First thoughts

El Clasico:Barcelona V Madrid: Football’s Greatest Rivalry

First thoughts

Richard Fitzpatrick

Bloomsbury €13.99

Review: Roddy Brooks

El Clasico divides a nation. If you are Spanish, you are either with Real Madrid or Barcelona. The story of one of football’s oldest rivalries has its roots in the Spanish Civil War.

Madrid was the team of the dictator General Franco, although, as author Richard Fitzpatrick records, he was fonder of writing death sentences than he was of watching football.

Barcelona, in contrast, are the champions of a region fighting with every breath to become a separate nation.

With a rivalry ingrained into the subconscious, there was bound to be bloodshed, both on and off the field.

The passion is so deep, fans have been known to throw the head of a pig at one player when he dared to move from Barcelona to Madrid.

Fitzpatrick’s tales of some the world’s best football players will hold you at every page.

The Girl On The Stairs

Louise Welsh

John Murray, €20.00,

ebook 12.99

Review: Robert Dex

Glaswegian Louise Welsh’s fifth novel sees her leave her native Scotland and head to Berlin.

The German capital is a suitably spooky backdrop for this haunting thriller where the heavily pregnant Jane finds herself home alone waiting for the moment her life will change forever.

She soon finds herself besieged by eerie noises, suspicious neighbours and ghosts from the city’s past.

The tension mounts as she plunges further into a paranoid plot fuelled by suspicions of domestic abuse and the mysterious disappearance of a woman years before.

Welsh builds the suspense brilliantly and keeps the reader on their toes before deflating the tension with an ending that ties up the loose ends just a bit too neatly.

But there is much to enjoy in this creepy crime novel — just skip the last few pages.

The Housemaid’s Daughter

Barbara Mutch

Headline Review, €13.99,

ebook €9.99

Review: Zahra Saeed

Experience the terrible dawn of apartheid set against the desert landscape of the South African ’Karoo’ in the debut novel from Barbara Mutch.

Ada is the eponymous narrator of The Housemaid’s Daughter. Growing up, Ada flourishes under the kindly protection of Cathleen, her mother’s Irish employer.

This charmed life is shattered when Ada falls pregnant with a mixed-race child, forcing her to flee the only family she has known.

Interspersed with Cathleen’s diary entries, The Housemaid’s Daughter gives an intriguing insight into the gaping divide between black and white, rich and poor. Although the characters are sometimes two dimensional — Cathleen, for instance, is somewhat too saintly — the engaging plot successfully holds the reader’s interest throughout.

Turf

John Lucas

Bodley Head, €13.20

ebook €13.60

Review: Ben Major

The Blake Street Boyz gang means everything to 15-year-old Jay and his friends, spending dinner times and evenings defending their turf, but his life takes a not altogether unexpected turn when he has to prove himself to ruthless leader Shads in a bid to join the ranks of the more respected gang members.

What he doesn’t expect is having to kill a rival boy for the privilege. Reeling, he calls his whole existence into question, fighting to understand how his life has turned out like this, while struggling to explain the situation to his girlfriend and family.

A poignant, gritty read, John Lucas’s debut captures the brutal experience of gang culture, exposing not only heinous deeds, but a society that allows children to feel unloved and excluded.

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