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 reviews: Richard Bryson, Alex Bryson & John Seery
     Arsene Wenger: My Life in Red and White (£25, Weidenfield & Nicolson)
Those looking for explosive quotes, and unexpected insights, into his years of management are going to be a little disappointed by Arsene Wenger’s long awaited autobiography. However, it does pleasantly guide you through his early days playing and coaching in France before Monaco, Japan and Arsenal came calling.
Wenger really is a gentleman so this is a very even handed, thoughtful look back on his career, though personally I’d have liked more on his relationship with Alex Ferguson, and fuller appraisals on the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. His spats with Jose Mourinho may come in a later book but - credit where credit is due - he doesn’t mention, or feed the ego of one of his biggest agitators, Piers Morgan. RB
   Bob Willis: A Cricketer and a
Gentleman, edited by David Willis
(Hodder and Stoughton, £20)
Looking from the outside Bob
Willis appeared to be a grumpy,
rather idiosyncratic character.
Within the game and the cricket
media it was a different story entirely, his passing last year bringing an outpouring of glowing tributes.
He will be remembered as one of England’s greatest bowlers, winning 90 Test caps and spurring his country to victory in the famous 1981 Headingly Test. Cricket fans of a certain age will recall his huge mop of hair, high stepping run-up, and angular bowlng action. His batting was just as distinctive, almost comical, but often just what was needed if his team wanted extra runs or were playing for a draw.
During his playing days he may have sometimes treated the media with disdain but it didn’t stop him becoming a tough talking Sky pundit when he hung up his boots with Warwickshire and England. So a poacher turned gamekeeper, but one who really cared about the game.
This is a very readable collection of those tributes, as well as the thoughts of Willis on various aspects of the game. RB
Mr Wilder And Me by
Jonathan Coe (Penguin,
£16.99)
Jonathan Coe is adept at
writing page-turners that
are full of warmth,
sharpness and postmodern
flourishes. His 2018 book Middle England, exploring modern Britain and the madness of Brexit, was particularly well received and Mr Wilder And Me looks like it will garner similar praise and sales.
His latest is set in the heady summer of 1977. A naïve young woman called Calista sets out from Athens to venture into the wider world. On a Greek island that has been turned into a film set, she finds herself working for the famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder, about whom she knows almost nothing. But the time she spends in this glamorous, unfamiliar new life will change her for good.
It’s a novel that is at once a tender coming-of-age story and an intimate portrait of one of cinema's most intriguing figures. Coe turns his gaze on the nature of time and fame, of family and the treacherous lure of nostalgia. He asks the question: When the world is catapulting towards change, do you hold on for dear life or decide it's time to let go? JS
Just Like You by Nick
Hornby (Penguin, £11.99)
Re-reading Nick Hornby’s
most famous books is
liable to trigger intense
nostalgia - a nostalgia for
examining modern man
and amusingly picking apart his hang ups.
Stuck inside, amidst a fracturing healthcare and political system, however, the ‘modern life is rubbish’ viewpoint espoused by some of his protagonists can be rather hard to get on board with.
So was another novel, in Just Like You, really necessary?
Well, yes. In writing delicately, easily and familiarly about love, Hornby creates a narrative that’s one part timeless and one part anchored in very modern particulars.
There are some who, no doubt noting the interracial element of the central romance and references to Brexit, might be wary of being hectored, or else finding their own perspective lazily massaged.
But that would be to underestimate Hornby, who might tread rather different ground to brother-in-law Robert Harris, but is equally deserving of his status and staying power. AB
“. . . there is an interesting chapter on the creation of dinnerladies and how her perfectionism exhausted her and a sometimes disgruntled cast.”
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