Cel­e­brate spring with some fas­ci­nat­ing looks at love (and how to re­cover from it), life (be­hind bars), loss – and cut­ting through the chaos to find out what we re­ally should be eat­ing.



This is go­ing to sound cal­lous and I don’t mean it to: I hope the mem­ory of the ex­tra­or­di­nary per­son Nel­son Man­dela was never fades one jot, nor his legacy – but at the same time, I am grow­ing tired of his life be­ing com­modi­tised for money or virtue-sig­nalling pur­poses. I think it’s all a bit cyn­i­cal.

Right – hav­ing got that off my chest, I am very glad in­deed to have read this book, and I found it ex­tremely mov­ing. Many of the 255 let­ters Man­dela wrote from Robben Is­land have not been seen be­fore now. He kept copies of ev­ery let­ter he wrote in a note­book that was con­fis­cated in prison but later re­turned to him when he was pres­i­dent … and sadly, some of them were never seen by the peo­ple he was ac­tu­ally writ­ing to be­cause they were in­ter­cepted by the au­thor­i­ties (one of the sad­dest of these is one he wrote to his daugh­ter Zindzi on her 19th birth­day). The let­ters beau­ti­fully de­scribe his long­ing for his fam­ily and home, and are a pow­er­ful re­minder of the deep bond he felt with, and the love he felt for, Winnie. But they also show his men­tal strength and the equa­nim­ity he man­aged to find in his sit­u­a­tion: his cell, he writes, is the ideal place ‘to learn to know your­self, to search re­al­is­ti­cally and reg­u­larly the process of your own mind and feel­ings.’ I can’t think of any­one else who would de­scribe an 8ft by 7ft prison like that.

Suzy Bro­ken­sha


Arnold, a poet and lec­turer, leads a very con­ser­va­tive life with his wife Polly and young daugh­ter Eve­lyn… un­til Eve­lyn is given a sewing ma­chine as a gift. Her friend Irina’s mother Vera dis­cov­ers it, and a sewing club is born. Arnold’s quiet pre­dictable home is turned into a frenzy of ma­te­rial, but­tons, bob­bins, women’s chat­ter… and Vera’s scent.

Thrown into a sex­ual thrall, Vera be­comes his day and night: he can think of noth­ing else but her smell. One af­ter­noon he goes to Vera’s house to col­lect Eve­lyn and the two be­gin a cat­a­strophic af­fair. Vera is deeply re­li­gious yet seems re­solved to her sin, while Arnold, an athi­est, is wracked with guilt – but can­not stop him­self.

Polly, obliv­i­ous to any of this, runs a suc­cess­ful pa­per shop where she pub­lishes un­usual bod­ies of work that lend them­selves to the ex­quis­ite pa­per she hand-makes.

The Pa­per Lovers is exquisitely writ­ten. I could not put it down. Usu­ally I tend to skip bits that don’t en­thrall me, but I read ev­ery word, even re-read para­graphs be­cause they were so beau­ti­fully crafted. The end­ing will leave you speech­less, elated and with a mar­velous sense of jus­tice hav­ing been done!

Caryn McArthy


Ng’s sec­ond novel ex­plores in­tri­cate fam­ily and friend­ship dy­nam­ics against a back­drop that com­pares a ‘con­ser­va­tive’ well-to-do fam­ily in the con­form­ist sub­urb of Shaker Heights with a gather-nomoss artist’s creativity and warmth. The char­ac­ters are cred­i­ble and beau­ti­fully formed, but the book is not pacey, and even the who­dun­nit part is ad­dressed right at the start rather than at the end. The in­ter­est lies, rather, in be­ing pulled into the events and un­der­cur­rents mo­ti­vat­ing a set of teenagers, and later on the par­ents that raised them. And it all makes sense. The un­der­ly­ing theme of blood and birthright is ex­am­ined with care. An en­joy­able, thought-pro­vok­ing read that for me com­pared favourably with Ev­ery­thing I Never Told You, while not ex­actly kin­dling any huge in­ferno in my heart.

Sarah McCarthy


If you’re up for vi­cious, hard-hit­ting con­tent, this is 100% un­put­down­able. From the very first sen­tence you are shoved into the ha­tred and fierce love of the deeply com­plex fa­ther-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship that forms the spine of this beau­ti­fully writ­ten, lethal novel. It’s aw­ful. Incest, abuse and guns are cer­tainly not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea. Be warned.

But it is beau­ti­ful. There are re­wards – an in­sight into this tough young woman’s mind, for one. Tur­tle’s char­ac­ter is mas­ter­fully por­trayed. De­but au­thor Gabriel Tallent’s ge­nius is in de­scrib­ing her some­times fe­ro­ciously ter­ri­ble traits and ac­tions just as beau­ti­fully as her other-times hu­mane and moral re­sponses and her equally im­pres­sive sur­vival skills. The sparse prose is a de­light. And this fast-paced ac­tion thriller builds to an end­ing that as­sures you it will be a movie sooner than you can shoot a play­ing card from your loved one’s out­stretched hand.

Sarah McCarthy


MarkHy­man­isan Amer­i­can doc­tor who di­rects the Cen­ter for Func­tional Medicine at the Cleve­land Clinic, and who used nu­tri­tion to heal him­self of a num­ber of ail­ments. This book is a wel­come road map through the con­flict­ing mes­sages about what we should and shouldn’t be eat­ing (fat’s good/fat’s bad; meat is es­sen­tial/ plant-based is best; mod­er­a­tion is key/cut­ting food groups is fine… and so on and so on). He looks at each food group in de­tail and, backed up by sci­ence, lists what’s good about it, what isn’t and what we still don’t know for sure. ‘We now know that food is in­for­ma­tion,’ he says. ‘It’s in­struc­tions that lit­er­ally change your gene ex­pres­sion, reg­u­late your hor­mones, can af­fect your im­mune sys­tem, in­flam­ma­tion in your body, even af­fects your gut’s mi­cro­biomes. Ev­ery bite of food you take is re­ally like in­struc­tions to con­trol the op­er­at­ing sys­tem of your bi­ol­ogy.’

Hyman has been study­ing nu­tri­tion for 40 years, so he knows what he’s talk­ing about. His bot­tom line is: no pro­cessed foods, no sugar, limit dairy (if any), eat food as close to its nat­u­ral form as pos­si­ble. Hyman calls him­self a ‘Pe­gan’ (a com­bi­na­tion of pa­leo and ve­gan) – sounds im­pos­si­ble, but it makes a lot if sense.

Alexa Forbes

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