First Thoughts

Telegraph Avenue

First Thoughts

Michael Chabon

Fourth Estate, €25.10;

adobe ebook, €19.80;

Kindle, £9.99

Review: Alex Sarll

Since winning the Pulitzer prize with his stunning The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon has been on a mission to introduce literary fiction readers to the delights of other genres — until now.

Archy Stallings is the co-owner of a struggling Oakland record shop. He’s expecting his first child with wife Gwen, but his long-lost son from a previous relationship has turned up in the neighbourhood — as has Archy’s own estranged dad, faded blaxploitation icon Luther. As if this weren’t worry enough, a megastore specialising in used vinyl is about to open nearby.

Chabon’s style is still as fluent, evocative and rich with allusion as ever, and some sections, especially a parrot’s eye view of the neighbourhood, are stunning. But the plot feels implausible in places and far too neat elsewhere. There’s a sense other authors could have handled this material.

The Merde Factor

Stephen Clarke

Century, €17.15;

adobe ebook, €17.49;

Kindle, £7.59

Review: Lauren Turner

Paul West (or ‘Poll Wess’ as his colleagues insist on calling him) is trying his best to survive as an Englishman in Paris.

His patience is put to the test, however, by those seemingly intent on making his life a misery — former boss Jean-Marie, who wants to sell the English tea shop they co-own; ex-girlfriend Alexa, whose presence is causing ructions between Paul and his new girlfriend; and a cantankerous neighbour, whose loud Gallic swearing threatens to disrupt his new business venture.

Some scenarios are so cringeworthy you suspect they may just have happened in real life.

Paul, the outsider in a deeply patriotic nation, is more than believable with his candour and humour.

His unintentionally hilarious sidekick Jake, with his unique X-rated poetry, also provides plenty of laughs.

This latest instalment in Stephen Clarke’s series based on Paul’s adventures is like a ‘pain au chocolat’ by the Seine — light, sweet and just a little bit naughty.

1912: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica

Chris Turney

Bodley Head, €26.40;

Kindle, €11.39

Review: Chris Gray

Just over 100 years ago, five teams set out to explore what is now called Antarctica. Chris Turney, a celebrated scientist and author, brings this fascinating story to life. You may already be familiar with the tragic tale of Robert Scott and the race for the South Pole, but this book delves deeper into the stories of the men who journeyed into the great white void.

We learn about the less heralded teams, such as the unprepared and under-funded Japanese party and the German expedition that involved attempted murder and mutiny.!

Turney is mostly interested in investigating the scientific breakthroughs that were made during these expeditions, rather than focussing solely on the race for the South Pole.

For this reason, it is recommended for readers looking for the bigger picture in the exploration of Antarctica.

Why French Children Don’t Talk Back

Catherine Crawford

John Murray, €21.45;

adobe ebook, €9.99

Review: Zahra Saeed

First there was the Tiger Mother, describing the strict Chinese way of parenting, and now comes Catherine Crawford’s latest book, an account of how she tried to “Frenchify” the raising of her two daughters. The idea is born after a dinner party with some French friends, whose children Crawford realises are far better behaved than her own American offspring.

From stopping separate meals for the kids and instilling in them a sense of fashion (suggesting, but thankfully not going as far as number coding her children’s clothes) to praising them less, Crawford soon sees positive changes.

The guide is wittily written and peppered with amusing anecdotes gleaned from her own social circle and their little darlings. It never dictates but merely suggests, and provides a persuasive alternative to the increasingly child-centric way of raising kids.

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