Priscilla: the Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France
When Nicholas Shakespeare opened a box of family papers, he found the subject for his latest book. The documents revealed that his aunt Priscilla had had a fascinating (if not a good) war. Married to a French aristocrat, she was caught in France when it was overrun by the Germans. Interned in a prisoner-of-war camp, she escaped and survived the rest of the war on her wits, charms and a pragmatic morality. Shakespeare recounts her life with understanding and dash and rather than judge, wonders what he would have done in her place.
Harvill Secker, 440pp, £18.99
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage
This is not a conventional memoir but more of a commonplace book in which the Orange Prize-winning novelist Ann Patchett describes events and experiences that have made her what she is. These include standard writers’ fare – divorce, writing her first book – but also an account of taking the LAPD police test following the Rodney King riots (she passed) and her friendship with a Nashville nun named Sister Nena. The episodes are disparate but linked by her sensibility and understated prose style.
Bloomsbury, 320pp, £16.99
Moss Witch and Other Stories
The Manchester-based Comma Press publishes books that bring science and storytelling together. Following last year’s Bio-Punk: Stories from the Far Side of Research, an anthology of short stories that read like science-fiction but was rooted in the latest research from the fields of genetics, quantum physics and nanotechnology, is Sara Maitland’s new collection, Moss Witch. Each of the 14 stories here was born from the author’s conversations with figures including Radio 4’s Jim al-Khalili and the mathematician Ian Stewart. Each scientist writes an afterword to Maitland’s tales, which blend science with myth, folklore and anachronism to powerful effect.
Comma Press, 232pp, £9.99