Kanneh-Mason is mother to seven children, all of whom are classical musicians and have come to be known as “Britain’s most musical family”. Products of a state school in Nottingham rather than specialist music schools, they’re veterans of Britain’s Got Talent, cellist Sheku winning 2016’s Young Musician of the Year. She writes here about raising such a prodigious family, which requires all the discipline and organisational skills of a small business, involving an endless round of exams and competitions, bundling kids on to 6am trains and driving them across the county to study with the best teachers. And that’s without taking into account the setbacks, like mounting debt, Sheku being diagnosed with diabetes or Braimah practising so hard he sustained muscle damage. An engaging and informative account of hard work and dedication, given context by her experiences of growing up with a Sierra Leonean father and a Welsh mother in 1970s-1980s Britain.
A STATUE FOR JACOB
In 1777, Jacob de Haven lent $450,000 to George Washington’s Continental Congress to aid troops during the War of Independence. For all his attempts to reclaim it, the government declined to repay the loan and de Haven died in poverty. Two centuries later, his descendants tried to recover the sum, by then amounting to billions, from the US government. Lawyer Peter Murphy was involved in the case and has used it as the inspiration for this novel, in which the fictional Samantha van Eyck hires Virginia lawyer Kiah Harmon for a debt recovery suit. Kiah is getting herself together after some difficulties and has to re-establish her practice while government lawyers pull out all the stops to frustrate her. Murphy’s knowledge of the original case brings procedural authenticity to this capable courtroom thriller, which has a sympathetic protagonist in Kiah and the added bonus of a close connection to fascinating historical events.
SUMMER IN THE CITY
Nearly 50, Prue lives above a Tube station with her blind father, Vince. She’s always been self-conscious about her facial birthmark, and has in recent years retreated from the world and sunk into a rut. She and Vince have an undemonstrative relationship based on routine and keeping to themselves. Neither goes out. Believed to have witnessed a suicide on the tracks, Prue is offered counselling and takes it, just to have someone to talk to. But it sets her on the path to re-emerging into the world and repairing her relationship with Vince, a former architect who learns to see London anew. It’s a feelgood book, but what really stands out is the way Collins captures Prue’s voice. She’s known a lot of pain, and it all comes out in a tone which is precise, impatient and cold, but which evokes immediate sympathy for her and perhaps reveals more vulnerability than Prue realises.