A breakneck account of events a century past, a thriller set in an artists’ retreat, and actor Matthew McConaughey’s winning memoir
Oldcastle, £12.99, pp255
Attempting a pithy summary of the events of any year is a difficult task, especially one as seismic as 1922. Nick Rennison has given it a go in this entertaining and thoroughly readable canter through the events of a century ago. His account cannot be faulted for lacking comprehensiveness – the downfall of the actor Fatty Arbuckle sits alongside Gandhi’s trial and the publication of Ulysses – but occasionally you wish that Rennison’s breathless narrative would slow down, allowing him to savour the fascinating stories that he shares here.
Salt, £9.99, pp160
Artists’ retreats are usually portrayed as places of solace and inspiration, but Alison Moore’s intriguing novel offers a bracing counterpoint. She depicts the island of Lieloh, home to the former movie star Valerie Swanson, as a strange and threatening place, full of enigma and artifice. When aspiring painter Sandra Peters joins the retreat, it proves to be anything but a relaxing trip away. Depicting the creative process risks edging towards solipsism, but Moore vividly creates an otherworldly milieu that will make you glad you’re not a resident there.
Headline, £14.99, pp289 (paperback)
Through a chequered career that has included acclaim, ridicule, awards and bafflement, actor Matthew McConaughey has maintained a public reputation as a likable and unpretentious figure, happy both embracing the limelight and veering away from it. His not-quite-memoir offers a smörgåsbord of life lessons, anecdotes and wry observations on fame, oscillating between earnest pop philosophy (the title motif becomes tiresome long before the end) and self-deprecating stories about his time as “Mr Shirtless Romcom Guy”. It would be hard to finish the book and not warm to its author.