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John le Carré returns, Lissa Evans uses 1944 as lesson for today in Mirror Books

In this week’s instalment of the best reads out in shops now, the Mirror Book Club reviews a beautifully constructed, funny, moving novel which celebrates resilience and good humour in a world filled with worry – a timely lesson for our uncertain times.

John le Carré is back but with a departure from his usual suspense filled tales of espionage and cunning.

While Helen Macdonald’s agerly awaited first book since the award-winning H Is For Hawk is a series of 41 urgent essays designed to open our eyes to the state of the environment.

For all that and more – read on… and don’t forget to join the Mirror Book Club.

V For Victory, by Lissa Evans
Doubleday, £14.99

Set at the tail end of 1944, where V2 rockets and doodlebugs pose a constant danger, this brilliant novel about people trying to lead ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances, serves as a timely reminder that kindness and quiet courage can make the most uncertain situations bearable.

The streets of London are wrecked, the houses shells with walls missing and staircases ascending to nowhere.

Amid the devastation, Evans’ spirited, quirky characters are getting to grips with a life lived in limbo as an Allied victory is on the horizon but has not yet come to pass.

Bookish Noel, 14, is in the care of his guardian Vee, who’s attempting to keep her lodgers fed and her secrets hidden, while keeping up a flirtation with genial, generous American GI Mario O’Mahoney.

And there’s wonderful Winnie, a warden whose job is to help search for survivors buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Her husband Emlyn has languished in a POW camp for four years and she’s beginning to forget how he smiles.

It’s all so beautifully done. The characters are a delight and the story moves along at a clip.

There are laugh-out-loud moments, and others that are heart-breakingly sad.

It’s a funny, moving novel which celebrates resilience and good humour in a world filled with worry.


Vesper Flights, by Helen Macdonald
Jonathan Cape, £16.99

Helen Macdonald’s eagerly awaited first book since the award-winning H Is For Hawk in 2014 is a “cabinet of curiosities” – a collection of 41 essays reflecting on human relationships with the natural world.

Their subject matter is marvellously diverse, taking in nests, ants, hares, glow-worms, mushrooms, migration and more.

They explore how we interact with nature in our daily lives, and how the creatures we share our troubled planet with have potential to instruct us.

These are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes to the state of the environment.


Agent Running In The Field, by John le Carré
Penguin, £8.99

Nat is a veteran of British intelligence who ought to be on the scrapheap but survives because of his knowledge of Russia.

He is also a badminton fiend and becomes friends with Ed, an oddball who rails against Trump and Brexit.

Nat finds himself in a difficult situation when Ed’s political beliefs land them both in hot water.

This series of superb character sketches offers little in the way of suspense, but is essentially a shaggy dog story, much more relaxed and comic than many of Le Carré’s recent books.


The Lantern Men, by Elly Griffiths

Quercus, £18.99

The 12th entry in the Dr Ruth Galloway series sees Norfolk’s busiest forensic archaeologist embarking on a new life in Cambridge – which is as shocking a move as Sherlock Holmes leaving Baker Street.

But Ruth is lured back to Norfolk when a convicted serial killer offers to reveal the locations of four victims’ corpses.

Creepy Norfolk folklore is skilfully blended with the ongoing saga of the personal lives of Ruth and her friends.

Warm but never cloyingly cosy, this is the most truly loveable of current crime series.


Dreaming In A Nightmare, by Jeremiah Emmanuel
Merky Books, £12.99

Activist, entrepreneur and speaker Emmanuel is only 20 but he’s fast becoming a key spokesperson of his generation.

He outlines the obstacles young black Britons face, with gang culture, knife crime, precarious housing and poverty looming large.

He shares his insights into education, the breakdown in trust between communities, and the importance of youth engagement in politics.

Emmanuel also offers ideas to help people achieve their dreams – and they require tenacity, not blank cheques.


Join the Mirror Book Club

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett was the last Mirror Book Club book of the month. Lemn Sissay’s My Name is Why is our next book club read
There’s never been a better time to get lost in a good book… so we’d love you to join the friendly Mirror Book Club community on Facebook. Members share thoughts on the current book of the month, post other recommendations and exchange book news and views. There are regular giveaways too.

Mirror Book Club members have chosen My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay as the latest book of the month.

At the age of 17, after a childhood in a foster family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learns that his real name was not Norman.

It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he finds out that his mother has been pleading for his safe return to her ever since his birth.

This is Lemn’s story: a story of neglect and determination, misfortune and hope, cruelty and triumph.

We’d love you to give My Name Is Why a read and let the Mirror Book Club know what you think at facebook.com/groups/mirrorbookclub. We’ll print your feedback on September 18.

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