Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Reviews

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Reviews

Article excerpt

BOOK OF THE WEEK Adventures In Human Being by Gavin Francis Publisher: Profile Books Price: PS14.99 Hardback (ebook PS6.99) ADVENTURES in Human Being traverses the body, each chapter focussing on a different part, from the eyes, hands, and pelvis to internal organs, including the heart, liver and lungs. Stitching classical texts (from the Illiad to Snow White) with medical teachings, it's a book surreptitiously packed with information.

Though this makes it a must-read for anyone interested in the workings of the vessel we live our lives in (and indeed, makes you acutely aware of your own body), it should be known that it's not for the faint-hearted.

Though at times toe-curling in its detail for a non-medic, Francis' passion for uncovering and explaining how the body works is palpable throughout. In describing the workings of the inner ear, he talks of balance as, 'a portable sea anchor that moors us in the world', and bands of collagen in the arm are 'like the quills of a feather'.

The writing makes this a joy to read, but beyond that there is much to learn. I was fascinated by the fact that, 'before biochemistry labs, the analysis of substances was often left to the tongue'.

While Francis is clearly a formidable doctor, it's his range of experience and ability to effortlessly weave depictions of the body throughout history with the straight science behind it, that makes this such a compelling read.

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FICTION The Last Bookaneer: By Matthew Pearl Publisher: Harvill Secker Price: PS17.99 Hardback (ebook PS9.99) THE Last Bookaneer is an authormeets-genre tale, an exotic hunt for treasure starring Robert Louis Stevenson. Matthew Pearl is clearly a bibliophile (previous books: The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, The Last Dickens), and it shines through in this piratical tale of people paid to loot manuscripts and smuggle them to foreign publishers.

There are two of these bookaneers left and the story focuses on their wonderfully twisty and duplicitous set-up venturing to a Samoan island, where Stevenson has settled for the last years of his life and is writing a final masterpiece. It all plays out as an evocative Polynesian travelogue with all the audacious thievery of a fun heist film, but with defter characterisation and substantially more philosophising on the nature of stories.

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A Perfect Crime by A Yi Publisher: Oneworld Publications Price: PS10.99 Hardback (ebook PS9.11) IT'S an ordinary day in provincial China - except a bored high-school murders his only friend and goes on the run.

Easily outsmarting the authorities and evading capture, his lust for danger soon takes hold again. He tips off the police as to his whereabouts, and a game of cat and mouse begins. The police still can't catch him, so he gives himself up. …

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