However, those who prefer hard copy can order new publications from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble or Foyle’s – but for the rest we have to rely on local booksellers bringing in books, sometimes the same year (give or take a month or two) of publication, but often, or so it seems, a year or more after they first appear in “foreign” bookstores.
The three hot off the presses for 2010 were The Old House and the Dream by Joy Rudder. The Old House of the title is the estate house on Springhill Plantation in Arima, The Dream – the creation of the Asa Wright Nature Centre. Rudder pulls no punches in describing the eccentric, charming Asa Wright. If you’ve not read this book already, put it down on your reading list for 2011, you should find a copy or two in local bookstores but your best bet would be the Nature Centre itself.
Next on the local list is Dennis McComie’s 1990 – published to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attempted coup – and, perhaps a useful source for checking references while following press reports of the course of the enquiry due to start next year (and not before time). Nigel Khan Bookseller and other bookstores may still have copies of 1990.
You’ll find the last of the local publications, Bolero by Luise Kimme, that was launched in April 2010 in The Readers’ Bookshop and, most likely, some copies may still be available there – and in other bookstores in TT. Bolero is a coffee table book full of illustrations, old photographs of the artist’s life, photographs of her carvings bronzes, statuettes, her drawings and her paintings; the title refers to her passion for Latin American dance and the art of Cuba.
Now for the rest of the best, beginning with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, whose painstaking research over more than a decade revealed the amazing scientific break through that gave rise to a vaccine for polio, techniques for cloning and human in-vitro fertilisation, spawned a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry, and the mapping of the human genome.
The break-through came when, in answer to a researcher’s plea for material, a doctor removing cancerous cells from a tumour in Henrietta Lack’s body sent them to the lab for experimental purposes without her consent. Instead of dying, those cells multiplied at astronomical rates, they were named “Hela” cells (after the first two letters of her name) and survive (or clones of them survive) in laboratories all over the world (including TT) to this day yet dirt-poor Henrietta and her poverty-stricken family didn’t get a dime while everyone else was covered with glory for their discoveries – and got richer and richer. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks may still be available from Nigel Khan, Bookseller – or you could ask around at other bookstores.
Now for something lighter and, at the same time, darker – the phenomenal best-selling Girl books, translated from the Swedish and soon to be major motion pictures. From which clues you’ll know, no doubt, they are The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. If you’ve not read them already, you’ve a real treat of a trio of grown-up whodunit/horror stories – too complicated to give even an outline of the plots in the space available. You may be lucky enough to find copies of all three in Nigel Khan, or RIK or other bookstores in TT.
Let’s end the first half of this column devoted to best books reviewed in 2010 with the Booker Prize winning novel Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel that tells the true story of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power that paved the way for the break with Rome, and enabled Henry VIII to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. In the review I described this book as “lyrical, witty and – when describing executions – brutal, particularly the appalling hanging, drawing and quartering. Mantel’s descriptions of the clothes, the food, even the stench of drains, bring the period to life.” If you’re into English history and have a fascination for the Tudors and have not yet read this book, you could find a copy or two lurking on the shelves of The Readers’ Bookshop …