In brief: The Book of Difficult Fruit; Early Morning Riser; Sex Robots & Vegan Meat – reviews

Hephzibah Anderson
·2-min read

The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly

Kate Lebo
Pan Macmillan, £14.99, pp416

Shove over, velvety peaches and plump strawberries. Lebo, an award-winning US baker and writer, is interested in fruit that is wild and tough, forbidding rather than forbidden. Gathering 26 of her favourites – among them medlars that need to rot in order to sweeten, and wheatberries whose dust is more explosive than gunpowder – she whips up a zingy blend of natural, culinary and personal history. Notes on the medicinal properties of these fruits add a witchy kick, and recipes, too often a twee addition in narrative non-fiction, cover glue and sinus washes along with huckleberry pie. It’s a prickly, piquant delight.

Early Morning Riser

Katherine Heiny
Fourth Estate, £14.99, pp336

On the surface, Heiny’s second novel exudes sitcom cosiness. Schoolteacher Jane hooks up with Duncan, a furniture restorer, on the very afternoon that she moves to Boyne City. Don’t be fooled by the place’s name – this is small-town Michigan, and thanks to his good looks and pleasant ways, marriage-averse Duncan has slept with nearly every woman there. Even so, over some 20 years, he and Jane build a life together, riding out life’s calamities and embracing a found family of eccentrics. With its deadpan charm, local focus and sharp truths, it’s like Anne Tyler with added grunge.

Sex Robots & Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex and Death

Jenny Kleeman
Picador, £9.99, pp368 (paperback)

During a five-year quest that took her across four continents, British journalist and documentary film-maker Kleeman has sampled “clean” chicken nuggets, met a hyperreal silicone sex doll named Harmony, explored a 3D-printed “suicide pod”, and observed an artificial womb that promises to make childbirth as simple as “opening a Ziploc bag”. While she’s certainly no luddite, thoughtful scepticism makes her a savvy guide, and her fresh insights into, for example, disruptive technology’s gender dimension, underpin provocative takes on progress and human nature itself. Thoroughly absorbing.

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