In brief: The Wakes; Humanly Possible; A Tidy Ending – reviews

<span>Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images

The Wakes

Dianne Yarwood
Phoenix, £16.99, pp304

Soon after Clare is deserted by her husband, she meets new neighbour Louisa, who persuades her to help with a business venture, providing catering for funerals. Meanwhile, emergency doctor Chris, having recently experienced the breakdown of his own relationship, finds himself unexpectedly attending the wakes of both patients and friends. Yarwood’s poignant debut is infused with humour, pathos and gastronomic delights in an uplifting novel about friendship, death and how the joy of living can be found in the most unexpected places.

Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Enquiry and Hope

Sarah Bakewell
Chatto & Windus, £22, pp464

Through the course of seven centuries and numerous writers and thinkers – both famous and less well known – Bakewell’s impressively comprehensive work tracks the development of humanism. Profiling the men and women who have eschewed religious dogma in favour of a belief in “the lives and experiences of people here on Earth”, she takes us from the 14th to the 20th centuries, through the writings of Petrarch, Erasmus, Charles Darwin and Bertrand Russell in a wide-ranging and highly engaging work.

A Tidy Ending

Joanna Cannon
Borough Press, £8.99, pp432 (paperback)

Linda Hammet and her hapless husband, Terry, have recently moved to a housing estate, when a young woman is found strangled nearby. While local speculation about the crime reaches fever pitch, Linda becomes obsessed with the seemingly glamorous former occupant of her new home. On the surface, Linda is chronically unhappy, desperately needy and easily manipulated, but Cannon’s meticulously plotted and darkly comic novel is a masterclass in misdirection and offers a deliciously satisfying denouement.

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