Little Brown, £6.99
It seems Jacki Lyden has been running all her life. After college in Indiana and Cambridge, England she joined the rodeo trail; later, as a broadcaster and journalist, she began to travel all over the world. She even wrote this book on the run – starting it in London, showing it to a friend in Baghdad, continuing it in Canada and finishing it in Ireland.
In many ways this memoir reveals why she runs and what she has been running from. Lyden traces her relationship with her mentally ill mother from the childhood excitement of coming home to a figure in fantastical clothes to the adult pressure of sorting out Dolores' massive debts, built up as she spent money she didn't have on fabulous cars and presents.
When delusional, Dolores sent love-gifts to a man who didn't know her, dressed as Marie Antoinette, founded a catering company whose specialities included anchovy ice-cream, painted murals on walls and printed coffee mugs with the motto 'think about me'. She became "the Queen of Sheba", rich, beautiful, invincible - and irresistible.
Lyden has taken what is essentially the story of a mother-daughter relationship – admittedly a most unusual one – and turned it into a fascinating personal biography and a heart-rending homage to an inspirational character. Lyden is also coming to terms with the guilty fact that she found herself loving this flamboyant mad woman more than she loved the suburban housewife Dolores became when she was well.
'Daughter of the Queen of Sheba' has been optioned for film by Miramax, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Meryl Streep confirmed for the roles of Jacki and Dolores. Lyden's book is sure to make a compelling film, but the book's always better than the film – make sure you read it first.