Books Digest – Dolly Parton’s Run, Rose, Run and More
Welcome to our weekly Books Digest where we round up the new books you should and shouldn’t read. This week features Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton, Two Heads: Where Two Neuroscientists Explore How Our Brains Work with Other Brains by Uta, and Chris Frith and A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp.
For more books, take a look at our Books Digest archive.
Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson (Cornerstone, £13.89).
Run, Rose, Run is an interesting experience. Co-written by country music genius Dolly Parton and serial collaborating thriller writer James Patterson, the novel is accompanied by a country scrapbook creating what Spotify calls an “immersive listening experience” which is such a great (and lucrative) idea that I’m surprised no one has tried it before.
Unfortunately, it seems that aspirations to be profitable have pushed any chance of the book being particularly good to one side. The plot is formulaic and, despite many attempts to tease the reader with mystery, very predictable. Helpless but determined, AnnieLee Keyes arrives in Nashville without even having a guitar in her name. About three days after she arrived (and admittedly she slept rough), a friendship with a thinly veiled Parton figure, Ruthanna Ryder, fell into her lap, and she shot to stardom as a result. But AnnieLee has a secret and painful past. I won’t give away the secret, but I will say that it could have been presented in a much more interesting and thought-provoking way.
Plus, it seems rather hypocritical – AnnieLee is appalled by all the superficial self-promotion she has to indulge in to launch her career (during a photo shoot, she goes from a ball gown to her Levis and boots), because “she’s all about the music”. And yet the novel and the album are also accompanied by a few Limited Edition Dolly Parton NFT and a concert in the Metaverse… one wonders what AnnieLee would think of it.
And yet, there is a corny, clichéd charm to the story. AnnieLee and Ruthanna are compelling and charming protagonists, and it’s nice to read a success story for two women. On that note, the novel also does a commendable job of discussing the subtle and not-so-subtle misogyny within the country music industry, albeit a little awkwardly. Unchallenged, banal but not unpleasant.
Jwo Heads: Where two neuroscientists How our brain works with other brains by Uta and Chris Frith (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, £15.99).
Are two heads really better than one? In Two Heads: An Exploration by Neuroscientists of How Our Brain Works With Other Brainspsychologists, professors, and husband and wife Chris and Uta Frith take the reader on a whirlwind tour of the brain, its inner workings, and how human beings function as a social race.
We start with the basics – what is the brain? What does it do and what is it capable of biologically? This forms the basis from which we delve into neuroscience, from groundbreaking discoveries in the field of brain disorders to the new limits of social cognition that we face today.
With a career in psychology and neuroscience spanning nearly fifty years, the Friths prove to be the perfect duo to lead this extensive brain tour. Both examine research around the human race as a social species whose brains have evolved to work together. What is the meaning of gathering in groups? Do we work best with those who are similar or different from us?
Breaking the mold of popular science writing, two heads offers a unique intersection of science and art, as compelling neuroscientific research is complemented by beautiful illustrations. However, the graphic novel format felt overwhelming at times; the sheer density of information packed into a single page drew the eye in every possible direction. Despite this, he offers a witty and almost whimsical approach to the questions that lie behind our “social brains”. two heads will change your way of thinking.
A very nice girl by Imogen Crimp (Bloomsbury), £12.59.
Imogen Crimp’s first novel, A very nice girl, is a Sally Rooney-style exploration of the dynamics of power relations between a twentysomething struggling to stay afloat and an older, wealthier (almost divorced) man, set against the backdrop of colorful London.
Anna, the protagonist of Crimp, is a trainee opera singer while Max has a lucrative but boring financial job that he hates. A working-class girl trying to make it in the world of opera, Anna is surrounded by privilege but struggles to make ends meet. The “nice girl” archetype the title refers to turns out to be naïve and insecure enough to pander to Max’s emotional unavailability, mistaking her self-confidence for desirability: Max becomes Anna’s entire world as he keeps their relationship contained in his central London flat.
Crimp’s writing is poetic and imaginative. His depiction of London feels familiar and his character is intensely relatable – the reading A very nice girl is the literary equivalent of having a long chat with old friends and lots of cheap white wine.