Life & Style

Escapism

Travel may be tricky right now, but there’s nothing to stop you slipping off into foreign lands and fantasy lives (the delightful and the destructive) by way of a good read. Katie Law, Books Editor at The Evening Standard, shares the latest literary escapes…

Image: Huong T. Nguyen

onmyshelf-katielaw-portrait

For intimate insights into an art world icon…

__Spring Cannot be Cancelled by David Hockney and Martin Gayford __

At the age of 80, David Hockney bought himself an old farmhouse, La Grande Cour, on four acres of land in Normandy. COVID brought enforced isolation in this rural paradise, leaving him free to draw and paint the arrival of spring. Here we observe him in full flow, painting and corresponding with his old friend and longtime collaborator, Martin Gayford, who turns the conversations into a series of reflections on life, art and everything else, the text interspersed with the painter’s exuberantly colourful pictures. No surprise then, to hear that Normandy is fast becoming the new Notting Hill.

For those in search of an epic adventure…

__Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead __

At just under 600 pages, this page-turning epic promises many hours of pleasure. Inspired by the true life events of aviatrix Jean Batten, Shipstead, who spent seven years researching and writing Great Circle, weaves the story of Marian Graves, who embarked on a flight to circumnavigate the globe and disappeared in Antartica, with that of Hollywood star Hadley Baxter, who has lead a very different but equally troubled life, up to the moment when she is cast in the part of Graves in a big budget biopic. Warmly recommended for long trips.

For a taboo tale of animal passion…

Bear by Marian Engel

There’s something beguilingly innocent about this Canadian ‘classic’ – a 1976 novel now published in the UK for the first time. The story of shy librarian Lou, who is sent to a remote island in Northern Ontario to catalogue the library and contents of a house and then falls in love with a furry five foot bear, was hailed at the time as an erotic masterpiece. The girl-on-bear sex is pretty bonkers, but the book also offers a fascinating window onto the flavour of feminism back then, when men and civilisation were to be rejected in favour of wild nature, even though wild nature could prove troublesome too.

For life’s tweeters, posters, scrollers and sharers…

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

A viral sensation, Lockwood is a gifted young writer who’s made her name turning Twitter into an art form. This is her first novel, which follows two poetry collections and an acclaimed memoir, ‘Priestdaddy’. It’s an irreverent, filthy, funny take on life online, unveiled by an unnamed, restless narrator who at one point asks her husband to lock her phone in a safe and begs to get it back. It addresses the question of how we can write about anything serious when we spend our lives scrolling. Absolute catnip to the Twitterati, but nonsensical to anyone else.

For a deep dive into desire…

Fidelity by Marco Missiroli

Can we be true to ourselves without betraying the people we love? Or to the people we love without betraying ourselves? The Italian novelist was inspired to write this after his father told him that he had stayed faithful to his wife, but at a great cost to himself. Here, a 30-something married couple both have lustful designs on other people, but can their marriage take it? A thrilling exploration of desire and fidelity, the novel – already snapped up by Netflix – also evokes Milan in all its glory, from its cafés and piazze to a seedy underworld of illegal dogfights and bareknuckle fighting.

For an entertaining whiz around the workings of your mind…

Seven And A Half Lessons About The Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

Reading this clever little book about how the brain works will make you feel much cleverer once you’ve mastered the basics. The good news is it’s short and snappy, in shameless imitation of Carlo Rovelli’s bestselling ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’. Our brains are primarily command centres that control the rest of our bodies, we are told, rather than for thinking creatively or philosophically, although they do that too. Humans are not ‘the most evolved’ creatures: we can’t fly, regrow amputated limbs or lift fifty times our own weight. Or live unaided on Mars. Nor do centres in the brain ‘light up’ or ‘store files’. Clever stuff, eh?

For a scalpel-sharp slice of fractured family life…

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

Best known for her acclaimed novel ‘First Love’ about an abusive marriage between a writer and her older husband, Riley continues to put the boot into intimate relationships with exquisitely painful precision in this story about a mother’s dysfunctional bond with her daughter. Forty something Bridge and her mother Hen only see each other once a year, and still both get a perverse kick from wounding one another in subtle ways that go back to Bridge’s childhood. Riley challenges notions of unconditional love with pitiless clarity in breathless, brilliant shorthand.

For a master suite at the ultimate glamour retreat…

Hotel du Cap Eden Roc: A Timeless Legend on the French Riviera by Alexandra Campbell From Lartigue’s 1920 photograph of Madeleine ‘Bibi’ Messager in a rimmed cloche hat sitting at a table overlooking the sea, to Slim Aarons’ iconic 1976 image poolside, this lavish volume celebrates not just 150 years of the hotel, but of the Cap d’Antibes itself, conjuring all the glamour of a bygone age. “One year there was a 100-person conga line that snaked all around the pool area. We had princes and princesses, billionaires and Bond girls, comtesses and crooks” writes Graydon Carter in the preface. Gorgeously put together, with a rich narrative seam for history buffs.