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Remember Me

By Sophie Kinsella (BantamPress, pounds 17.99)

A newnovel (and a newheroine) from the author of the fluffily spendelicious Shopaholic novels.

Right from the very first page of Kinsella's newbook we're talking shoes. Our protagonist, Lexi, is returning from a night out with her laddette chums in agony due to her cheap and shiny new boots - a (not-such-a) bargain from a cut-price fashion emporium. And that's not all that's wrong. She's in a dead-end job, skint, got a rubbish boyfriend, crap clothes, wonky teeth, uncontrollable hair and a gamut of other problems. Not to mention it's the eve of her dad's funeral and she's feeling very forlorn.

That's Lexi in 2004... she wakes up in 2007 with three years of her life missing, nowaged 28 years old.

She wakes up in possession of a designer handbag, Louis Vuitton clothes, Prada sunglasses and a Tiffany keyfob amongst other tokens of the rich and famous.

From poor and scruffy to extra rich and glossy with one bump on the head. Plus she's a director of the company that in her last-remembered life hadn't even given her a bonus. And she's got a wedding ring and a husband who she lives in a plush Kensington apartment with.

Her dog-obsessed mother seems more concerned with soft furnishings than helping her daughter find her lost memory, while her sister has evolved from a sweet 13-year-old with plaits to a moody, pierced 16-year-old.

Her husband gives her a manual of marriage to help her remember how they used to live, whilst her friends and colleagues use her memory loss tomanipulate her.

As she fights her way through a strange (slightly more) modern world of Kit-Kats and confusion, she struggles to find the truth and how she ended up being not only in a totally different life to the one she remembers but seemingly a totally different person. A jolly romp but withmoments of pathos and thoughtful reflection - fluffy but well-written.

The White King

By Gyorgy Dragoman (Doubleday, pounds 12.99)

The spectre of communism looms large over this haunting, emotional short-story novel by award-winning Hungarian writer Gyorgy Dragoman.

Dragoman tells the story from the perspective of Djata, an 11-year-old boy living in an Eastern European communist dictatorship. Beginning with the moment Djata's father is "taken to the Danube", to a labour camp, the focus remains on the aftermath.

The situation forces the boy to grow up, to look out for his mother. His one crumb of comfort, his glimmer of hope, is a Sunday, the day of the week his father was taken and the day his father will surely return. Harsh realities set in as his mother becomes increasingly frustrated and upset at the predicament she is left in - with no husband, her income is meagre and the inevitable spiral sets in.

The grim harshness and emptiness of her situation is vividly portrayed, against a backdrop of whispers, rumours and uncertainties.

Welcome diversions are provided through Djata's escape from this grim existence, as we witness his adventures and attempts at rebellion.

"The White King", with its underlying tone of depression and injustice, does offer some shards of humanity - respite for the characters and the reader. The experiences of Djata are littered with uplifting moments, stark reminders that beneath the curtain of a communism wrapped around the shoulders of the people, there is warmth and hope.

But amidst this and Djata's father disappearing, there is the spectre of Chernobyl, violence, shop queues, bribery. His grandfather warns young Djata to "get out while he can".

Although parts of the text made me long to do just that, particularly the often long-winded sentence structure, Dragoman's exploration of the period through Djata's eyes gives the book a freshness, a sometimes surreal optimismwhich contrasts starkly with the brutality around him.

I Found My Horn: One Man's Struggle With The Orchestra's Most Difficult Instrument

By Jasper Rees (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pounds 12.99)

At an age when he should knowbetter, Jasper Rees unearths his dusty French horn from his attic and plays with an ensemble at the British Horn Society annual festival.

It brings back a wave of nostalgia for the freelance journalist, who played the instrument in his youth, but gave up at the age of 17. Now, at nearly 40 years old, he has rediscovered his love for the instrument.

So, he quietly sets himself a goal - to play the famously-difficult instrument at the festival next year, but this time a solo in front of a paid audience.

Jasper keeps the ambition to himself and resolves to practice daily. But the dream becomes a reality when he makes his desires public and enlists the help and advice from some of the world's most famous horn players.

This is where Jasper's journey becomes slightly different from the average middle-aged person's story of trying to pursue an ambition - he is tutored by Dave Lee, who has been a principal horn player for various world-famous orchestras, then later practices in front of a small audience which includes the Lloyd Webbers.

This is one man's journey to making hopes and dreams a reality.

Some of the book is devoted to the history of the horn, which can be too long-winded and in-depth for someone with limited knowledge or interest in the field. But aside from this, the book is compelling reading, and is utterly inspiring to anyone who ever played an instrument in their youth.

In fact, I even hunted out my old piano to have a tinkle on the ivories - 15 years after giving the instrument up. Be warned, you can't read this book and not take action.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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