John Maytham's Book Reviews

John Maytham's Books: Emotional storms, survivor guilt, and the life of a poet

Here are John's book reviews for the week...

Escape Clause by John Sandford

Whenever you hear the sky rumble, that usually means a storm. In Virgil Flowers’ case, make that two.

The first storm comes from, of all places, the Minnesota zoo. Two large, and very rare, Amur tigers have vanished from their cage, and authorities are worried sick that they’ve been stolen for their body parts. Traditional Chinese medicine prizes those parts for home remedies, and people will do extreme things to get what they need. Some of them are a great deal more extreme than others – as Virgil is about to find out.

Then there’s the homefront. Virgil’s relationship with his girlfriend Frankie has been getting kind of serious, but when Frankie’s sister moves in for the summer, the situation gets a lot more complicated. Forget a storm – this one’s a tornado.

Faithfull by Alice Hoffman

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out?

When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky?

Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world.

A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last.

For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life by Jonathan Bate

The authoritative biography on that most fascinating of poets, Ted Hughes.

Described by Andrew Motion as, alongside Larkin, 'one of the two great poets of the last half of the last century', Ted Hughes towers among figures of recent world literature.

A creative force of rare power and grace, Hughes's poetry engages with the mythical and natural worlds to reflect on the strength, vulnerability and beauty of being.

With the time ripe for posterity to see further into Hughes's works, Jonathan Bate's rich and compelling biography examines those 'places of high wonder' of which Hughes wrote as a teenager.

It brings new depth and understanding to this most charismatic and fascinating of poets: his life, his poetry and of course, his relationships - most famously with iconic American poet Sylvia Plath, his wife, who committed suicide in 1963, and Assia Wevill, the woman he left Plath for, who herself committed suicide in 1969.

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