Nora Ephron’s wisdom

I REMEMBER NOTHING AND OTHER REFLECTIONS
BY NORA EPHRON
Doubleday, £12.99

NORA Ephron, the author of this collection of reminiscences, wry observations and the occasional recipe, will be familiar to most as the creator of THAT scene in When Harry Met Sally. While I Remember Nothing is unlikely to reach the celebrated heights of Meg Ryan’s notorious faked orgasm, it is just as funny and almost certainly more profound – although Ephron, whose instinct for self-deprecation rarely fails her, would probably argue to the contrary.

She doesn’t get it all right, but with such a rich variety of subject matter, this is hardly surprising. Jumping haphazardly (in a good way – usually) from topic to topic, her content ranges widely from the mundane (a pithy treatise on the pointlessness of chicken soup is memorable for the wrong reasons) to the fabulous (well-known faces whom she met but can “remember nothing about” include Eleanor Roosevelt, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart among countless others) to the heart-wrenchingly personal (her philandering second husband is summarised in one acid-short sentence: “he could have sex with a Venetian blind”).

But it is her cool, almost flippant approach to the twin themes of ageing and death (subjects of universal significance, yet frequently avoided by writers, or worse – shrouded in sugary clichés) that makes I Remember Nothing such a refreshing and worthwhile read. “On some level” she says, with regard to her failing memory, “my life was wasted on me. After all, if I can’t remember it, who can?” Now aged 70, she makes a list of what she will and won’t miss once dead (the latter includes dry skin, small print and taking off makeup every night) and resolves to make the most of her remaining years: “I try to say to myself, ‘If this is one of the last days of my life, am I doing exactly what I want to be doing? I aim low. My idea of a perfect day is a frozen custard at Shake Shack and a walk in the park. (Followed by a Lactaid [which prevents the bloating caused by dairy].)”

Reading this book is the bibliographic equivalent of knocking back of few sherries and shooting the breeze with a vivacious and unusually articulate maiden aunt, who also happens to boast a wild, celebrity-filled past. If, like me, you aren’t blessed with such a relation, this book is an enjoyable substitute.

SUSPENDED from her job as a clinical psychologist and considering an extra-marital affair, Charlie Flint’s life seems to have reached a dead end. When she receives an anonymous package of cuttings about the brutal murder of a groom, battered to death hours after his wedding in her old Oxford college, she can’t get it out of her head.

These are the intriguing beginnings of Trick Of The Dark – a dark-hearted, multi-layered thriller by crime novelist extraordinaire and Wire In The Blood creator Val McDermid.

Returning to the fictional Scholastika’s College, Charlie discovers that the package was sent by her former university tutor and the mother-in-law of the murdered man Corinna Newsam. Her daughter Magda’s new partner – millionairess Jay Stewart – emerges as the chief suspect. But as with all the best detective stories, there is more to the mystery than first meets the eye.

Just as Charlie becomes increasingly obsessed by the murder, the reader is tightly gripped by the unfolding tale, captivated by the arcane inscrutability of the Oxford collegiate bubble. McDermid is a former undergraduate of St. Hilda’s, so her evocation is flawless, chilling and truly un-put-downable.

Just released in paperback, there’s no excuse not to grab it for your next flight.

The scene is 1930s America, tense with the after-effects of the Depression and reluctant to get involved in an emerging war in Europe, not least because of its forty million citizens of German ancestry.

Jimmy Nessheim, an up-and-coming Special Agent in the fledgling FBI, is determined to prove his worth when he is assigned to infiltrate a pro-German organisation called the Bund – which is determined to prevent America taking part in the war. Circulating in Washington high society and moving closer towards the truth, Jimmy finds his investigations pointing towards a conspiracy in the White House itself and a President in danger. This is a sharply written, intelligent exploration of the imagined events that might have kept America out of World War II.

TRICK OF THE DARK
VAL MCDERMID
Sphere, £7.99 (paperback)

SUSPENDED from her job as a clinical psychologist and considering an extra-marital affair, Charlie Flint’s life seems to have reached a dead end. When she receives an anonymous package of cuttings about the brutal murder of a groom, battered to death hours after his wedding in her old Oxford college, she can’t get it out of her head.

These are the intriguing beginnings of Trick Of The Dark – a dark-hearted, multi-layered thriller by crime novelist extraordinaire and Wire In The Blood creator Val McDermid.

Returning to the fictional Scholastika’s College, Charlie discovers that the package was sent by her former university tutor and the mother-in-law of the murdered man Corinna Newsam. Her daughter Magda’s new partner – millionairess Jay Stewart – emerges as the chief suspect. But as with all the best detective stories, there is more to the mystery than first meets the eye.

Just as Charlie becomes increasingly obsessed by the murder, the reader is tightly gripped by the unfolding tale, captivated by the arcane inscrutability of the Oxford collegiate bubble. McDermid is a former undergraduate of St. Hilda’s, so her evocation is flawless, chilling and truly un-put-downable.

Just released in paperback, there’s no excuse not to grab it for your next flight.

FEAR ITSELF
BY ANDREW ROSENHEIM
Random House, £14.99

The scene is 1930s America, tense with the after-effects of the Depression and reluctant to get involved in an emerging war in Europe, not least because of its forty million citizens of German ancestry.

Jimmy Nessheim, an up-and-coming Special Agent in the fledgling FBI, is determined to prove his worth when he is assigned to infiltrate a pro-German organisation called the Bund – which is determined to prevent America taking part in the war. Circulating in Washington high society and moving closer towards the truth, Jimmy finds his investigations pointing towards a conspiracy in the White House itself and a President in danger. This is a sharply written, intelligent exploration of the imagined events that might have kept America out of World War II.