In brief: Am I Normal?; Orwell’s Roses; Milk Teeth – reviews | Books

Sarah Chaney
Profile, £16.99, pp370

Chaney’s compelling, highly readable debut delves into the history of normality. It wasn’t until 200 years ago that the word “normal” was even applied to humans: prior to that it was purely a mathematical term. But 19th-century developments in science, and the growing popularity in statistics, prompted a search for averages – and subsequently norms – in human health, experience and behavior. Encompassing everything from sex surveys to baby weight, beauty standards to sexuality, this is a brilliantly engaging work of popular science.

Rebecca Solnit
Granta, £9.99, pp320 (paperback)

When Solnit visited Orwell’s Hertfordshire home, she discovered roses she believed to be descendants of flowers planted by Orwell himself in the mid-1930s. This connection to the author’s past was the catalyst for an eclectic series of observations about his life and work. Solnit is at pains to point out that the book isn’t intended to be a biography, but she nevertheless illuminates Orwell’s essays, his political passions and his highly attuned engagement with the natural world.

Jessica Andrews
Sceptre, £16.99, pp256

The unnamed female narrator of Milk Teeth, plagued by bodily shame, leaves her toxic family in Durham and travels to London, Paris and Barcelona, ​​unable to escape her emotional demons. Told in short vignettes oscillating between the present and the past, the narrative can feel jarring, and there is a tendency towards self-indulgence that hampers the potential for emotional insight, but Andrews nevertheless explores some important issues.

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