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Hap­pi­ness and Tears: The Ken Dodd Story By Louis Barfe

Head of Zeus, £20

Much of Ken Dodd’s com­edy arose from his ap­pear­ance: hair stick­ing up as if elec­tri­fied, two huge pro­trud­ing teeth, large pointed nose and the ever-present “tick­ling stick”. The Bri­tish comic’s mad, en­ergy-charged zany act en­thralled his au­di­ences for decades as he fired out gags. He was happy to keep on peren­ni­ally do­ing the same thing and it paid (he left £27.7 mil­lion in his will). The ti­tle sug­gests a pos­si­ble look at the darker side of Dodd but there is far more on the “hap­pi­ness” than the “tears”. We do learn that he had no so­cial life to speak of, was en­gaged to one woman for 24 years un­til her death and then to an­other for 40 tears and was ex­tremely tight with money. A read­able trib­ute to the funny public man but too lit­tle prob­ing of the gloomy pri­vate one.

The Sec­ond Shift By Clare Gal­lagher Self-pub­lished, ¤35

Clare Gal­lagher’s qui­etly fu­ri­ous pho­to­book, The Sec­ond Shift, ar­rived just as Ox­fam Ire­land re­vealed Irish women con­trib­ute 38 mil­lion hours of un­paid care work ev­ery week. This, 50 years af­ter Sec­ond Wave Fem­i­nism? A pho­tog­ra­phy lec­turer at Belfast School of Art, Gal­lagher’s third book, named by the Guardian as one of 15 best of 2019, wor­ries away at get­ting the do­mes­tics done, while call­ing for re­sis­tance to cap­i­tal­ism’s neat­est trick: get­ting women to work for free. Her pho­tos fo­cus tightly on the un­ac­knowl­edged ba­nal – over­flow­ing laun­dry, over­stuffed bins, food de­tri­tus in the sink, fogged-up win­dows, as well as ten­der por­traits of her three sons. There’s a sav­age poem by Leon­tia Flynn and Joan Rivers: “I hate house­work! You make the beds, you do the dishes – and six months later you have to start all over again.”

The 24-Hour Cafe By Libby Page Orion Books, £12.99

Stella’s 24-hour cafe is a charm­ing place, some­where to take refuge in the hours that can some­times be hard to fill, a haven in a city when it can be hard to find some­where to be when other peo­ple’s hec­tic lives mean they are else­where. Libby Page sets her fol­low-up to The Lido in a London cafe with a cast of night owls and early ris­ers. Their sto­ries are of friend­ship and kind­ness, mar­riage and sep­a­ra­tion, love, loss and be­trayal, the sta­ples of easy-to-read fic­tion. Han­nah and Mona, the wait­resses who watch the ebb and flow of cus­tomers, have their own sto­ries, but it’s their friend­ship that forms the back­drop. Gen­tle, sweet and bit­ter­sweet tales un­fold with the tick­ing of the clock and the gur­gle of the cof­fee ma­chine.

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