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…

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…

Belladonna by Daša Drndić

Translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawksworth Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies There can be no quick digest of this book, marketed as a novel though in fact much more, and no doubt of its relevance. In its sweep of concerns one pronounced focal point is what the author calls, via a fictional proxy, ‘pathological patriotism’…

The Devil and Webster by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Reviewed by Harriet I’d never heard of Jean Hanff Korelitz when her 2014 novel, You Should Have Known, landed unsolicited in my mailbox. I read it with huge admiration and enjoyment, and gave it a very positive review in the very first edition of Shiny [here]. Now it’s 2017, and her latest novel, The Devil…

Q&A with Emma Henderson about The Valentine House

Questions by Annabel Annabel: Taking the cog railway up the mountain and then a hike from the station brings back happy memories for me of summer holidays at Caux on the Rochers de Naye above Montreux. That was summer though and idyllic – you lived in the French Alps – the Haute-Savoie above Geneva where…

The Valentine House by Emma Henderson

Reviewed by Annabel Here they come. Here they are. Les anglais, the English, les rosbifs. After a rather attention-grabbling opening, in which the ageing Sir Anthony Valentine writes some extremely purple prose about mountains and valleys in his diaries, Henderson’s second novel settles down to tell the story of decades of summer visitors to Valentine’s…

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…

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Reviewed by Harriet I wanted to write about people whose voices have not echoed through time and whose struggles and passions have been hidden from history So writes Helen Dunmore in the afterword of this, her latest novel. I’ve always vaguely known about her writings, but I could never remember if I’d actually read any…

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…

How to Be Human by Paula Cocozza

Reviewed by Alice Farrant At 35, Mary is single and living in the house she once shared with her partner. She goes to work only to be berated by her boss and comes home to the judgement of her neighbours. Then suddenly, in the midst of her urban depression a fox appears, and strange love…

Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes

Reviewed by Karen Langley In this centenary year of the Russian Revolution, much attention is being focused on Soviet Russia and its culture. One author who exerts an eternal fascination is Mikhail Bulgakov; recognised nowadays for his epic work The Master and Margarita, in Soviet times he was probably more known as a playwright since…

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…

A Separation by Katie Kitamura

Reviewed by Marina Sofia It is easier to tell you what A Separation is not, rather than what it is. It is not a mystery, although a disappearance features quite heavily. It is not a psychological thriller, although we delve deep into the central character’s psychology. It is not a romance, although there is a…

Kit de Waal – on being mixed race

Kit de Waal is the author of My Name is Leon which was published last year to great acclaim – see our review of the novel here. We are taking part in the blog tour for the paperback release of her novel, and are delighted that Kit has written a short piece for us below. My…

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (pbk)

Reviewed by Alice Farrant My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal is a powerful story that discusses race, mental illness, and family, through the abandonment of a child. It’s the early 80s, Leon is eight and his baby brother Jake has just been born. As his mother slips into a haze of postnatal depression…

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…

All the Places I’ve Ever Lived by David Gaffney

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies David Gaffney has earned himself a distinctive reputation as a writer of ‘flash fictions’ – micro-stories, variable in tone and topic but springing from a gonzo imagination – in the collections Sawn-off Tales and More Sawn-off Tales. Anything can happen in 150 words or so. Some of them playfully unpick language.…