BOOK OF THE WEEK

Early One Morning by Virginia Baily is published in hardback by Virago, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.99). Available now

Second-time novelist and acclaimed short-story writer Virginia Baily pulls off a triumph with Early One Morning - an exquisitely rendered novel that explores how one powerful and unexpected love can shape a life forever.

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The novel opens in Rome, 1943. In the Jewish ghetto, men, women and children are being rounded up by Nazi officers to be shipped off to concentration camps. A passer-by - a young Italian woman, Chiara Ravello, locks eyes with a Jewish mother. Knowing instinctively what she is being asked to do, Chiara claims the woman's son Daniele as her own, saving him from a certain death. It is a moment that changes her forever as her life becomes inextricably bound to that of the traumatised little boy.

Thirty years later, we meet Chiara in her sixties; living alone in Rome, she is still trying to move on after the loss of Daniele, who vanished without trace in his twenties. Out of the blue, she receives a call from Cardiff: it is a 16-year-old girl, claiming to be Daniele's daughter. It is a catalytic event that forces Chiara to revisit the painful memories of what unfolded between her and Daniele in the intervening years.

A complex and multi-layered narrative, the novel slips expertly back and forth between two different time periods, following a handful of characters across numerous locations. The settings are beautifully evoked, creating striking contrasts between the tensions and desperation of war-time and the freedom and stability of the 1970s. The characters themselves are a gratifyingly unusual collection - among them a grieving spinster, a damaged little boy, a petulant teenager and a guilt-ridden priest - and each one is imbued with a compelling aliveness that draws us into their orbit.

By turns witty, poignant, tragic and uplifting, this feast of a novel will mark out its author as a powerful voice on the literary scene.

9/10

(Review by Lucy Latchmore)

FICTION

You Don't Have To Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits is published in paperback by Faber & Faber, priced £14.99 (ebook £6.99). Available now

Greg 'Marny' Marnier, a rudderless Yale graduate in his thirties, is invited by a varsity classmate, the millionaire Robert James, to join a new initiative. Robert is buying up a sizeable tranche of (currently) cheap housing in a much-depleted zone of Detroit - focal point of America's social dysfunctions. His vision? To create 'the kind of small-town community that we still associate with the founding of this country'.

So Marny and a group of similarly drifting well-to-do WASP friends move in, but this is no idyllic Pilgrim settlement, and soon enough the troubles and tensions begin. The plan - is it a form of trickle-down philanthropy, or a get-rich-quick gentrification scheme? Can you really build a community overnight? And what are Detroit's existing citizens - mostly black, mostly poor - to make of their new neighbours? Are these people really doing their bit to make the world a better place - or are they just crashingly condescending colonials?

Through Marny, Markovits depicts in unhurried, documentary style the gradual unravelling of Robert's vision. Marny is a plausibly fallible witness, with his own blind spots about colour, and a pliable liberal conscience that is easily overpowered by stronger personalities and their vested interests. His relationship with the black teacher Grace is an uneasy mirror of what's happening too: is he really interested in her - or does he just like the idea of dating a black girl?

Markovits' sixth novel unpicks with surgical precision the racial tensions of an advanced economy where entrepreneurial opportunity goes hand in hand with massive inequality. Brilliantly plotted, wonderfully nuanced and masterfully controlled, this has the instant feel of an important book.

9/10

(Review by Dan Brotzel)

The Mark And The Void by Paul Murray is published in paperback by Hamish Hamilton, priced £12.99 (ebook £6.02). Available July 30

Murray's follow-up to the acclaimed Skippy Dies is set amid the detritus of the Irish financial crash he predicted in his 2003 debut, An Evening of Long Goodbyes. Working in one of the investment banks insulated from the savage austerity they caused, narrator Claude meets an author (called, inevitably, Paul) researching a book set in a bank... and so begins a yarn which teeters from farce to unflinching bleakness. Its big problem is that the banks are already too grotesquely absurd to satirise, too horrifically real to amuse. But they're surely a necessary topic to address, and Murray's verve and invention mostly carry him through. He expands his canvas to address art, mortality, the dissociation of modern life, with the ambition of Jonathan Franzen meeting the metafictional wit of Flann O'Brien; there's also an element of heist-meets-farce recalling the best of Michael Frayn. A bold, flawed, magnificent mess of a book.

8/10

(Review by Alex Sarll)

The Quality Of Silence by Rosamund Lupton is published in hardback by Little Brown, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

When Yasmin travels to Alaska to join husband Matt, a wildlife-photographer, their marriage is on thin ice. Travelling with her 10-year-old daughter Ruby, she is hoping the trip will resolve matters. But on arrival, she learns that her husband, along with 23 others, has been killed in a fire in a remote village. Although the evidence to the contrary is sketchy, Yasmin refuses to believe her husband has perished, and sets off on a hair-raising journey across the treacherous landscape in search of answers. It soon becomes apparent that someone is on her tail, and that all is not as it seems. This is a beautifully written thriller and the way Lupton, author of the bestselling Sister, uses the tundra as a metaphor for both grief and faith is stunning. The voice of Ruby, who is profoundly deaf, and her compassionate exploration of a life without sound, only adds to the richness of the book.

8/10

(Review by Anita Chaudhuri)

Motherland: A Novel by Jo McMillan is published in hardback by John Murray, priced £16.99 (ebook £10.99). Available now

Set in the late 1970s, Motherland: A Novel is a politically charged tragi-comic tale told from the perspective of Jess, a teenager living in a sleepy West Midlands town in Thatcherite Britain. Raised solely by her radical socialist mother, Jess is torn between her hometown of Tamworth and her ideological home in East Berlin. It's an ambitious coming-of-age novel from debut author Jo McMillan, which is wonderfully written and filled with quirky details and descriptions, but it's not a particularly gripping or fast-paced read and the plot occasionally jumps around in a disorientating way. What holds the book together is the relationship between Jess and her mother, and particularly the heart-wrenching belief they both share in the benevolence of the GDR State, despite the cruelty dealt to their own personal happiness. It's a touching and poignant read, which uniquely explores this period in time in a way in which few other authors have attempted to.

7/10

(Review by Alison Potter)

The Dust That Falls From Dreams by Louis de Bernieres is published in hardback by Harvill Secker, priced £18.99 (ebook £6.64). Available now

The novel opens with an idyllic coronation party held in an English country garden at the start of the Edwardian era, but after experiencing the stark horrors of the First World War, its privileged characters are faced with a world forever changed. On the one hand, this is a family saga, an epic in the vein of the author's most famous novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin; on the other, it's a war-torn love story between the pious English rose Rosie and the American-born Ash. This is clearly a well-researched novel; when writing about trench warfare, Ash's voice becomes wonderfully involving. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all the other characters, many of whom seem to speak fluent but indistinguishable Downton. De Bernieres has a bit of a hard time balancing the gritty war writing and the twee brand of humour the characters indulge in, but fans of the aforementioned drama series will relish the running jokes.

7/10

(Review by Rachel Farrow)

NON-FICTION

The Power Broker: Robert Moses And The Fall Of New York by Robert A Caro is published in hardback by The Bodley Head, priced £35. Available now

Robert Caro's 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of New York City's greatest urban planner finally arrives in the UK. Educated at Yale, Oxford, and Columbia, Robert Moses began his life in public service as an idealist - but he soon realised that power was the only path to efficacy, and deviousness the best safeguard of power. The rest of Moses' working life is a story of brilliance, arrogance, and subterfuge. In a career spanning half the 20th century, Moses built 27 billion dollars' worth of public works in New York: parks, roads, hospitals, playgrounds, bridges, and schools. With ruthless and creative vision, he transformed the landscapes and the lives of millions. Caro's book is a masterful interweaving of the individual and the political; a biography of 20th-century New York as much as of Robert Moses, its phenomenal detail is endlessly engrossing despite the weight of its thousand pages.

9/10

(Review by Kitty Wheater)

CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK

Superhero School: Curse Of The Evil Custard by Alan McDonald is published in paperback by Bloomsbury Childrens, priced £4.99 (ebook £4.74). Available August 13

School may be out for the summer, but at Mighty High, the action's just heating up. Our gang of pint-sized superheroes - Dangerboy (aka Stan), Frisbee Kid (aka Minnie), Brainiac (aka Miles) and Pudding The Wonderdog - known as The Invincibles, are back for a new school year, but something's not quite right. The headteacher Miss Marbles reveals the school's about to be inspected and asks the trio (plus dog) to show the inspectors around - with just one warning: "behave as normally as possible". But, unknown to the children, the real inspectors have been tricked and locked in the freezer by the evil Dr Sinister, who wants to test out his latest invention, 'evil custard' on the school kids. Dr Sinister and his henchman pose as the inspectors and tamper with pudding, so when, at lunchtime, the unsuspecting and unusually strong Tank wolfs down a bowl of custard, he is transformed into a sticky custard monster. It's up to The Invincibles to save their classmates from a fate worse than death and save the school from being closed by the real inspectors. With ingenious illustrations by Nigel Baines, Dirty Betty author Alan MacDonald's latest book is a rip-roaring adventure, with chapters running seamlessly into pacy comic strip, handy (and funny) lists on The Top 10 Superpowers and Top Trumps-style Factfiles on the superheroes and the evil villain. Brilliant fun for a rainy summer holiday!

8/10

(Review by Kate Whiting)

BESTSELLERS FOR WEEK ENDING JULY 24

HARDBACKS

1. Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee

2. The Girl On The Train, Paula Hawkins

3. Yes! No (Maybe...): Tom Gates, Liz Pichon

4. Life With A Sprinkle Of Glitter, Louise Pentland

5. Me Me Me!, Charlotte Crosby

6. Armada, Ernest Cline

7. Dork Diaries: Drama Queen, Rachel Renee Russell

8. Self Help, Miranda Sings

9. Half a War: Shattered Sea, Joe Abercrombie

10. An Inspector Calls, JB Priestley

PAPERBACKS

1. The Girl Who Wasn't There, Ferdinand von Schirach

2. Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine And What Matters In The End, Atul Gawande

3. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

4. Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult

5. Paper Towns, John Green

6. Us, David Nicholls

7. Clever Polly And The Stupid Wolf: A Puffin Book, Catherine Storr

8. The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters

9. A Month In The Country, JL Carr

10. Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt And Colouring Book, Johanna Basford

EBOOKS

1. The One That Got Away by Simon Wood

2. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

3. Revenge by Martina Cole

4. Grey: Fifty Shades Of Grey As Told By Christian by E L James

5. The Lie by C.L Taylor

6. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

8. The Ballroom Cafe by Ann O'Loughlin

9. The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer

10. How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst