The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin

Reviewed by Harriet Soon after midnight she would wake; and again at half past two; and again at four. As the months went by, I found myself quite distracted by lack of sleep; my eyes would fall shut while I peeled the potatoes or ironed shirts. I remember one night sitting on the bottom step…

The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton The Incredible Crime and its author are something of a literary curiosity. Lois Austen-Leigh was the great great-grandniece of Jane Austen. She almost certainly wrote her books at the same desk her more famous ancestor used (now housed in the British Library), and that connection alone is probably enough to raise…

Teenage Writings by Jane Austen

Reviewed by Karen Langley 2017 is turning out to be something of a year of anniversaries: as well as being 100 years since the Russian Revolution took place, it’s also the centenary of the birth of artist and author Leonora Carrington, (more about her here). Both of these events have been gaining considerable media coverage, exhibitions…

A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor

Reviewed by Gill Davies When you were a child did you ever hunt for a lost ball among ferns and leaves and parting them quick to look … come suddenly upon a great toad, sitting there, very ugly and watchful. All the time there, though you didn’t know it, under the leaves. The shock, the…

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (pbk)

Reviewed by Ali First published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale seemed to speak to the generation coming to political awareness in that decade. Back then it could be read as speculative fiction. We read it as a warning, rather than a prophecy, and it has inspired a generation of feminists. Margaret Atwood takes us to…

Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead

Reviewed by Karen Langley Australian-born Christina Stead led a lively and picaresque life, spending parts of her time in the USA, France, Spain and the UK. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that the heroine of this entertaining and adventurous novel draws much of her experiences from the life of her author. Letty Fox: her Luck…

Letters From Klara and Other Stories by Tove Jansson

Translated by Thomas Teal Reviewed by Kate Gardner This penultimate collection of Finnish literary giant Jansson’s short stories has taken 26 years to be published in an English translation, but that is a reflection of our literary landscape, not of the quality of the stories. Jansson was in her 70s when she wrote these, and…

Running Blind by Desmond Bagley

Reviewed by Annabel I’m delighted that the vogue for republishing the best thrillers from the 1960s onwards as exemplified by the books of Lionel Davidson (see Harriet’s reviews here, here and here!) has turned to another star from the past – Desmond Bagley. In our household, I grew up on a diet of action thriller writers…

Maigret Goes to School by Georges Simenon

Reviewed by Harriet Translated by Linda Coverdale What was he doing there? A hundred times, in the middle of an investigation, he’d had the same feeling of helplessness or, rather, futility. He would find himself abruptly plunged into the lives of people he had never met before, and his job was to discover their most…

Miraculous Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards 

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton Locked room murders and other similarly impossible crimes are one of the sub genres I particularly enjoy in golden age, and older, mysteries so I was particularly pleased to get my hands on a whole collection of them. Sixteen to be specific, including contributions from Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle,…

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Reviewed by Rachel Fenn I was delighted to have the opportunity to revisit a novel that has long haunted me. Despite the effect it had on me the first time, I had forgotten just how absurdly good it is, and was surprised by how addictive I found it from the very first page. I first…

Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett

Reviewed by Julie Barham Vintage books have produced a new edition of possibly the best known of Bennett’s novels featuring the story of Edwin Clayhanger. It is very much more than a biography of one man, as the reader sees Edwin’s reactions to those around him as well as his setting in his home and…

Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh

Reviewed by Annabel ‘Little top-up?’ Ever since Alison Steadman playing Beverly uttered those words when Abigail’s Party aired on TV in 1977, they entered into the vernacular of my family. My mum used the phrase regularly, applying it to second helpings across the board. Now, arguably a grown-up in my 50s, I find myself using…

Tom Tiddler’s Ground by Ursula Orange

Reviewed by Simon One of the authors I’ve been on the look-out for, for years, is Ursula Orange – entirely the responsibility of Scott (from the Furrowed Middlebrow blog) who has championed her in the past. But finding her novels was nigh-on impossible, and I more or less gave up hope. So I met, with…

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.…

The Lark by Edith Nesbit

Reviewed by Harriet Last year there was a bit of a flutter in the blogging world when Edith Nesbit’s complete works popped up on Amazon for a very low price. The one that caught everyone’s attention was her final novel, The Lark. Several people, including me, felt that this was a prime candidate for Persephone…

Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett

Reviewed by Julie Barham I think that the overwhelming sense or atmosphere of this book is sadness. Nevertheless, it is a faithful picture of life in a town of the turn of the century. This is of course the story of the towns of Stoke on Trent, and there are those who would dispute exactly…

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-…

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft

Reviewed by Karen Langley Mention author H.P. Lovecraft to people and you’ll most likely get one of two reactions: either they’ll hail him as the progenitor of modern horror fiction (as does Stephen King), or they’ll dismiss him as the purveyor of pulp stories about the black arts. Lovecraft inspires these extreme reactions, and I…

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber

Reviewed by Karen Langley The title story of this collection of short pieces by James Thurber is probably his best-known work, thanks to the popular film adaptation starring Danny Kaye. Thurber has a reputation as a humourist and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty brings together a selection of his pieces from a previous collection called…