In brief: Lemon; The Nutmeg’s Curse; Dirt – reviews

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<span>Photograph: Laurent Cipriani/AP</span>
Photograph: Laurent Cipriani/AP


Kwon Yeo-Sun (translated by Janet Hong)
Apollo, £12.99, pp192

Seoul 2002 and a city that’s been gripped by World Cup fever is about to be consumed by an infinitely darker news story: the murder of 18-year-old Kim Hae-on, whose ethereal good looks lead to the case being dubbed “the high school beauty murder”. Nobody is ever charged and 17 years on it still consumes her younger sister, Da-on, whose entire self – dumpy and plain but whip-smart and brimming with life – has altered in response. Though the narrative takes the form of a detective novel, it becomes a meditation on envy, grief and, this being South Korea, plastic surgery. Understated yet lingeringly eerie.

The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis

Amitav Ghosh
John Murray, £20, pp352

In 1621, Dutch East India Company soldiers went on a genocidal rampage in the Banda Islands, a tiny archipelago that at the time produced the world’s entire supply of once-lucrative nutmeg. In the fate of those islanders massacred for a tree, and in the exploitation that ensued, Ghosh spies the seeds of today’s climate crisis, reframing colonialism as “the project of muting and subduing the Earth”. It’s a powerful, personal polemic in which storytelling plays an essential role. Ghosh also has a solution to propose, one that requires us to summon radical empathy and draw deep on indigenous beliefs from around the world.

Dirt: Adventures in French Cooking

Bill Buford
Vintage, £9.99, pp432

When the American foodie and former Granta magazine editor took his wife and their two young sons to live in Lyon in search of the secret of French cooking, the plan was to stay for six months. They ended up living there for nearly five years, during which Buford apprenticed at a boulangerie, was admitted to an illustrious cooking school and mucked in at a Michelin-starred restaurant. As reportage, it’s as immersive as you could wish for. It’s also hilarious and humbling, an investigation into French cuisine – its history and practice – that is mouth-watering and eye-popping in equal measure.

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