Talking of Books is a weekly review show which showcases some of Dubai’s most intrepid readers. From new releases to chats with local and international authors, this is a must-listen for any bibliophile.
Every week co-hosts Isobel Abulhoul and Annabelle Corton are joined by an ever-changing cast of guest reviewers drawn from the UAE’s reading community, to discuss and review a broad selection of fiction and non-fiction books, from business to travel; holistic to historical. Also, every week Isobel and Annabelle select a Book Champion to come in and introduce Dubai to a book they think is particularly significant and should be more widely read.
Talking of Books features regular interviews with today’s greatest writers, with previous interviewees including bestselling novelists Chris Cleave, superstar children’s authors Jacqueline Wilson, Andy Stanton and David Almond, internationally-renowned philosopher AC Grayling and rugby legend Brian Moore.
FANCY BEING A BOOK CHAMPION? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMING UP ON TALKING OF BOOKS THIS WEEK…
Book Champion – The Silk Road by Peter Frankopan
It was on the Silk Roads that East and West first encountered each other through trade and conquest, leading to the spread of ideas, cultures, and religions, and it was the appetites for foreign goods that drove economies and the growth of nations. From the first cities in Mesopotamia to the emergence of Greece and Rome to the depredations by the Mongols, the transmission of the Black Death, the struggles of the Great Game – the fate of the West has always been inextricably linked to the East. By way of events as disparate as the American Revolution and the world wars of the twentieth century, Peter Frankopan realigns the world, orienting us eastward, and illuminating how even the rise of the West 500 years ago resulted from its efforts to gain access to and control of these Eurasian trading networks. In an increasingly globalized planet, where current events in Asia and the Middle East dominate the world’s attention, this magnificent work of history is very much a work of our times.
About Peter Frankopan
Peter Frankopan is Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford, and Director for the Centre for Byzantine Research at Oxford University.
His revised translation of The Alexiad by Anna Komnene was published in 2009 and The First Crusade, a major monograph about Byzantium, Islam and the West in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, was published in 2012.
His latest book, The Silk Roads, was published in 2015 to huge critical acclaim and is a number one Sunday Times Bestseller.
Alongside researching and writing non-fiction, Frankopan also writes for the international press.
Young Reviewers – The Hounds of Penhallow Hall by Holly Webb
For Polly, moving to Penhallow Hall is the fresh start she’s been longing for since the death of her father. Her mum has got a job managing the stately home and once the last of the visitors leave for the day the place is all theirs! One night, Polly sleepwalks into the garden and wakes to find her hand on the head of one of the stone dogs that guard the steps down to the lawn. Then she feels him lick her cheek! The dog introduces himself as Rex, an Irish Wolfhound who lived at Penhallow many hundreds of years earlier. And he is not the only ‘resident’ – Polly has also glimpsed a strange boy around the place.
With Rex’s help she finds herself unravelling the story of his beloved master, William Penhallow, who was killed in the First World War aged only 17.
About Holly Webb
Holly Webb has written over 100 books, including the Animal Stories, My Naughty Little Puppy and Maisie Hitchins series for Stripes Publishing. Webb has also written The Clever Little Kitten for World Book Day and recently penned a sequel to The Secret Garden.
She lives with her husband, three sons and several cats in Tilehurst, Berkshire.
Arab World Books of the Week –
The Return by Hisham Matar
In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years.
When he was twelve, Matar and his family went into political exile. Eight years later Matar’s father, a former diplomat and military man turned brave political dissident, was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo by the Libyan government and is believed to have been held in the regime’s most notorious prison.
Now, the prisons are empty and little hope remains that Jaballa Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is ‘persistent and cunning’.
Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for biography/autobiography, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, France’s Prix du livre étranger, and a finalist for the Orwell Book Prize and the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, The Return is a brilliant and affecting portrait of a country and a people on the cusp of immense change, and a disturbing and timeless depiction of the monstrous nature of absolute power.
About Hisham Matar
Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood in Tripoli and Cairo. His first novel, In the Country of Men, won six international literary awards and has been translated into 28 languages.
His second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, was named one of the best books of the year by The Guardian and the Chicago Tribune.
Matar lives in London and in New York City, where he teaches at Barnard.
The Bride of Amman by Fadi Zaghmout
When Rana finds herself not only falling for a man of the wrong faith, but also getting into trouble with him, where can they go to escape?
Can Hayat’s secret liaisons really suppress the memories of her abusive father?
When Ali is pressured by society into a fake marriage, how long can he maintain the illusion?
And when spinsterhood and divorce spell social catastrophe, is living a lie truly the best option for Leila? What must she do to avoid reaching her ‘expiry date’ at age 30 like her sister Salma, Jordan’s secret blogger and a self-confessed spinster with a plot up her sleeve to defy her city’s prejudices?
These five young lives come together and come apart in ways that are distinctly modern yet as unique and timeless as Amman itself.
About Fadi Zaghmout
Fadi Zaghmout is a social-media specialist, blogger, and author. His first novel The Bride of Amman was published in the Arabic language in Jordan in January 2012, addressing issues of gender in the city of Amman.
His second novel, Heaven on Earth, was published in November 2014; it is a work of speculative fiction that posits a near future where science defeats ageing.
Zaghmout holds an MA in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking from the University of Sussex in the UK. He has been an active blogger since 2006 and has a Twitter following of around 370,000.
The President’s Gardens by Muhsin al-Ramli
Abdullah loses 20 years to captivity before returning to learn the terrible truth of his birth. Tariq, the son of the local Sheik, avoids the army, and becomes a man of power and influence, able to help his friends but always careful to keep his own interests closest to his heart. Ibrahim loses a foot in the first Gulf War and his wife to cancer before taking on a menial job in the gardens of one of the president’s many palaces – a job whose responsibilities will escalate beyond his wildest imaginings.
About Muhsin al-Ramli
Muhsin Al-Ramli is an Iraqi writer, poet, academic and translator, born in the village of Sudara in northern Iraq in 1967.
The President’s Gardens was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2013.
Al-Ramli has lived in Madrid since 1995.
Book of the Week –
The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin
This is a medical handbook, with a difference. Whether you have a stubbed toe or a severe case of the blues, within these pages you’ll find a cure in the form of a novel to help ease your pain. You’ll also find advice on how to tackle common reading ailments – such as what to do when you feel overwhelmed by the number of books in the world, or you have a tendency to give up halfway through. When read at the right moment, a novel can change your life, and The Novel Cure is an enchanting reminder of that power.
The Story Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin
From tantrums to tummy aches to teenage mood swings, there are times when a book is the best medicine of all. The Story Cure is a manual for grown-ups who believe that the stories which shape children’s lives should not be left to chance.
In these pages bibliotherapists Ella and Susan recommend the perfect children’s book – from picture books to YA novels via the golden world of chapter books – for every hiccup and heartache. Whether the young child you know is being bullied, the toddler can’t sleep, or the teenager has fallen in love for the first time – or just doesn’t know what to read next – the right story will help them feel themselves again. Packed full of helpful lists of the best books to read when turning ten or going through a spy/ horse/ superhero phase, you’ll find old favourites such as The Borrowers and The Secret Garden alongside modern classics by MT Anderson, Malorie Blackman and Frank Cottrell Boyce.
The Story Cure is the perfect companion for initiating young readers into one of life’s greatest pleasures.
About Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin
Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin met as English Literature students at Cambridge University, where they began giving novels to each other whenever one of them seemed in need of a boost.
Berthoud went on to study fine art and become a painter and art teacher.
Elderkin became a novelist (Sunset Over Chocolate Mountains and The Voices) and in 2003 was listed by Granta as one of the Twenty Best of Young British Novelists. She also teaches creative writing and writes travel pieces and book reviews for various newspapers.
In 2008 they set up a bibliotherapy service through The School of Life in London, and since then have been prescribing books either virtually or in person to clients all over the world.