review: Ben Major

THE author of the McKitterick Prize and Booker-shortlisted novel The Restraint Of Beasts, Magnus Mills, returns with his seventh novel, A Cruel Bird Came To The Nest And Looked In.

Set in the fictional empire of Greater Fallowfields, the story explores the fate of the region’s royal officers, who are each performing jobs they are under-qualified for — including an incompetent astronomer who doesn’t know the differences between stars and planets.

Entrenched in tradition and past glories, the empire slowly crumbles around them, becoming increasingly bizarre and Kafkaesque, until a distant, burgeoning state changes everything irrevocably.

This philosophical satire is told in Mills’s deceptively simple narrative voice, with the allegories running through adding depth to his characters’ simple lives.

A smattering of well-placed humour makes this a very well-told story.

The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex

Mark Kermode, Random House Books, €12.99; Kindle £6.15

Review: Christopher Corr

IN The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex, curmudgeonly film critic Mark Kermode takes on the entire landscape of modern cinema, arguing, through a series of rants on 3D, summer blockbusters and other betes noires, that the industry has lost its way.

While his hatred for Transformers and Pearl Harbour director Michael Bay is both funny and commendable, Kermode’s take on silent films — better than the best cinema has to offer today, apparently — makes him sound like a self-indulgent Luddite. And like Alan Partridge, anecdotes aren’t exactly his forte — the passage about meeting Zac Efron is embarrassing.

And it’s a shame, because there’s much to like about this book. Multiplexes are awful, and 3D is gimmicky rubbish that’s good only for giving you a headache.

If only someone had told Kermode to tone down the rhetoric.

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