Books in brief: From the trials of Alzheimer’s to Angela Graham’s evocative short stories

Plus: Weatherglass Books bursts out of the traps with a strong novel by Isobel Wohl

Brendan Smith with comedian Dave Allen at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, 1979. Photograph: Kevin McMahon

Brendan Smith with comedian Dave Allen at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, 1979. Photograph: Kevin McMahon

 

If Memory Serves Me Wrong: A Memoir of Love, Theatre and Loss to Early-Onset Alzheimer’s
Ronan Smith with Sue Leonard
New Island
Actor and producer Ronan Smith’s touching memoir begins with his experience of caring for his father, the theatre impresario Brendan Smith, who contracted early-onset Alzheimer’s. The author inherited his father’s love for theatre, his workaholic tendencies, and the gene that meant he too would contract early-onset Alzheimer’s. The two men adopted variant approaches in managing the disease, his father denying its presence, causing anguish to himself and those around him, the author accepting the diagnosis head-on and taking a proactive stance in managing its progression. However, while the author may approach his diagnosis with a positive outlook, there is no denying that there are many sad aspects to this disease. This interesting insight into living with Alzheimer’s, written in real-time, with welcome contributions from the author’s wife, is not only a memoir about Alzheimer’s, but Ireland’s vibrant theatre scene, love and friendship. BRIGID O’DEA

A City Burning
Angela Graham
Seren, £9.99
Angela Graham’s debut collection of short stories has been longlisted for the 2021 Edge Hill Short Story prize, and it’s not hard to see why. The film-maker and screenwriter’s move into fiction brings with it an eye for perspective, for the power of the vignette to momentarily depict a whole life. There is a craft in the economy of Graham’s prose, as evocative as it is sparse, and the theme of change resonates throughout the collection, as well as the inherently human fear of it. We are not always prepared for the moment when our lives change for ever, and Graham seeks to capture that sense of knowing and not knowing here, inviting us into an intimacy with her characters that is never forced, and always elegiac. BECKY LONG

Cold New Climate
Isobel Wohl
Weatherglass Books, £10.99
A first novel published by a debut publisher might not arouse high expectations but with Cold New Climate, Weatherglass Books has started hugely impressively. Isobel Wohl quickly establishes the strength and consistency of her purpose by deploying a detached tone that allows the reader to engage with the narrative details without ever being pushed to think about them in a directed fashion. The book gets much of its energy from the deviance and defiance of the relationship of its main characters, a 19-year-old boy and an older woman who was previously in a relationship with his father. While these characters’ personal dilemmas occupy most of the novel, in an utterly unexpected last section, we suddenly see our far greater, collective vulnerabilities. DECLAN O’DRISCOLL

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