In brief: Lemon; The Nutmeg’s Curse; Dirt – reviews

Kwon Yeo-Sun brings eerie beauty to crime fiction, Amitav Ghosh traces the climate crisis to colonialism and Bill Buford goes to the heart of French cuisine


Kwon Yeo-Sun (translated by Janet Hong)
Apollo, £12.99, pp192

Seoul 2002 and a city that’s been gripped by World Cup fever is about to be consumed by an infinitely darker news story: the murder of 18-year-old Kim Hae-on, whose ethereal good looks lead to the case being dubbed “the high school beauty murder”. Nobody is ever charged and 17 years on it still consumes her younger sister, Da-on, whose entire self – dumpy and plain but whip-smart and brimming with life – has altered in response. Though the narrative takes the form of a detective novel, it becomes a meditation on envy, grief and, this being South Korea, plastic surgery. Understated yet lingeringly eerie.

The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis

Amitav Ghosh
John Murray, £20, pp352

In 1621, Dutch East India Company soldiers went on a genocidal rampage in the Banda Islands, a tiny archipelago that at the time produced the world’s entire supply of once-lucrative nutmeg. In the fate of those islanders massacred for a tree, and in the exploitation that ensued, Ghosh spies the seeds of today’s climate crisis, reframing colonialism as “the project of muting and subduing the Earth”. It’s a powerful, personal polemic in which storytelling plays an essential role. Ghosh also has a solution to propose, one that requires us to summon radical empathy and draw deep on indigenous beliefs from around the world.

Dirt: Adventures in French Cooking

Bill Buford
Vintage, £9.99, pp432

When the American foodie and former Granta magazine editor took his wife and their two young sons to live in Lyon in search of the secret of French cooking, the plan was to stay for six months. They ended up living there for nearly five years, during which Buford apprenticed at a boulangerie, was admitted to an illustrious cooking school and mucked in at a Michelin-starred restaurant. As reportage, it’s as immersive as you could wish for. It’s also hilarious and humbling, an investigation into French cuisine – its history and practice – that is mouth-watering and eye-popping in equal measure.


Hephzibah Anderson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
In brief: Unsettled Ground; Genesis; Inferno – reviews
Twins unravel their family history when their mother dies; myths, science and the origins of the universe; and a harrowing account of postpartum psychosis

Hannah Beckerman

28, Mar, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
In brief: The Man Who Died Twice; Aesop’s Animals; Breathtaking – reviews
Richard Osman’s second novel doesn’t disappoint. Plus, the science behind Aesop’s fables and on the Covid frontline with Dr Rachel Clarke

Hannah Beckerman

12, Sep, 2021 @3:00 PM

Article image
In brief: The Book of Difficult Fruit; Early Morning Riser; Sex Robots & Vegan Meat – reviews
A foray into the world of tricky fruit, unquiet life in small-town Michigan, and a savvy guide to the science of life

Hephzibah Anderson

11, Apr, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
In brief: States of Passion; Unnatural Causes; Devil’s Day – reviews
A story of passion in Syria’s golden age; a compassionate memoir by a leading pathologist; and a tension-filled gothic horror

Hannah Beckerman

16, Sep, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
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

Ben East

27, Jun, 2021 @3:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Water Ways, The City Always Wins, A Shot in the Dark – reviews
Jasper Winn on the mood and meaning of Britain’s canals, Omar Robert Hamilton crafts a vivid story about Egypt’s revolution, and Lynne Truss exhibits her mastery of mystery

Ben East

10, Jun, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
In brief: Turning the Tide on Plastic; A Long Island Story; A Life of My Own – reviews
Lucy Siegle tackles our plastic habit, a McCarthy-era novel lacks pace, while biographer Claire Tomalin tells her own engrossing story

Hannah Beckerman

22, Jul, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
In brief: The Walking People; Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain; A Long Petal of the Sea – reviews
Mary Beth Keane’s rich debut is republished, Lisa Feldman Barrett makes neuroscience snappy, and Isabel Allende engrosses with a Spanish saga

Hannah Beckerman

28, Feb, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Defiant; Looking for Eliza; The Forager's Calendar – review
Robert Verkaik revisits aviation history and Leaf Arbuthnot casts a quiet spell

Alexander Larman

14, Jun, 2020 @12:00 PM

Article image
In brief: The Island of Missing Trees; Tunnel 29; Vesper Flights – review
A powerful novel with a Cypriot backdrop, the thrilling story of a cold war escape and astute essays from nature writer Helen Macdonald

Hannah Beckerman

15, Aug, 2021 @12:00 PM