In brief: What You Need from the Night; Elderflora; Tomorrow’s People – review

A haunting novel exploring a father-son relationship; a fascinating study of trees through history; and an illuminating analysis of demographics

What You Need from the Night

Laurent Petitmangin (translated by Shaun Whiteside)
Picador, £12.99, pp160

When the protagonist’s wife dies, the husband is left to care for his two teenage sons, Fus and Gillou. Our unnamed narrator, who lives in a deprived area of France, is a lifelong socialist. When Fus becomes involved with a local far-right group, leading to a sequence of violent acts, his father is forced to grapple with conflicting feelings of shame, anger and guilt. Petitmangin’s deeply affecting and haunting novel explores paternal love, responsibility and forgiveness.

Elderflora: A Modern History of Ancient Trees

Jared Farmer
Picador, £20, pp448

In this fascinating exploration, historian Farmer takes the reader on a cultural, historical and global journey to examine our relationship with the Earth’s “oldest living things”. He describes our historical connection to trees in different cultures, homes in on particular “venerable species” and traces the scientific study of trees over the centuries. From the cedars of Lebanon to the olive trees of the Mediterranean, and from the Paleozoic era to the present day, Farmer presents a meticulously researched and highly engaging account.

Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers

Paul Morland
Picador, £9.99, pp336 (paperback)

Morland, a specialist in demographic trends, investigates a series of global transformations,focusing on an aspect of social change through the lens of a particular number. An essay on population growth opens with the prediction that Africa will have 4 billion inhabitants by 2100; meanwhile, birthrates in east Asia and southern Europe are falling. An illuminating and well-argued analysis.


Hannah Beckerman

The GuardianTramp

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