This month's selection of leisure reading from the Journal's Book Review Editor

Louise Patten (Quercus: £7.99)

It's 100 years since the Titanic sank and this novel seeks to reveal the truth about what happens. Alongside that unfortunate tale of greed and human weakness is a contemporary story based on largely similar failings. A family owned bank has some very dark secrets behind it's success and it falls to the youngest generation to put things right regardless of its consequences. Not being a historian I was less concerned about the Titanic story, but found the rest entertaining. However, I would commend a current Book Group favourite to you. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (Time Warner Books) explores our whole purpose on earth and what might happen after we die. You'll love it or hate it, but in any event it's bound to set you thinking.

Chris Womersley (Quercus: £10.99)

In the aftermath of World War One, Quinn Walker returns to his broken down home town in New South Wales after an absence of 10 years. He finds his mother dying of Spanish flu, his brother gone, and his father unable to come to terms with reality. Those residents who have not perished in either the European conflict or the epidemic use his name to frighten their children. He was the chief suspect in his sister’s murder before he disappeared. Since he was reported as having been killed in France, no one is expecting to see him, and a disfiguring facial injury has made him unrecognisable to all but a few.

He is compelled to return following a strange message passed to him at a spiritualist meeting, which he believes is from his dead sister. An encounter with a feral child of her age, Sadie Fox, makes him realise that he is there to avenge her murder by preventing a further crime.

If sympathetically handled, this could make a stunning film. It is not just a crime novel, with overtones of magical realism akin to the earlier Australian classic, Picnic at Hanging Rock. The most obvious comparison, however, is with the work of Cormac McCarthy. If you liked The Road, then this is for you.

Henry Worsley (Virgin Books: £18.99)

An enjoyable and reflective addition to any polar buff’s library, this is an account of the centenary expedition to commemorate Ernest Shackleton’s 1908 bid to claim the South Pole, in which he took the decision to turn back 97 miles from the Pole but safely returned with all his party. Whilst there are few new perspectives to polar exploration, what sets this story apart is that the 2008 team members were relatives of the original expedition and whose aim was to stand on the precise point of Shackleton’s return exactly 100 years to the day. The author deserves credit for his sense of humility in recognising how much easier the modern day party had it in comparison to their heroes, and by eschewing the well trodden path of pitting Shackleton against Captain Scott.

Michael Winner (The Robson Press: £16.99)

Readers of the Sunday Times will be familiar with Winner's Dinner reviews, of the historic desserts and food inedible beyond belief. This humorous book is a collection of those reviews as well as insights of stars that Winner knew. We read of Peter Ustinov's strident views, Winner's dislike of Michael Grade and Nigella Lawson, as well as his grandfatherly care of his devoted PA. What is little known is that the director of Death Wish also founded fhe Police Memorial Trust, which erects memorials to officers killed in the line of duty.

Winner claims not to be a food expert, but has been fortunate enough to have grazed in some of the best restaurants in the world and knows good food from bad. His reviews range from describing the infamous Balbirs in Glasgow as "patchy food" that "would have tasted better if wasn't served in a coffin", to the more uplifting The Clink at HMP High Down, described as "marvellous" and "a trip worth taking". Brave man, Winner, though, to suggest the "burly doorman" at Annabel's nightclub go back to "doorman school"! If, like Winner, you have £64,000 to spare on a 20 night stay at the La Reserve de Beaulieu, follow his revew and don't have the inedible £50 club sandwich; and if you stay at Cap Estel in Eze-sur-Mer remember £6,100 a night does not include breakfast. The book is fun. Buy a copy and help the old boy pay off his £9m debt.


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