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Reviews in brief: Tales from the Ivory Tower; An Everlasting Meal; The Way the Day Breaked

‘Tamar Adler exposes the key component to good cooking – learning to love it,’ writes Brigid O’Dea

Tales from the Ivory Tower by Jim Malone

Liffey Press, €19.95

These “tales”, based on episodes in the author’s life, are “mostly” or “almost” true, he assures us. Medical physics, academia and healthcare constituted his professional life and he has had a lifelong interest in the arts, religious studies and music, having twice directed the Merriman Summer School. Here he serves up a witty, entertaining, thought-provoking, sometimes moving, sometimes truculent smorgasbord of memories, such as using public transport, the appeal of Catholic ritual, the joy of set-dancing and pleasures of the Merriman Summer School, the merits of mitching, the ups and downs of practising medicine in Ireland and how physics can “shine a light on the enigma of existence”. Religion and spirituality have played a central role in his life; he advocates a personal spirituality that frees one from religion’s excesses. Brian Maye

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

Swift Press, €20.99

“We need to shop and cook like people learning to cook, like what we are – people who are hungry.” In An Everlasting Meal, Adler exposes the key component to good cooking – learning to love it. If that fails, a generous pinch of salt, a dash of vinegar and a good glug of olive oil will generally suffice. An Everlasting Meal is less cookbook and more a guide to respecting food, and preparing it in the most simple and delicious fashion. Inspired by MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, Adler proposes that when it comes to cooking, you can do a lot with a little. In fact, it is probably better this way. Beautifully written and in a literal sense, inspiring, Adler serves as charming company throughout the book, and leaves the reader hungry for more. Brigid O’Dea

The Way the Day Breaks by David Roberts

Weatherglass Books, £10.99

When the closing chapter of a novel is as skilful as the elegiac final pages of The Way The Day Breaks, it is difficult not to wish the novel was longer. That chapter is different in style from all of the preceding chapters which, in the main, alternate between convincingly rendered conversations that take place – usually in a car – between two parents and their three children and the reminiscences of the youngest child, Michael, who narrates that last chapter. The car’s increasing unreliability becomes a metaphor for how Sinclair, the father, is also advancing towards a complete breakdown even as he maintains his unrelentingly confused optimism. The tension of those drives and the deterioration of Sinclair’s mind is always lightly implied rather than stated in this impressive debut novel. Declan O’Driscoll