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xHARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (Little, Brown, PS20, ebook PS9.99) HHHHH ALMOST exactly five years since that tantalising glimpse of a grown-up Harry, Hermione and Ron at the end of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - the final film adaptation of JK Rowling's seven books - the eighth story has already become the UK's biggest print book in a decade.

Set 19 years on, the script book of the West End play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child (which premiered on July 30) is a refreshing 330 pages long (compared to Deathly Hallows 600+), and can be devoured in one sitting.

After a while, you stop noticing you're just reading dialogue and the names of the characters, and the stage directions are so intense ("their minds in hell"), they help conjure each scene.

Like her female heroine, Rowling has teamed up with two guys - playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany - to revisit her wizarding world in a new medium - and it works.

Harry is struggling with fatherhood - his third child, Albus Severus (named for Dumbledore and Snape) is starting at Hogwarts and struggling to live up to his father's name. He befriends Harry's erstwhile enemy Draco Malfoy's son Scorpius (just a really nice guy) and convinces him they 'somehow' should save a key Hogwarts student who died in the past...

And that's all the plot you're getting... There's time travel and dark alternate realities with mindless acts of terrorism (poignant for our world today) - but above all, it's a tale about the difficult bond between fathers and children - and, as ever with Rowling, the cure-all of love and friendship.

LIE WITH ME by Sabine Durrant (Mulholland Books, PS14.99, ebook PS1.99) HHHH H SABINE DURRANT is the former assistant editor of The Guardian who has turned her hand to writing brilliantly creepy, psychological thrillers. With dark tales like Gone Girl being all the rage, Lie With Me has the makings of another best seller. That is, dislikeable characters, dysfunctional families, an unreliable narrator, and a claustrophobic world you just can't tear yourself away from.

Paul is a 40-something, broke, failed writer who still lives at home with his mother. He's also a prolific liar, who gets by through using people for money, sex and anything else he can get out of them. When he manages to get invited on a family holiday to Greece with his latest love interest, he thinks he's in for a perfect summer. However, it's in this idyllic location that his past deceptions eventually catch up with him.

This clever tale leaves you feeling disturbed, shocked and questioning the classic ideas of good and evil; which of course is the sign of a fantastic read.

AUGUSTOWN BY KEI MILLER (WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON, PS14.99, EBOOK PS6.99) HHHHH KEI MILLER'S third novel invites us to Jamaica in 1982, to a poor suburb of Kingston called Augustown - which, the 2014 Forward poetry prizewinner assures us in the preface, is a fictionalised version of the real August Town.

In Augustown, an almost blind Rastafarian grandmother called Ma Taffy can sense disaster looming as her distressed grandson comes home from school. To soothe him, she speaks of the 'flying preacherman': a 19th century revivalist called Alexander Bedford, who claimed to be able to fly.

But the events of this single day entwine around Ma Taffy's family as conflicts between religious prejudice, social hierarchy and the oppression of the poor by 'Babylon' build to a head.

Writing in Jamaican dialect gives Miller's rich prose the ebb and swell of verbal folk tales, but he harmonises his fundamentally simple story with relevant events that echo down the decades.

It's a brilliant, textured read that has the horrifying inevitability of a classical tragedy - but you can't stop before the end.

NON-FICTION FLANEUSE: WOMEN WALK THE CITY IN PARIS, NEW YORK, VENICE AND LONDON by Lauren Elkin (Chatto & Windus, PS16.99, ebook PS9.99) HHHH H THE flaneur is the emblematic figure of urban life, and even more so of psychogeography; the interested ambler, wandering wherever the city's currents take him.

And, French being a gendered language, the flaneur is always male. It's a distinction that some of his modern popularisers, among them Will Self and Iain Sinclair, have maintained, albeit generally with expressions of regret.

Elkin takes issue with that, and here revives the great women, Virginia Woolf to war photographer Martha Gellhorn, who proved more than a match for the boys.

It's a story she intertwines with her own, as bored suburban girl becomes young academic and gets to know some of the world's great cities on foot.

Doubtless some readers will prefer one half of that mix, others the other, but the braiding works; like her male peers, she's insisting on her own place in a great subcultural tradition.

THE WATER KINGDOM: A SECRET HISTORY OF CHINA by Philip Ball (Bodley Head, PS25, ebook PS12.99) HHHH H PLENTY of books propose a history of the world or a nation in terms of some single, attention-grabbing item or commodity, but Ball's look at China through the nation's relationship to water is more plausible and less gimmicky than most.

The Yellow and Yangtze rivers function on a scale beyond anything in Europe; over the millennia they have been responsible both for China's most fertile land, and for regular disasters with staggering death tolls.

As such, efforts to tame them stretch back into prehistory, and are baked into the language: "the Chinese character for political power and governance, zhi, is composed of fragments... implying that state rule is a platform built on water". From those early 'water heroes', through the long imperial period, to the polluted rivers and dried-out lakes threatening modern China's economic progress, Ball offers a compelling and evocative insight into a history still little understood in the West.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 13, 2016
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