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Mantle, £16.99, pp368
At 37, “resting” geography teacher Annie Stanley sets off on a grand tour of the shipping forecast’s 14 coastline-hugging sea areas – Cromarty, Humber, Portland… Along for the ride is her sea-loving father, Peter – or at least his ashes are, filched from his grieving partner and housed in a Pringles tube. It’s to honour Peter’s memory that Annie embarks on her madcap adventure, but as she weathers tough love from old friends in spots such as Scarborough and Brighton, it becomes as much about charting a fresh course for her own becalmed life. This charming, well-judged debut novel balances seaside kitsch and mordant humour. Deckchair optional.
Faber, £12.99, pp192
In her late 50s, Lavinia Greenlaw found herself dogged by a question to which she had no answer: why, in her 2007 memoir, The Importance of Music to Girls, did she fail to mention that she once sang in a band and made a record? It may sound a self-absorbed premise, even by the standards of memoir, but the resulting book is a delight: approachable, rigorous and omnivorous in its frame of reference. What emerges from meditations on, for instance, the tension between silence and speech or the particular character of Essex is a timely, lyrical investigation into what it means to create and to create as a woman in particular.
Endeavour, £8.99, pp320 (paperback)
Frances Glessner Lee, a Chicago socialite born in 1878, was smart, stubborn and creative. As this engrossing biography makes clear, she also became the matriarch of modern forensic pathology. Lee was in her 50s when an acquaintance, a medical examiner, got her interested in a field characterised by incompetence and corruption. She threw money at the problem, bankrolling a department of legal medicine at Harvard, but she also set about producing teaching aids in the form of doll’s house-size crime scene dioramas, using traditionally feminine crafts to revolutionise a thoroughly male world. Irresistibly macabre, the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, as they are known, are still used today.
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