Century London, £16.99

Cotton farmers living on bad land, a poor family struggle to make a living in South Arkansas. Luke is seven years old, all his life all he has known is farming: the planting season in May, Summer weeding, and picking in September. Living in a small house that has never been painted and renting eighty acres of land outside the small town of Black Oak, the Chandlers - Luke, his mother and father, grandfather and grandmother - spend six weeks a year picking cotton, with only the help of the hill people and the Mexicans. Their entire livelihood based on the outcome of the harvest.

Luke tells this story of a young farm boy's life, explaining the back-breaking work, and the battle against the heat, the rain, the fatigue and sometimes each other. This year's cotton season proves harder and more frightening than ever before and by the time the cotton has all been harvested Luke's life will have changed forever.

An interesting departure for John Grisham, inspired by his own childhood experiences, 'A Painted House' tells of a family's fight for survival through the eyes of a seven year old boy. A pleasant change from Grisham's law-based novels, it is very well written and evokes some empathy for the hardship of the life described.

Charley Maine