In brief: Black Water Sister; Mr Wilder & Me; Teach Yourself to Sleep – reviews

A graduate is haunted by the voice of her grandmother, Jonathan Coe examines fame through a film director, and Kate Mikhail wants to send us to sleep

Black Water Sister

Zen Cho
Pan Macmillan, £14.99, pp384

In this fresh take on the ghost story set in modern-day Penang in Malaysia, London-based fantasy writer Zen Cho blends supernatural events with family trauma. While gods and gangsters provide the page-turning treats, what really impresses is heroine Jessamyn’s journey of self-discovery. She leaves America for Malaysia after graduation and is plagued by the voice in her head of her late grandmother, bringing out the novelist’s wit. Black Water Sister tackles some big topics, but it is also a lot of fun.

Mr Wilder & Me

Jonathan Coe
Penguin, £8.99, pp256 (paperback)

Billy Wilder’s star had faded somewhat by the late 1970s, when this deft novel is largely set. On a Greek island, the director meets the fictional Calista, a composer invited to work on Wilder’s penultimate film. She transcribes a remarkable mock screenplay of a movie in which he is the star and helps Wilder explore his past. A generous, often joyful tale of mortality, success and failure, the book is summed up by Calista’s line: “What he had to give, nobody really wanted any more.”

Teach Yourself to Sleep

Kate Mikhail
Little, Brown, £14.99, pp272

Author and journalist Kate Mikhail spent years with chronic insomnia. It was only when she started reading a book by her great-great uncle Richard Waters, a leading figure in early 20th-century cognitive therapy, that something began to click. One hundred years on, Mikhail tries to apply his ideas about how our thoughts affect our preparation for sleep, talking to doctors, scientists and academics along the way. It might be obvious, but the author thoughtfully underlines that every mindful action during the day has a positive impact on a healthy night.

• To order Black Water Sister, Mr Wilder & Me or Teach Yourself to Sleep go to guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

Contributor

Ben East

The GuardianTramp

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