This month's must read:
Aminatta Forna $33
A breathtaking novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Hired Man and The Memory of Love. On Waterloo Bridge in London two strangers collide: Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist, and Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes. From this chance encounter in the midst of the rush of a great city, numerous moments of connections span out and interweave, bringing disparate lives together. Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma and to check up on the daughter of friends, his ‘niece’ Ama, who hasn’t called home in a while. It soon emerges that she has been swept up in an immigration crackdown – and now her young son Tano is missing. When, by chance, Attila bumps into Jean again, she joins him in his search for Tano, mobilising into action the network she has built up, mainly from the many West African immigrants working London’s myriad streets, of volunteer fox-spotters: security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens. All unite to help and as the search continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds. In this delicate yet powerful novel of loves lost and new, of past griefs and of the hidden side of a teeming metropolis, Aminatta Forna asks us to consider the values of the society we live in, our co-existence with one another and all living creatures – and the true nature of happiness.
Alone Time: Four cities, four seasons and the pleasures of solitude
Stephanie Rosenbloom $35
Travelling with friends and family is usually thought of as a privilege. In practice, it’s more often about debating which sights to see and bickering over where and what to eat. Not much joy in that. But alone you can do as you please. You can wander markets, relish silence, go to a park. Go to Paris. In Alone Time, renowned travel writer Stephanie Rosenbloom travels alone in four seasons to four remarkable cities – Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York – exploring the sensory experience of solitude. Along the way she illuminates the psychological arguments for alone time – the pleasures and benefits of savouring the moment, examining things closely, using all your senses to take in your surroundings, whether travelling to faraway places or walking the streets of your own city. Through on-the-ground observations and anecdotes, and drawing on the thinking of artists, writers and innovators who have cherished solitude, Alone Time lays bare the magic of going solo.
Julie Thomas $35
Following on from her two enthralling, popular historical novels The Keeper of Secrets and Rachel’s Legacy, this time New Zealand author Julie Thomas traces the eldest Horowitz son’s story of courage and bravery behind enemy lines during the Second World War. How many secrets can one family hold? Levi Horowitz isn’t a natural-born soldier. But in November 1938, Berlin is a volatile place for a Jew, and the talented young musician secures passage to Switzerland. Instead, Levi is taken to a Danish border checkpoint and from then on his war becomes secret, even from those he loves best. In 2017, a recording emerges, showing Levi in 1945 and revealing a story in equal parts shocking and heroic. It is a journey that leads him face-to-face with Hitler, and into a position to change the final outcome of the war.
The Baghdad Clock
Shahad Al Rawi $30
For fans of The Kite Runner comes this remarkable bestselling title in Iraq, Dubai and the UAE, now translated into English. It is 1991 and the Gulf War is raging. Two girls, hiding in a Baghdad air raid shelter, tell stories to keep the fear and the darkness at bay, and a deep friendship is born. As the bombs continue to fall, the city collapses around them, the international sanctions bite and friends begin to flee the country, but life goes on. People tend their gardens, go dancing and celebrate weddings, and the girls share their dreams, desires, school routines and first loves, while facing the fact that their lives will never be the same again. Shahad Al Rawi poignantly takes readers beyond the familiar images in the news to show the everyday struggle of Baghdad’s people, revealing the reality of growing up in a war-torn city that is slowly disappearing in front of your eyes, and showing how in the toughest times, children can build up the greatest resilience.
Mind That Child: A Medical Memoir
Dr Simon Rowley $38
Leading Auckland City Hospital paediatrician Dr Simon Rowley has committed almost all of his working life to the care and well-being of children. In this memoir, he provides a rare glimpse into what it means to be entrusted with the most precious of responsibilities – a young human life. Charting his decades of medical experience, Rowley touches on an array of issues, from the high-stakes management of tiny pre-term babies to the serious impacts of drugs, alcohol and technology on developing minds. Real-life cases and practical advice are interwoven throughout a candid, compassionate narrative. What’s revealed is a tender and profound portrait of a medical professional at the very centre of what matters – a doctor who always adopts a humane, holistic view and who writes openly about the personal impact of a career in medicine.