Chatto, £16.99, 272pp
The Need is a chilling novel from a blazing talent. It’s also very hard to write about without spoilers, because in addition to being a cerebral meditation on motherhood at its most elemental – fierce, beatific, sanity-thieving – it’s an adroitly executed thriller with a quasi-sci-fi twist. Mercilessly tense throughout, its opening chapter is a belter, beginning as Molly, home alone with her young kids, hears footsteps in the other room. The twist comes early on, with the removal of the intruder’s mask, and draws intriguingly on Molly’s work as a palaeobotanist. A bracingly singular achievement, it’s surreal, blackly comic and ultimately generous.
Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books
Fig Tree, £14.99, 304pp
Delight. Unbounded, wide-eyed delight. This is the secret ingredient in poet and playwright Clare Pollard’s captivating first book, which invites the reader to hop on a broomstick or perhaps jump into a pea-green boat and journey back through the evolution of children’s picture books. There’s memoir as well as cultural history here, and monsters and magic aplenty as it strays into the very darkest corners of fairytale forests. While it’s hard to find fresh insights into The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Pollard’s reflections on the likes of Bread and Jam for Frances and the shiny red apple that is princess culture are spot-on, building to a rousing cry to take “small people culture” far more seriously.
In Miniature: How Small Things Illuminate the World
Canongate, £9.99, 304pp
The flea circus, the model crime scenes, the doll’s house that Edwin Lutyens made for Queen Mary, complete with Cartier clocks and original books by Arthur Conan Doyle and Edith Wharton. Simon Garfield encounters an abundance of ingenuity and eccentricity as he delves into the instant appeal and enduring significance of the miniature, hopping across centuries and tapping sources from Claude Lévi-Strauss to Enid Blyton. The Eiffel Tower plays a starring role: before it was built, only balloonists had seen Paris from on high; after climbing its steps, the capital became map-like. Seamed with stories, this is an oddly moving, constantly fascinating look at the myriad ways in which shrinkage can bring order – and inspiration – to a chaotic world.
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