John Maytham's Book Reviews

John Maytham's Book Review: Suicide notes, family dramas and penguins...

Take a listen to John's book picks for the week...

Don't Turn Out the Lights by Bernard Minier

"You did nothing."

Christine Steinmeyer knows the suicide note she found in her mailbox on Christmas Eve has nothing to do with her. But the man calling into her radio show seems convinced otherwise.

"You let her die..."

That's only the beginning. Bit by bit, her life is turned upside down. But who among her friends and family hates her enough to want to destroy her? And why?

Commandant Martin Servaz is on leave when he is sent a key card to a hotel room - the room where an artist committed suicide a year earlier. He soon uncovers evidence of a truly terrifying crime. Could someone really be cruelly, consciously hounding women to death?

Both he and Christine will find out...but it may not be in time.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

'Dazzling . The combination of lightness, warmth and remarkable incisiveness creates a novel that is life-affirming and compulsively readable' Sunday Times.

A powerful story of two families brought together by beauty and torn apart by tragedy, the new novel by the Orange Prize-winning author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder is her most astonishing yet.

It is 1964: Bert Cousins, the deputy District Attorney, shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited, bottle of gin in hand. As the cops of Los Angeles drink, talk and dance into the June afternoon, he notices a heart-stoppingly beautiful woman.

When Bert kisses Beverly Keating, his host's wife, the new baby pressed between them, he sets in motion the joining of two families whose shared fate will be defined on a day seven years later.In 1988, Franny Keating, now twenty-four, has dropped out of law school and is working as a cocktail waitress in Chicago.

When she meets one of her idols, the famous author Leon Posen, and tells him about her family, she unwittingly relinquishes control over their story. Franny never dreams that the consequences of this encounter will extend beyond her own life into those of her scattered siblings and parents.

Told with equal measures of humour and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a powerful and tender tale of family, betrayal and the far-reaching bonds of love and responsibility.

The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell

Set against Argentina's turbulent years following the collapse of the corrupt Peronist regime, this is the story of Juan Salvador the penguin, rescued by English schoolteacher Tom Michell from an oil slick in Uruguay just days before a new term.

When the bird refuses to leave Tom's side, the young teacher has no choice but to smuggle it across the border, through customs, and back to school.

Whether it's as the rugby team's mascot, the housekeeper's confidant, the host at Tom's parties, or the most flamboyant swimming coach in world history, Juan Salvador transforms the lives of all he meets - in particular, one homesick schoolboy. As for Tom, he discovers in Juan Salvador a compadre like no other...


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