Picnic in the Storm by Yukiko Motoya

Translated by Asa Yoneda Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth The title of Yukiko Motoya’s short story collection Picnic in the Storm could easily be a description of the author’s literary life. In her native Japan, Motoya is reaping prize after prize, yet the young writer writes about the ordinary and everyday with an ease and a…

Girl Balancing by Helen Dunmore (pbk)

Reviewed by Harriet It was a great loss to the world of fiction when Helen Dunmore sadly died in 2017. Fortunately for her admirers, of which I am happy to be one, she left a legacy of short stories, some never before published, which have now appeared in one volume. Her son, who edited this…

Alice by Elizabeth Eliot

Reviewed by Simon Hurrah to Dean Street Press and their continued Furrowed Middlebrow series, bringing back underrated women writers that most of us haven’t heard of before. Elizabeth Eliot certainly fits that category for me, but after reading Alice (1949), I’ll be keen to read more Eliot. Despite being called Alice, the narrator is Margaret…

All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Both Melissa Harrison’s previous novels are notable for their vividly evocative descriptions of the English countryside, the kind of thing readers are treated to in the very best nature writing. All Among the Barley goes several steps further with a powerful piece of storytelling set in the early ‘30s when a…

Winterman by Alex Walters

Reviewed by Rob Spence East Anglia has quite a lot of previous when it comes to crime fiction: Colin Watson’s chronicles of Flaxborough, James Runcie’s Grantchester mysteries, and Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey series all make use of the particular topography of the fen country. Looming over them all of course is Dorothy Sayers’s The Nine…

Vox by Christina Dalcher (pbk)

Reviewed by Lindsay Bamfield Dr Jean McClellan is a leading neurolinguistics scientist working on a cure for Wernicke’s aphasia, the devastating language disorder that can result from brain injury. But for the last year she has not been allowed to work – because she is a woman. The oppressive Pure Movement is in power and…

Graceland by Bethan Roberts

Reviewed by Annabel When I saw that Bethan Roberts’s new book had Elvis on the cover, I was instantly intrigued. Having followed Bethan’s career for some years, (she hails from the town where I live), I wondered what Graceland would be about. Her last novel, Mother Island (reviewed here with Q&A here) was a tale…

To Kill the Truth by Sam Bourne

Reviewed by Rob Spence We live in an age of fake news, propagated by politicians, celebrities and media organisations. Perhaps we always have – from the tricks of Elizabethan propaganda to the Zinoviev letter, there has always existed a tendency to invent, inflate and distort the truth, to present “alternative facts” as Kellyanne Conway characterised…

Europe: A Natural History by Tim Flannery

Reviewed by Peter Reason A natural history, Tim Flannery tells us, encompasses both the natural and the human worlds. This book attends to three big questions: How was Europe formed? How was its extraordinary history discovered? And why did Europe become so important in the world? Flannery – palaeontologist, explorer, conservationist with a wider range…

The Photographer at Sixteen by George Szirtes

Reviewed by Rob Spence This remarkably compelling memoir is, surprisingly, the first prose publication of George Szirtes, one of our most distinguished poets. At its centre is the disquieting life of his mother, Magda, and its culmination in an ambulance accident following a suicide attempt at the age of fifty-one in 1975. Szirtes, in a…

With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize in 2018 this book, which is full of wisdom and compassion, was one of the highlights of a strong shortlist. Although it didn’t win, this is a book that everyone would benefit from reading – it helped me a lot. Kathryn Mannix is a pioneering doctor,…

I am Dynamite! : A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Alpha males in print tend to be omega males in real life. Friedrich Nietzsche was not rich during his lifetime. He had one job, at the University of Basel, teaching a subject he disliked. The books that he considered his real work went out on small publishers at a return of…

Slow Motion Ghosts by Jeff Noon

Reviewed by Annabel I first discovered Jeff Noon’s weird take on our world when his debut novel Vurt was picked up by a major publisher after being an indie original that went on to win the Arthur C Clarke Award in 1994. In Vurt, its sequel Pollen, prequel Nymphomation, and Automated Alice which shares some…

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Reviewed by Annabel I’ll say it up front, Jane Harper’s third novel, The Lost Man, was totally unputdownable! Not having read her first two, The Dry and Force of Nature (which Gill reviewed for Shiny here), I will have to return to them and catch up. They featured a Melbourne detective, Aaron Falk, but The Lost…

The Real Enid Blyton by Nadia Cohen

Reviewed by Elaine Simpson-Long When I was a little girl I used to receive the latest Famous Five book by Enid Blyton every Christmas. I am pretty sure my mum bought these as it guaranteed that I would be nice and quiet for a few hours in the afternoon as I sat and read it…

The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Translated by Sam Garrett Reviewed by Alice Farrant Two venturesome women on a journey through the land of their fathers and mothers. A wrong turn. A bad decision.[1] The Death of Murat Idrissi is a tale of the migrant dilemma; the desperate measures someone will go to escape, but also the struggle to belong. In…

No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel

Translated by Stephanie Smee Reviewed by Harriet When I was first offered this book for review, I turned it down, for reasons that are now not clear to me. Then I had second thoughts and how glad I am that I did. If I say it’s my best read for 2019 that’s not saying much,…

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Reviewed by Alice Farrant Helen Franklin is self-repressed, restricting herself from all that is pleasurable or happy. She merely exists alongside Prague, parallel to its beauty. When suddenly, she is given a manuscript of accounts all linked to a spectre named Melmoth, she is forced to look back to the events that built her self-imposed…