In brief: Storyland; Crickonomics; Bitter Orange Tree – review | Books

Amy Jeffs
Quercus, £12.99, pp384 (paperback)

Academic Amy Jeffs began her journey through the ancient stories of Orkney and Cornwall, Snowdon and Stonehenge with pictures rather than words, studying ancient illustrations of medieval tales. Exploring the origin myth of Britain in this way encouraged Jeffs to make her own linocuts of Merlin and Gogmagog, reproduced in these pages and a signal of intent that this will be a fresh, creative exploration of the stories that have shaped these isles. She also finds modern resonances – these are magical tales steeped in timeless concerns of identity, love and loss.

Stefan Szymanski and Tim Wigmore
Bloomsbury, £18.99, pp304

Soccernomics author Szymanski turns his data-driven gaze towards cricket in this survey of where the sport has come from, where it is right now and where it might be headed. Like Soccernomics, it’s hit or miss; chapters range from fascinating explorations of the weather, the impact of the short form of the game and class to rehashing old arguments about cricket’s traditions. With cricket writer Wigmore’s expert assistance, it’s actually less a stats-fest than a well-researched white paper on how the sport could thrive.

Jokha Alharthi
Simon & Schuster, £14.99, pp224

An elegiac historical novel of a horseman’s daughter who dreams of owning her own plot of land in the Omani desert, Bitter Orange Tree is framed in the regretful, melancholic memories of her granddaughter, at university in Britain. Alharthi, however, makes this a stirring tale of a woman who battles every social and religious constraint; she dies alone but revered. The juxtaposition with the narrator’s reflections on modern life and the speed of change is brilliantly judged in Marilyn Booth’s agile translation from Arabic.

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