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 Adventures of Owen Hatherley in the Post-Soviet Space by Owen Hatherley

Reviewed by Karen Langley Author Owen Hatherley has carved out a niche for himself as one of the UK’s foremost commentators on matters architectural and political; his work exists at the point where these intersect with aesthetics; and his latest chunky tome, a fascinating volume from Repeater Books, tackles all three in a work that…

Dramatic Exchanges by Daniel Rosenthal (Editor)

Reviewed by Harriet When we think of London’s National Theatre, most of us will envisage the great concrete complex on the South Bank of the Thames, designed by Denis Lasdun and opened in 1976. With its three stages, the building has the capacity to seat audiences of up to 2500 people a night, and has…

Where Shall We Run To? by Alan Garner

Reviewed by Annabel. I’ve been a fan of Alan Garner’s novels ever since my childhood when I first encountered The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and its sequel The Moon of Gomrath in the 1960s. I can think of few books that are imbued with such a sense of place as that pair, being set at Alderley…

The Women’s Atlas by Joni Seager

Reviewed by Liz Dexter On this book there’s a quote from Catherine Mayer, Co-Founder of the Women’s Equality Party: “The most important book that will be published this year” and it’s probably one of the most important books to be published EVERY year. All the information we maybe turn our faces away from, not wanting…

Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt by Chris Naunton

Reviewed by Harriet The civilisation of Ancient Egypt exerts a seemingly eternal fascination. All those pharaohs and their dynasties, stretching back to three thousand years before the birth of Christ, all those tombs and their precious artefacts. Archaeologists have been exploring them for centuries, but it was Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of the intact tomb…

Under the Rock: the poetry of a place by Benjamin Myers

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Benjamin Myers has been having a bit of a moment. In 2017 Bluemoose Books published his fifth novel, The Gallows Pole, which went on to win the Roger Deakin Award and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and is now on its fourth printing. This taste of fame has brought…

The Race to Save the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport

Reviewed by Karen Langley The fate of the last of the Romanov Tsars and his family has exerted a fascination over the public during the century since their violent death in a basement in Ekaterinburg. Over the decades since there have been books and documentaries; investigations and conspiracy theories; and perhaps most famously a whole…

Eye of the Shoal by Helen Scales

Reviewed by Annabel In her third book, Helen Scales tuns her attention to another branch of the marine tree of life. She began with the small genus of seahorses in Poseidon’s Steed; her second book, Spirals in Time (reviewed here), described the large and varied world of seashells and molluscs – the second largest phylum…

Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman

Reviewed by Liz Dexter Cathy Newman is one of Channel 4 News’ main studio presenters and specialises in investigative journalism too. Here she brings her feminism and writing talents to bear on, as she puts it in the subtitle of the book, some women that people might not have heard of, bringing their stories to…

The Light in the Dark: A winter journal by Horatio Clare

Reviewed by Peter Reason Reading the title of this book and seeing the book cover, the prospective reader might, as did I, expect a book about the darker period of the year, and the night. And they would be right: this book is indeed about those darker times. But I have always liked the dark…

Murder By The Book by Claire Harman

Reviewed by Gill Davies Here is a real treat for readers interested in the sometimes hidden side of Victorian society and its relationship with literary culture. The book relates the story of a shocking crime that took place in 1840. An elderly and fairly insignificant member of the aristocracy was found in his bed with…

Books do furnish a Painting by Jamie Camplin & Maria Ranauro

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton Thames and Hudson have got form for publishing tempting books that combine art and literature – Eric Karpeles’ Paintings in Proust: a visual companion to In Search of Lost Time is easily the most compelling reason I’ve ever seen for reading In Search of Lost Time (maybe one day). Books do…

A History of England in 100 Places edited by Philip Wilkinson

Reviewed by Harriet This attractive and informative volume does exactly what the title promises. It’s divided into ten sections: Science and Discovery; Travel and Tourism; Homes and Gardens; Sport and Leisure; Music and Literature; Loss and Destruction; Faith and Belief;  Industry, Trade and Commerce; Art, Architecture and Sculpture; and Power, Protest and Progress. Each section…

Performing Hamlet by Jonathan Croall

Reviewed by Harriet Back in 2015 I wrote a review for Shiny (here) of Jonathan Croall’s Performing King Lear, a wonderfully well-researched survey of performances of this great and challenging play. Now Croall is back with a discussion of no less than forty-three performances of Hamlet, beginning in the 1950s and ending in 2017, with…

Viking Britain: A History by Thomas Williams

Reviewed by Liz Dexter Williams opens this wonderful, absorbing book with a big statement about how the Vikings are not afforded the same respect as, say, the Romans, having become almost a cartoonish stereotype, equated just about with pirates, cavemen and dinosaurs. He shares a rather ridiculous review of the British Museum’s Vikings: Life and…

On Rape by Germaine Greer

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth To say that the statistics are grim is a blatant understatement. One woman in five will experience sexual violence, but very few cases end up in court, and the perpetrator faces punishment in even fewer. Non-consensual sex may be more common than consensual. Intense fear of rape is something of a…

Liquid by Mark Miodownik

Reviewed by Annabel In his 2013 book Stuff Matters which I reviewed for Shiny here, materials science professor Miodownik took us on a tour around some of the most important man-made materials that have shaped our lives: from steel to chocolate via paper and concrete – all featuring in a picture of the author reading…

Apprenticeship by Peter Gill

Reviewed by Harriet Born in Cardiff in 1939, Peter Gill is a distinguished theatre director and playwright. But he started his career as an actor in the early 1960s, working first at the Royal Court Theatre and later at the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s this later event that forms the foundation of this book, in…