First Thoughts

The World’s Best Street Food

Tom Parker Bowles

Lonely Planet Publications, £14.99

Review: Sarah Warwick

Thanks to the recession, tasty, affordable street food has been revived.

Who better to cash in on this trend than well-respected travel book publisher Lonely Planet, with what is bound to be a new bestseller.

Featuring dishes that hail from the lanes of Lima, Lisbon, Lagos and an exhaustive menu of other cities, the book outlines the history of some of the most popular street foods, with instructions on how to try them at home.

There are some familiar favourites — pretzels, say, or samosas — but items like the French Polynesian poisson cru, a marinated tuna and coconut milk salad, or Hungarian chimney cakes, are welcome, tummy-tempting additions.

Unless you lack a soul or a stomach, this winning combination of mouthwatering description and easy-to-follow recipes will have you warming up your wok before you can say ‘pad Thai?’

Briefs Encountered

Julian Clary

Ebury Press, €17.15;

ebook €16.15

Review Rachel Howdle

Known more for his acerbic humour than his writing, Julian Clary’s third novel is a wondrous and witty story that rises crescendo-like into a magnificently sculpted piece of dark horror.

Set over two periods of time, we are introduced to Richard, a successful actor of stage and screen, and to Noel Coward, the high society playwright.

Richard rose to fame playing Noel, so he buys a bolt-hole in the country previously owned by Coward. His devoted personal assistant, Jess, accompanies him, alongside his long-term partner.

But transferring his city life to the Kent countryside has its ups and downs. At the seeming idyll, things go bump in the night, echoing events from Coward’s time at Goldenhurst. Briefs Encountered is a twisting tale of families, lovers, deaths and obsession.

The Land Of Decoration

Grace McCleen

Chatto & Windus, €17.15,

ebook €16.99

Review Laura Wurzal

The Land Of Decoration is Grace McCleen’s first novel, based on her childhood growing up in a fundamentalist religion in Wales.

Ten-year-old Judith McPherson is a Jehovah’s Witness living with her father; her mother died in childbirth. Lonely and bullied because of her faith, Judith builds a model of the promised land in her room from modelling materials, pipe cleaners, rubbish and household scraps, which she calls The Land Of Decoration.

Judith decorates her ‘land’ with ‘snow’ and prays for snow in the real world so she can avoid school bully Neil Lewis. This happens and she believes she has performed a miracle and has special powers. With the help of a new teacher, she confronts the bullies, but things turn dark and dangerous when they target her home.

Judith’s father defies the union at work and joins the scabs. Tensions rise as the attacks at home increase and he turns from his religious beliefs to drink.

This is an unusual, well-written novel. Fans of Emma Donoghue’s Room will enjoy this fresh, inventive debut.

Wilkie Collins

Peter Ackroyd

Chatto & Windus, €17.65;

no ebook

Review: David McLoughlin

Pre-Raphaelite, friend of Charles Dickens and the creator of the first fictional detective in Sergeant Cuff, Wilkie Collins’s life story is as convoluted as his most successful novel, The Woman In White, must have seemed to the British public who bought it in their thousands.

It is an extraordinary life, told with glee and relish by the writer who has come to be the voice of London’s incredible past, historian Peter Ackroyd.

Attention to detail and a genuine passion for the subject matter are hallmarks of Ackroyd’s writing. Such qualities were also possessed by Collins, as well as an artist’s eye.

Ackroyd says: “His novels resemble a series of pictures rather than a sequence of scenes.”

A comfortable, informative book and well worth a read or two.

More in this section