First Thoughts

This week's reviews in brief

The World According To Clarkson Is it Really Too Much To Ask?

Jeremy Clarkson

Michael Joseph, £20;ebook, £9.99

Review: Catherine Wylie

Have you peed from the window of a moving car? Jeremy Clarkson has. It’s one of many anecdotes from his latest book — the fifth volume of his Sunday Times columns.

While it’s probably a book for dedicated fans, there’s no denying his wit, not just with obviously humorous subject matters, but with more serious issues, too.

In one column, he creates a fictional, cartoonish image of a dinner party attended by the much-talked-about Chipping Norton set.

While David Cameron enjoys a “delicious roast fox”, Clarkson jokes that he vividly remembers a policeman knocking on the door and Rebekah Brooks giving him a wad of cash.

There’s also some observational comedy, with a column dedicated to what people display in their downstairs toilet.

You don’t have to agree with Clarkson’s views to enjoy dipping into this book for a giggle, but it might help.

One Summer: America 1927

Bill Bryson

Doubleday, £20; ebook, £9

Review: Anthony Looch

Bill Bryson, prolific author of non-fiction best-sellers such as A Short History of Nearly Everything, has scored again with a wide-ranging survey of a dynamic year in American history.

Of all the firsts in 1927, the most sensational were the epic, non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris by 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh, and the premiere of the first ‘talkie’ film, The Jazz Singer.

The handsome and modest Lindbergh piloted a small monoplane, the Spirit of St Louis, and, on arriving in Paris, had become an international hero. His almost God-like status persisted, despite his rude and churlish public behaviour, but his reputation was tarnished later because of his pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic views.

America was a flourishing, innovative and exciting country in 1927 and Bryson delves, with zest, into crime, technology, theatre, literature, banking and politics. The British reader might not be interested in the baseball and boxing, but these are a small part of this highly entertaining social history.

Doctor Sleep

Stephen King

Hodder and Stoughton, £19.99; ebook, £9.50

Review: Michael Anderson

An urge to discover what happened to the boy from The Shining prompted this first horror sequel of Stephen King’s phenomenal four-decade career.

Since surviving his father’s Outlook Hotel rampage, Dan Torrance has struggled to adjust, numbing his telepathic “shining” with drink and drugs before joining Alcoholics Anonymous and eventually settling for a hospice job in New England. Meanwhile, The True Knot, ageless RV-dwellers roaming America to feast on the life-steam of “shiners”, are drawn to Abra, a young girl of immense power whorealises Dan is her only hope.

The expansion of the original’s supernatural universe feels forced, stifling the easy characterisation which defines King’s best work. The eventual showdown is rushed and palpably un-scary, making you wish King had let sleeping ghosts lie.

Marriage Material

Sathnam Sanghera

William Heinemann, £14.99;ebook, £8.99

Review: Sophie Herdman

Sathnam Sanghera’s last book, The Boy With The Topknot, was a memoir about growing up Sikh in Wolverhampton.

He’s revisited the topic, in fiction, with a fascinating, tongue-in-cheek insight into family-run Asian newsagents. Two stories are intertwined. The first is about two sisters, both Punjabi immigrants of the 1960s and daughters of a Sikh shop owner, who take very different routes in life. The second is about Arjan, son of a Sikh shop owner, who is a graphic designer in London, where he lives with his white fiance, Freya.

When Arjan’s father dies, Arjan returns home to help his ill mother run the shop, and deal with daily racist insults. Eventually, this gripping book combines the two stories as dark secrets are unearthed — issues include race, gender, community, family and marriage. It’s a touching, funny story.

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