THE ALL TRUE ADVENTURES (AND RARE EDUCATION) OF DAREDEVIL DANIEL BONES by Owen Booth (4th Estate £14.99, 352 pp)
THE ALL TRUE ADVENTURES (AND RARE EDUCATION) OF DAREDEVIL DANIEL BONES
by Owen Booth (4th Estate £14.99, 352 pp)(4th Estate £14.99, 352 pp)
This captivating caper, inspired by the real-life rapscallion showman Paul Boyton, known as The Fearless Frogman, heads from an unnamed English marshland village, across the Channel, stopping off on the Rhine, the Venice canals and the sewers of glamorous Paris in a quest for money and fame.
It’s 1888 and Daniel Bones, the unhappy, 14-year-old habitué of a fenland village, is co-opted as an apprentice to the maverick Captain Clarke B, who has developed an impressive, air-pocketed rubber suit which transforms him into a virtually unsinkable human kayak.
Many splendiferous adventures ensue, as Daniel and the frequently untrustworthy Captain entertain, exasperate and educate audiences made up of ordinary folk, wealthy widows, anarchists and arms dealers.
It is a rip-roaring read, full of bold characters whose roguish behaviour leads them into enjoyable bother.
BELLADONNA by Anbara Salam (Fig Tree £14.99, 352 pp)
by Anbara Salam (Fig Tree £14.99, 352 pp)
FIFTEEN-year-old Bridget Ryan is awkward, anxious about her family, and an outsider at a conservative Connecticut school, where the girls are suspicious of Bridget’s Egyptian mother and her endlessly ill sister, Rhona.
Enter charming, capricious, wealthy Isabella, who happily defies the school’s conventions of the Fifties and befriends Bridget, who develops an immediate crush on the cool, worldly teen.
When both are chosen to attend an art history exchange programme at a convent in Italy, Bridget is thrilled to have enchanting Isabella to herself.
Far from home and in the company of girls from other schools, who don’t know the truth about her life, Bridget jumps at the chance of reinvention, even as her heart is at the mercy of her mercurial friend. Lush and languid, this sultry coming-of-age tale captures a fractured friendship and the yearnings of girlhood.
SPIRITED by Julie Cohen (Orion £16.99, 301 pp)
by Julie Cohen (Orion £16.99, 301 pp)
A tender and haunting tale, this is a slow-burn read which sparks into flame, as passion kindles in the hearts of her beautifully realised characters.
It’s 1858, and unhappy couple Viola and Jonah move to the Isle of Portland in Dorset.
Mourning the death of her father, grieving Viola is in demand with the locals, who inveigle her to take pictures of their recently deceased relatives, as her evocative photographs seem to reveal the ghostly apparitions of their just-departed souls.
The troubled pair comes into the orbit of Henriette Blackthorne, a spirit medium with an eye on the main chance.
Recognising Viola’s curious ability and puzzled by Jonah’s hidden history, Henriette realises that the situation ‘could, with careful handling, become lucrative for a canny dealer in the uncanny’, until love breaks down her mercenary impulses in the most unexpected of ways.