Headline, £20, pp368
“The grave’s a fine and private place / But none, I think, do there embrace”: Andrew Marvell’s famous lines linger in the background of Peter Ross’s engaging and authoritative account of his journey round the cemeteries of Britain and Ireland, ranging from the grandiose splendour of London’s Kensal Green to the sepulchral chills of the bone crypt at Holy Trinity church in Rothwell, Northamptonshire. Fascinating and sometimes grotesque, anecdotes of the inhabitants, in both life and death, of these resting places abound. Ross makes a likably idiosyncratic guide and one finishes the book feeling strangely optimistic about the inevitable.
Quercus Publishing, £18.99, pp368
The translator Natasha Randall’s debut novel is a keenly observed account of the travails of an apparently normal American family, one where the patriarch, Hank, exemplifies the stubbornly bigoted worldview of a Trump-era Republican and where his frustrated, “occasionally useful” wife, Jenny, begins a correspondence with a prison inmate whose intentions remain opaque. Randall’s novel is hugely ambitious, perhaps overly so, in its scope and psychological insight, yet Jenny is a brilliantly conceived character, a believably flawed but comprehensible character who finds herself in a wholly unexpected milieu.
Oldcastle Books, £16.99, pp288
How hard can it be to turn a bestselling book into a film? Much more difficult than you might imagine is the answer that various eminent screenwriters seem to agree upon in Alistair Owen’s fascinating selection of new interviews. The likes of (a riotously entertaining) Sarah Phelps, David Nicholls and David Hare offer penetrating insights into both the craft of adaptation and their working processes, while Owen’s well-judged questions elicit valuable in-depth responses. There’s even the odd admission and explanation of when and why an adaptation didn’t work.