Aphra Behn: A Secret Life by Janet Todd

Reviewed by Harriet ‘Aphra Behn was a woman who wore masks’. So says Janet Todd at the beginning of this monumental, newly revised biography of Behn, who was a prolific dramatist, poet, novelist and translator, and ‘the first English woman to earn her living solely by her pen’. Born sometime between 1637 and 1643 (though…

Deaths of the Poets by Paul Farley and Michael Simmons Roberts

Reviewed by Harriet The deaths of poets matter to us because they become a lens through which to look at the poems. So say the authors, both poets themselves, in this satisfying, thought-provoking book about – well, about the deaths of poets. It’s structured as a series of journeys the two of them made, in…

Holly Madison: The Vegas Diaries (pbk)

Romance, Rolling the Dice, and the Road to Reinvention Review by Laura Marriott Holly Madison is best known for her seven years at the Playboy Mansion and for her position as Hugh Hefner’s ‘Number One’ girlfriend. With The Vegas Diaries, the second instalment of her autobiography, she sets out to change perceptions of herself and…

The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington by Joanna Moorhead

Reviewed by Karen Langley This year is the centenary of the birth of author and artist Leonora Carrington, and we’re being treated to a wonderful array of issues and reissues to celebrate that fact. However, Carrington has often spent years out of the limelight quietly plying her trade, and it’s only because of the determination…

Hamlet: Globe to Globe by Dominic Dromgoole

Reviewed by Harriet Dominic Dromgoole was the Artistic Director of London’s Globe Theatre from 2005 to 2016. During this successful period he initiated many memorable achievements, including a 2012 festival in which all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays were staged by companies from all around the world. It went supremely well, but the departing euphoria left…

David Jones by Thomas Dilworth

Reviewed by Rob Spence Ask a reasonably well-educated person to name some Anglophone modernist poets, and you are sure to hear the names of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Mention might be made of the Imagist poets, such as F.S. Flint, ‘HD’, and Richard Aldington; you may hear a case made for D.H. Lawrence or…

A House in Flanders, by Michael Jenkins

Reviewed by Helen Parry In the extreme northern part of France lies the plain of Flanders, a great fertile expanse rolling inland from the sea until it meets a chain of conical hills which, strung out like a necklace of beads, run north over the frontier to Belgium and southwards in the direction of Picardy.…

Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison (pbk)

Reviewed by Rob Spence I come from Manchester, so I know about rain. Actually, Manchester’s reputation as the rainy city is, as I am overfond of pointing out, a result of a mistake in meteorological analysis made in a study of north-west rainfall in the 1920s. I know, I should get out more. Melissa Harrison…

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, and a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

Reviewed by Harriet For some reason I’ve always been fascinated by child prodigies – people who seem to have been born with an innate talent for something, which very often seems to be music. Min Kym, born in South Korea, brought up in London, discovered hers when she was about five. Interestingly, her choice of…

Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel

Reviewed by Rob Spence Berlin is one of my favourite cities, and I have spent a lot of time walking around its fascinating streets. So the republication of Franz Hessel’s guide to the city in a sprightly new translation by Amanda DeMarco is very welcome. Of course, my Berlin is that of the late twentieth-…

Hit Makers by Derek Thompson

Reviewed by Annabel I came to read this book immediately after devouring UK journalist and presenter Tim Harford’s recent Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World, which I found informative and entertaining in equal measure. Hit Makers is structurally similar to Harford’s book with chapters ‘featuring [insert 2 or 3 famous…

Molly Keane A Life by Sally Phipps

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton From the moment I discovered Molly Keane it was love, not just for the quality of her writing, the unflattering but compelling sharpness of her observations, or her humour, but also because she’s one of very few to have chronicled the Anglo-Irish society that was just clinging on between the wars.…

The Ladybird Expert Books

Reviewed by Annabel Ladybird, now owned by Penguin Random House, have been going from strength to strength recently with their series of satires on modern life for adults, tackling subjects like The Shed, The Meeting, The Sickie, The Mid-Life Crisis and many more – reusing original Ladybird illustrations paired with hilarious new text. No Christmas…

Heartthrobs by Carol Dyhouse

Reviewed by Harriet Subtitled ‘A History of Women and Desire’, this book explores the fields of literature, film and popular romance. Ranging from the early nineteenth century to the present day, the book sets out to show how, as women’s position in society changed, so did their idealisation of men. What did women want? asked…

The January Man by Christopher Somerville

Reviewed by Judith Wilson It was early January when I requested Christopher Somerville’s new walking book for review. I was simultaneously intrigued by its title, The January Man, and by its sub-title, A Year of Walking Britain. On the cusp of 2017, who wouldn’t relish the prospect of a 12-month exploration of the British Isles,…

The Olive Oil Diet by Dr Simon Poole and Judy Ridgway

Reviewed by Harriet When I was a small child my mother, who spent a lot of time in France and loved French cooking, used to have to go to the chemist to buy olive oil, which was sold in small bottles, presumably to be used for some medicinal purpose. Things have moved on a lot…