A warm, complex and luminous novel about the crucial acts of love

Summer brother
By Jaap Robben
World Editions, £ 12.99
Living with his inept, careless and unstable father in an old trailer on the wrong side of the tracks, 13-year-old Brian has to care for his older brother Lucien, who has been moved from his retirement home. Bluntly about the brutal humiliations of Lucien’s limiting physical and mental condition, there are graphic representations of the care, from diapers to medication. Still, there is a blossoming tenderness in the way Brian communicates with his brother, while longing blooms in his stomach for a girl in Lucien’s house. A clear, luminous and childish voice on the verge of maturity, the tale crosses the lines from neglect to necessity, from burden to joy. A warm, complex and luminous novel about these moments of deep ambiguity, and about small crucial acts of love. – Ruth mckee

Semicolon
By Cecelia Watson
4th domain, £ 8.99
Italian humanists invented the semicolon in the 15th century to help with clarity; by the late 1800s it had become “really trendy”, but in recent times it has been seen as “bulky” and even “offensive”. The book takes a chronological approach as it seeks to explain how “the semicolon is a place where our anxieties and aspirations regarding language, classroom and education are concentrated”. Professional grammarians, obsessed with rules, proliferated in the 19th century and confused more than clarified. Legal cases caused by semicolon disputes are examined, and the use of semicolons from famous writers (such as Raymond Chandler, Herman Melville, and Henry James) is explored with imagination and interpretive flair. The way “Standard Written English” is enveloped in politics and power in the United States is thought-provoking in this refreshing, non-pedantic treatment. – Brian maye

Agriculture in modern Irish literature
By Nicolas Grene
Oxford University Press, £ 60
Grene examines the presence of agriculture in Irish writing from the turn of the 20th century, making an important contribution by collecting and positioning these narratives in the history, ideals and social structure of the island. Analysis on expected topics such as land inheritance, late marriages and community relations coincides with new insight into the special case of Irish agricultural memoirs, how these stories respond to the Irish literary revival and distance by compared to the typical Irish farming experience often required by the writers who approach it. Grene finally answers why a nation which, although belatedly, traded an agricultural existence for a common modernity, is still concerned with agriculture in its literature. Both thoughtful and accessible, it shows us how the story of the Irish farm is the story of Ireland itself. – Ryan dennis


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