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…

Siracusa by Delia Ephron

Reviewed by Marina Sofia Let me start by saying: don’t believe the hype. This book is being marketed as psychological suspense, impossible to put down, a page-turning narrative of a holiday which ends in tragedy… Yet all of this description does the book a disservice, attracting the attentions of the wrong kind of reader. Those…

Addlands by Tom Bullough (pbk)

Reviewed by David Hebblethwaite Tom Bullough grew up on a farm in Radnorshire on the Welsh borders. As an administrative county, Radnorshire is no more, having been officially absorbed into Powys in 1974; but Bullough notes on his website that there’s still a Radnorshire which persists in people’s conception of the area. Addlands, Bullough’s fourth…

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins

Reviewed by Judith Wilson The Night Visitor is Lucy Atkins’ third novel, and as I’d devoured the first two, I was keen to read this. The proof copy arrived emblazoned with emerald dung beetles and with the tantalizing phrase: ‘One secret could ruin her life …’ It’s a great premise for a novel. I’d found…

Q&A with Nicholas Royle, author of An English Guide to Birdwatching

Interview by Annabel Annabel: Firstly, I must admit, when offered this book for review, I initially mixed you up with the other Nicholas Royle, something you must (both) get a lot. Has either of you ever considered writing under another name to reduce the confusion, or do you (both) like the coincidences generated by it?…

An English Guide to Birdwatching by Nicholas Royle

Reviewed by Annabel When first offered this book to review – I thought it was finally time to get around to reading one of Nicholas Royle’s novels, I’ve several on the shelves, notably First Novel. Then I opened this book, looked at the flyleaf and that book wasn’t listed. It was only then that I…

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Reviewed by Harriet And if such a gift could come to him at such a time…— he opened his eyes, and yes, there it was, the perfect knowledge: Anything was possible for anyone. Just over a year after the publication of the amazing My Name is Lucy Barton (reviewed here in paperback), Elizabeth Strout has…

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin The first thing to say about The End We Start From is it’s not a standard book of fictional prose. The story is told through beautifully-crafted sentences, isolated like islands on the page. Shots of consciousness, captured like polaroids. Each scene is built from just a handful of these, and there…

Q&A with Megan Hunter about The End We Start From

Interview by Lucy Unwin Lucy: This is a very unusual book: it may be a novel, but it has the sensibility of poetry. People won’t have had a chance to look at it yet, and in fact the few reader reviews I’ve seen so far all seem to start with “I’m not quite sure what…

Goblin by Ever Dundas

Reviewed by Isobel Blackthorn I wonder sometimes if we’ll ever tire of stories set in World War II. From Ian McEwan’s Atonement to Julie Summer’s Jambusters! and everything in between and beyond, the period makes for rich pickings. Ever Dundas’ Goblin is different. The story opens during the Blitz and is centred on a little…

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…

Five Fascinating Facts About … Arnold Bennett.

Compiled by Julie Barham 1. Bennett was an ardent Francophile, frequently looking to France as a source of literary inspiration. He would moor his yacht and paint views from peaceful French coastal beauty spots, and his 1918 bestseller The Pretty Lady portrays a French prostitute. 2. He wrote many stories about the idea of New…

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…

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…

Murder on the Pilgrims Way by Julie Wassmer

Reviewed by Victoria If you are like me and enjoy the format of traditional cosy crime – an atmospheric setting, a great cast of possible suspects, a second body that arrives just at the right moment – then I can warmly recommend the new crime series by Julie Wassmer, (click here for the review of…

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Reviewed by Annabel There is something about stories based upon Russian fairy tales that so appeals. Some authors, as Eowyn Ivey did with her divine debut, The Snow Child, have translated them to another time and place. Arden stays in Medieval Russia for her story which contains many elements of the classic Russian fairy tale…