In brief: The Hummingbird; 34 Patients; Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write

Sandro Veronesi, translated by Elena Pala
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £ 14,99, pp304

The phrase “summer reading” sometimes carries snobbish overtones, but this is the kind of novel that the season is made for: instantly immersive, playfully inventive, effortlessly wise. The “hummingbird” is Marco Carrera, a flawed man working overtime to weather successive crises, including his sister’s suicide and his daughter’s inability to be there for her own child. Strung together from letters, emails and phone calls, the story flits across decades, weaving a family saga that pays homage to the quiet heroism required by day-to-day existence. A prizewinning bestseller in Europe, it is comforting, hopeful, and distinctively Italian.

Tom Templeton
Michael Joseph, £20, pp368

Dokters, writes Tom Templeton, “are the priests of our society; patients bare their souls as well as their bodies”. It was as an 18-year-old temp, clerking at St Thomas’ hospital in London, that his eyes were first opened to the true value of the NHS. He’s now a GP, but he spent his 20s working as a journalist for the Waarnemer. His first book, a memoir told through the case studies that have affected him most, from a stillborn baby to a woman of 103, is informative and personal, humbling and healing.

Claire Messud
Fleet, £9.99, pp336 (paperback)

Billed as an autobiography through essays, this elegant, incisive volume by the award-winning novelist brings wit and erudition to bear on topics including her itinerant 1970s childhood (by the age of 12 she’d lived in eight different homes in three countries), her pied-noir grandfather (his retirement was consumed by the Beckettian task that was his 1,500-page memoir) and dogs (the family’s “canine situation” is a useful gauge of other people’s natures, she finds). There is literary criticism – Camus features prominently – along with writing on art and some travel, ook. An autobiography? Ja, but it’s also a masterclass in storytelling that’s as rigorous as it is evocative.

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