Breaking news in books June 2021

Top Picks from Sabine Bouillon

Mr Wilder & Me by Jonathan Coe
Calista, a young student of 20 years, takes part in the filming of “Fedora”, one of Billy Wilder’s last films. Through her eyes, we witness the fading success of this great filmmaker who begins to doubt himself as young directors such as Steven Spielberg revolutionise the Seventh Art. A brilliant and charming novel that nostalgically evokes the golden age of cinema and the moving portrait of a man who chose humour as his weapon of survival.

The Children’s Train by Viola Ardone - translated from Italian

In 1946, the Italian Communist Party decided to send thousands of children from the South, who had suffered greatly from the war and poverty, to families in the North of Italy for a few months. A train is chartered to carry the children across the Peninsula.
A young boy named Amerigo is part of the convoy. He is warmly welcomed by his host family and is in no hurry to return to Naples. This touching, feel-good novel is based on a true story and told from the perspective of a child whose life was turned upside down by this journey.

Hamnet by Maggie O’ Farrell

In 1595, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Hamnet, an 11 year old boy, dies from the Black Death. A few years later, his father writes Hamlet! Everything in this novel leads back to Shakespeare, but the author never mentions him by name. Instead, mixing fiction and reality, Maggie O’Farrell wonderfully recreates 16th century England and gives us a radiant portrait of Agnes, the playwright’s wife. A dense and poignant text about the pain of losing a child.

Lady Stanhope: L’amazone du Liban by Laure Dominique Agniel - in French

Hester Stanhope was born in 1780 at Chevening House, into an aristocratic English family. Her mother dies at a young age while her father totally neglects his children to remarry a younger woman who can’t stand her stepchildren. Hester runs away from them as soon as she can and leads an adventurous life free from any constraint. She travels through Europe and the Middle East, and ends up in Palmyra where, financially ruined, she ends her days in a monastery on the hills of Mount Lebanon. An intrepid, extravagant, often tyrannical character, a feminist before her time, Lady Stanhope lived her life like a novel and it’s a pleasure to follow her travels.

Cueilleur d’essences by Dominique Roques - in French

Dominique Roques is a “sourcer”. On behalf of great perfumers, he goes in search of the natural essences that make up our perfumes. He takes us on his travels all over the world to find the best flower, fruit and wood extracts, often harvested in difficult conditions by men and women with skills passed down from generation to generation. How can we preserve this knowledge and how can we protect nature? An interesting olfactory journey that raises awareness of the disappearance of these natural essences that are threatened by their artificial counterparts.