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Recommended Reads: 23 August


With Doris Mousdale

Every Tuesday morning, the Paper Plus Book Review looks at three new reads, and gives a candid review of each.

The Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing (Hachette)

Big florid adventure of a Mesmerist mother and an acrobat daughter who join the circus in America to escape their problems.New York, late 1840s, and in the wild, noisy, brash and beautiful circus of Silas P.

Swift a shadowy, mesmeric woman entrances crowds because she can unlock the secrets of troubled minds. Above them all her daughter sweeps and soars: acrobat and tightrope-walker. People cannot take their eyes from the mysterious woman in the Big Top who can help so many others - but she cannot unlock dark, literally unspeakable, memories of her own. In London memories fester in the mind of an old and venomous duke of the realm. He plots, with an unscrupulous lawyer (and a huge financial reward) against the mother and the daughter: to kill one, and to abduct the other and bring her across the Atlantic to him: She is mine.

The actress and mesmerist Cordelia Preston and her daughter Gwenlliam live with their unusual family in the exciting new city among exciting new ideas: the telegraph, the daguerrotype, anaesthesia, table-tapping. And among the dangerous street-gangs of New York also, whose raw violence meets Cordelia and Gwenlliam and those that they love, with unexpected results.

The First Wife by Emily Barr (Headline Review)

A young woman is left homeless after her grandparents die but the family who appear to be her safe haven have their own problems and Lily becomes inextricably involved.

What if the man you love isn't the man you think he is? Lily, a young woman left alone in the world on the death of her grandparents, finds purpose when she befriends Harry Summers, a grieving widower, whose wife Sarah recently took her own life in Barcelona. The pair fall in love and Lily finally finds the security she has never had. But Lily's life takes a darker turn when she realises there may be more to Sarah's death than meets the eye. Anxious to find the truth before she marries her beloved Harry, Lily sets off to Barcelona in search of answers. What she discovers is more shocking than she could ever have imagined...

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (Random House)

Children's librarian becomes too involved with one of her borrowers and trouble ensues.

In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road. Lucy Hull, a young children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten- year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy's help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan.

Desperate to save him from Pastor Bob and the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path. But is it just Ian who is running away? Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?

(TX: 23 August 2011)


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