Walking the Great North Line
Orion, £20, pp320
Robert Twigger’s travelogues have always had a wonderful globetrotting sense of adventure. Here he attempts something closer to home; walking the “line” that connects Stonehenge and Lindisfarne and many other ancient landmarks. If that sounds a bit more prosaic than previous escapades, such as traversing the Rockies in a canoe, then it is – after marvelling at an ancient mineral well at Purton he has a pasty from a Co-op in Cricklade. An extended ramble, literally, which becomes a consideration of life, family and the nature of beauty.
All Our Broken Idols
Paul MM Cooper
Bloomsbury, £14.99, pp368
Siblings Aurya and Sharo go on a voyage of discovery to Nineveh; 2,600 years later archaeologist Katya joins a dig in Mosul against the backdrop of Isis insurgence that can only end in trauma. Naturally, these stories intertwine – perhaps a little too obviously – but Cooper’s trips to Iraq and his historical interests (he hosts the excellent Fall of Civilisations podcast) lend All Our Broken Idols authenticity. The novel underlines the fact that people in Iraq have always suffered – but always fought, too, for their identity and culture; the greatest treasure of all.
Bloomsbury, £8.99, pp336 (paperback)
Ramos’s intriguing debut has been likened to The Handmaid’s Tale, but actually it’s more like Kishwar Desai’s 2012 novel Origins of Love, where pregnancies are outsourced to companies who rent the wombs of needy women. Here, the farm is a “gestational retreat” in upstate New York where we meet four women, each with their own motivations for becoming “hosts”. There are fascinating diversions into race, class and ambition – and while The Farm’s arguments are deliberately blurry, that also allows for some much-needed satire and drama amid the complex issues.
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