There aren’t many bloggers who have successfully made the transition from pixels to print – too often something gets lost in translation – but Sasha Wilkins aka Liberty London Girl has more than pulled it off with her first book, Friends, Food, Family (Quadrille Books, £18.99). Ostensibly a recipe book, it’s also an elegant and insightful guide to living well packed with lists of the best foodie spots and flower markets around the world, tips for throwing a stress-free cocktail party and the ultimate dinner party playlist.
But first, the food: there are simple recipes for kitchen beginners which require a handful of ingredients and the most basic culinary skills, then for more confident cooks there are some serious showstoppers, such as a spectacular triple-layer lemon cake. Each recipe has a highly personal flavour – these are dishes Sasha has cooked countless times for her nearest and dearest in kitchens all over the world, so she knows they work on every level.
Through her witty, wise prose, the Delia of the digital age delivers the message of good food – it nourishes the soul as much as the stomach and should give joy to the creator as well as the consumer. Whether you’re a fan of the Liberty London Girl blog and want to explore the LLG world further or are simply looking for a reliable cookbook packed with foolproof recipes that will comfort and impress in equal measure, Friends, Food, Family will fast become a kitchen shelf stalwart.
Lily King’s Euphoria (Picador, £13.99) is a compelling novel inspired by the life of the anthropologist Margaret Mead, her husband and a colleague during their time studying the tribes in New Guinea. The three main characters have complicated, intense relationships which are skilfully rendered against a beautiful, dangerous landscape that is as powerful a presence as the people living in it. The story of an all-too-typical love triangle in an extraordinary setting unfolds through often contradictory accounts from the characters’ different perspectives, building up a multi-layered narrative that reveals much about these intelligent, egotistical personalities. But the most tantalising aspect of this story is wondering just how much was drawn from fact and how much was the inspiration of the author’s imagination.
Not that Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned has been one of the most anticipated books of 2014 and it was worth the wait. Wrapped in a seventies-throwback dust jacket and finished with dreamy endpapers which look pretty from far away and reveal a mosaic of tacky girl-stuff close up, here is Lena Dunham, let loose.
If you’ve already seen Girls, Tiny Furniture and the rest, this book of lists and essays is testament to how consistently Lena has mined her own experiences for her screen fictions. That blurred interexchange between memoir and storytelling is what makes her work so authentic and resonant – and the content of these essays so familiar. There’s not much here to surprise the fan, including the fact that she’s just as amusing on the page as on TV. However, this goes much further than the average confessional narrative. Indeed, ‘I live in a world that is almost compulsively free of secrets’ she states at one point, comparing her relaxed attitude towards privacy to others’ reticence.
Our heroine might not feel very glamourous most of the time, but for the English kind-of-girl reader, her world is ridiculously fabulous. She grew up in SoHo, NYC, vacationed in idyllic summer camps and holiday homes and hung out with artists and wannabes. In that glamorous world Lena might have been the weird girl, the outcast, the morbidly obsessive teen but that otherness has made her an open-minded, fair and funny observer.
The most tantalising and entertaining chapters of Not that Kind of Girl are where Lena takes a break from her mostly polite, professional persona and unleashes her inner anger. In one she addresses (names have been changed) her many detractors in a series of unsent emails and in another she reveals that she hopes she’ll live to 80 so that she can legally expose all the sexist ‘sunshine stealers’ who’ve treated her badly in Hollywood (they’ll all be dead by then).
Furies: A Poetry Anthology of Women Warriors (For Books’ Sake, £10) edited by Eve Lacey (all profits from the collection will go to Rape Crisis England & Wales) is a brilliant anthology of verse inspired by women warriors from the internet’s finest lady books journal For Books’ Sake. Featuring contributions on Betty Draper, Sylvia Plath and more, this is a vital and powerful outpouring of page-rage.
Anna-Marie Fitzgerald and Phoebe Frangoul are the co-editors and co-founders of the London grrrl-zine and literary salon Pamflet. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @Pamflet.