Red Circle Authors: An unusual and innovative venture

Feature by Karen Langley Japanese literature has a long and rich heritage stretching from early works like The Pillow Book (990s) and The Tale of Genji (early 11th century) to modern masters such as Murakami. Some of my personal favourites, such as Yukio Mishima, hail from the 20th century, but Japan continues to be a…

CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O’Neill with Dan Piepenbring

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies In Stephen Dobyns’ murder mystery Saratoga Swimmer Charlie Bradshaw,unlicensed private eye and true-crime addict, recounts the story of New York gangster Dutch Schultz’s 1935 assassination by a Murder, Incorporated hitman. Asked ’How come you know this stuff?’ he replies, ‘I don’t know. I read about it, then I like to go…

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

Translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce Reviewed by Annabel Since I discovered the feelgood novels by French author Antoine Laurain, brought to us in translation by Gallic Books, I’ve seized upon each new release upon publication. Vintage 1954 is his seventh, his first new work since French Rhapsody, which I reviewed for Shiny here,…

The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz

Translated by Roger Allen Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth On the rare occasions that someone uncovers unpublished work by a deceased writer, publishing takes an archeological turn. An unpublished manuscript, like a mummified pharaoh or a Stone Age tool, can prove to be a gift from beyond the grave – for literature lovers and no doubt…

Selfies by Sylvie Weil

Translated by Ros Schwartz Reviewed by Karen Langley The selfie might seem to be a very modern phenomenon; the sight of people constantly stretching their arms out and craning to get a snap of themselves in a special location or with a famous person has become commonplace. We live in a modern age characterised by…

Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies The day my review copy of Cari Mora arrived I spent the afternoon strolling on Morecambe’s splendid promenade. The view across the Bay from the Naples of the North is elevating even in dull weather. Hitting Morrisons for a light shop, as you do, I was overwhelmed at the entrance by…

The Cracks in our Armour by Anna Gavalda

Translated by Alison Anderson Reviewed by Harriet Way back in the early days of Shiny (issue 5 to be exact) I reviewed Anna Gavalda’s slender novel Billie. As I said in that review, I was first introduced to Gavalda in a French class, where we were reading and translating her celebrated novel Ensemble, C’est Tout,…

Lisbon Tales, edited by Helen Constantine

Translated by Amanda Hopkinson Reviewed by Karen Langley If you’re an armchair traveller like I am, the “City Tales” collection of books from Oxford University Press will be a real treat and perfect reading for you. To date there have been eleven titles collecting together stories from places like Moscow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna and Rome…

Barcelona Tales, edited by Helen Constantine

Translated by Peter Bush Reviewed by Karen Langley If you’re an armchair traveller like I am, the “City Tales” collection of books from Oxford University Press will be a real treat and perfect reading for you. To date there have been eleven titles collecting together stories from places like Moscow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna and Rome…

Moder Dy by Roseanne Watt

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton I’ve been following Roseanne Watt for a while via Twitter (@DrRosebland) and Instagram with the sense that this was somebody worth keeping an eye on. With that in mind, I’d been looking forward to reading her first collection of poetry (with which she won the Edward Morgan poetry award for 2018)…

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth My first reaction was a desperately deep sigh when I heard that Ian McEwan would be taking on human-like artificial intelligence as the topic for his new novel. AI is standard science fiction fodder, and human-machine relations have been written about, filmed, and otherwise imagined so many times before – from…

Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words by Jeremy Mynott

Reviewed by Liz Dexter Jeremy Mynott is both a classical scholar and a writer on birds, and his love and deep knowledge of both areas shine through in this fascinating and rather wonderful book. From the preface, where he describes the variety of birds to be found in Athens and Rome, to the epilogue, which…

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel I’ve followed Fuller’s writing career since her marvellous debut, Our Endless Numbered Days, through her second totally different novel Swimming Lessons (reviewed here and here). Her third novel is different again. On first glance, it appears to be a country house mystery, however, to classify it as such would be to do…

Q&A with Nicola Upson on Stanley and Elsie

Questions by Harriet Harriet: Thanks for agreeing to do this, Nicola. I have recently finished reading and reviewing Stanley and Elsie and enjoyed it tremendously. So my first question has to be – when and how did the idea for the novel first come to you? Nicola: About ten years ago. I’ve loved Stanley Spencer’s…

Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson

Reviewed by Harriet Nicola Upson is best known to me, and probably to you, as the author of a series of excellent historical crime novels featuring the well-known novelist and playwright Josephine Tey. Here we have her in quite a different mode: Stanley and Elsie is a novel based in the true life history of…

Chromatopia: An Illustrated History of Colour by David Coles

Reviewed by Liz Dexter This truly spectacular book would grace any coffee table with ease, but it’s more than just a pretty face, with fascinating facts in abundance and offers a good read to anyone interested in art, colour or indeed chemistry. After an introduction to the author, who runs a small paint-making company in…

Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton I’ve enjoyed more or less everything I’ve read in the British Library Crime Classics series (everything has had something to recommend it), but Michael Gilbert’s books have been a particularly happy discovery. I really hope there will be more (there are some spectacularly ugly house of Stratus editions of his work…

We, the Survivors by Tash Aw

Reviewed by Rob Spence Malaysian novelist Tash Aw’s fourth novel marks a departure in style for him. Rather than the broad canvas he presented in earlier works such as The Harmony Silk Factory and Five Star Billionaire, here the focus is relentlessly on the life of one man, Ah Hock, and the murder that constitutes…

Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, edited by Lucy Caldwell

Reviewed by Laura Marriott Ireland is going through a golden age of writing: that has never been more apparent. I wanted to capture something of the energy of this explosion, in all its variousness… [Lucy Caldwell] When picking up a collection of short stories, many will choose to do the same as I did and…

Cold For the Bastards of Pizzofalcone by Maurizio de Giovanni

Translated by Antony Shugaar Reviewed by Gill Davies This is the third book in a series of police procedural novels by the successful Italian crime writer Maurizio De Giovanni (also the author of the best-selling Commissario Ricciardi series). This is the first novel by de Giovanni that I have read – and he certainly knows…

Lux by Elizabeth Cook

Reviewed by Julie Barham This is an immensely profound book. It encompasses huge themes – birth and death, self imposed exile and imprisonment, the deep thought of the well known and the hardly known. Bible stories and Tudor history flow through a novel that made me stop and think, consider the big questions of guilt…

Doggerland by Ben Smith

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster There’s no sign of a decline in the popularity of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. If anything, it’s becoming even more prevalent – a symptom of our widespread anxiety about the future of the human race in a time of environmental crisis. Doggerland, the debut novel by Plymouth University creative writing lecturer…

Berg by Ann Quin

Reviewed by Helen Parry Until a couple of months ago, I had never heard of Ann Quin. However, I then read that the independent publisher And Other Stories was re-issuing her 1964 novel, Berg, and it sounded very interesting: according to Wikipedia, Berg was influenced by the work of Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett and Anna…

The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology by Mark Boyle

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster It’s common practice nowadays, when publicizing a book review published in an online venue, to tag the author on social media. Provided I’ve been able to write a broadly positive review, I think of it as a nice way to reassure an author that someone has been reading and enjoying their…

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth In the run-up to its publication, Isabella Hammad’s The Parisian was trumpeted as one of the most significant debuts of the year. There were promises of pure genius and literary stardom, all crystallized in a truly exceptional novel that tackles Palestine in the early decades of the 20th century. On the…