First Thoughts

Jubilee Lines: 60 Poets For 60 Years

Carol Ann Duffy

Faber and Faber, £12.99

Review: Rebecca Taylor

Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy offers a companion to celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

To mark every year of the monarch’s 60-year reign, Duffy has collated specially commissioned works by acclaimed contemporary poets from the UK and Commonwealth, including Andrew Motion, Simon Armitage, Gillian Clarke, Don Paterson, Fleur Adcock and Jo Shapcott.

The poems recall important political and historical events since 1953, such as the assassination of President John F Kennedy, the Great Storm of 1987, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Millennium.

They appear alongside personal works reliving the emotions of first love, bereavement and recalling the music that has defined the past, to create a compelling time capsule.

This anthology is a must for poetry lovers and those interested in political and social history.

The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do And How To Change

Charles Duhigg

William Heinemann, €17.65,

Review: Caroline Davison

Have you been biting your nails for so long that you have no idea how you will ever stop?

Hope is at hand, as New York Times investigative reporter Charles Duhigg explains why we form habits and, crucially, how we can break them.

He uses anecdotes of alcoholics, gamblers and nail biters just for starters. But it gets even more interesting when he identifies problems within a money-losing company and blundering hospital and explains how changing bad habits across the board turned around their fortunes.

And Duhigg also details why the civil rights movement and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church were so successful.

It’s a fascinating insight into making and breaking habits and offers practical advice, funny stories and critical thinking.

The Seamstress

Maria Duenas

Viking, €12.86,adobe ebook €8.99

Review: Julie Cheng

Maria Duenas makes her debut with an epic tale about the life of a seamstress, set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and World War II.

From an early age until her late teens, Sira Quiroga is taught how to be a dressmaker under the guidance of her mother.

With Spain teetering on the brink of civil war, Sira runs away to Morocco with her lover.

When she discovers she is pregnant, her lover abandons her.

Panic-stricken, she tries to go back to Spain. But with the country in turmoil, Sira is forced to stay in Morocco.

Left penniless, Sira tries to survive by making dresses for wives and mistresses of powerful politicians. As Hitler begins to invade Poland, a British client of Sira’s persuades her to help the British Secret Service.

Sira soon finds herself embroiled in the world of espionage and political conspiracies... and danger.

By Battersea Bridge

Janet Davey

Chatto & Windus, €17.15,eBook €16.66

Review: Claire Ennis

By Battersea Bridge, the new novel by Janet Davey, tells the story of Anita Mostyn, a 30-something woman living in Chelsea and working in a gallery, who takes off to Bulgaria on an assignment as her brother’s second wedding approaches.

Anita is well-settled in her role as third best in a family that adores her self-assured older brothers, and is conscious of a lack of concrete achievements compared to her ambitious, orderly parents’ lives.

Surrounded by a shallow supporting cast of acquaintances and friends, Anita’s trip abroad and the impending wedding uncover unsettling memories.

The novel contains some beautiful descriptions and the fine detail is allowed to flourish. While the character of Anita is at times frustrating, her response to the tragedy at the centre of her family is convincingly and movingly described.

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