Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Reviewed by Harriet Do you believe in fairies? Probably at a young age most people would say they did. And together with an idea implanted by popular books and paintings, which presented them as tiny ethereal creatures flitting around on gossamer wings, would come a concept of fairyland, undefined, pretty, vague and hazy. The scepticism…

Spotlight on Publishers: Handheld Press Q&A with Kate Macdonald

Questions by Harriet Harriet: Thanks for agreeing to do this for us Kate. Can you tell us a bit about the genesis of Handheld Press and what prompted you to start the company? Kate: Setting up the company crept up on me. I’ve been a literary historian, an editor in civil service technical publishing, an…

The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc

Translated by Derek Coltman Reviewed by Karen Langley There’s been a buzz recently about Penguin’s (re?) launch of their European Writers series, with the first two books by Mercè Rodoreda and Cesare Pavese garnering much online attention. The series has been described as an initiative to promote European literature to British readers; radical, perhaps, in…

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen Reviewed by Rob Spence The strap line chosen by the publishers for the cover of this massive novel is instructive: “None of us are ever finished. Everyone is always a work in progress.” Despite its Dickensian length, Murakami’s eighteenth work of fiction has the feel of the unfinished…

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Reviewed by Harriet ‘Don’t let your imagination run away with you, Miss Armstrong. You have an unfortunate tendency to do that. Iris isn’t real’. But how can she not be? Juliet thought. She’s me. Kate Atkinson’s last two novels, Life after Life  and A God in Ruins (reviewed here) were both set in the years…

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…

The Second Rider by Alex Beer

Translated by Tim Mohr Reviewed by Gill Davies The Second Rider is the first novel in a projected new series by the Austrian writer, Alex Beer. It is set in Vienna in winter 1919. The World War may be over but its horrors persist for the wounded, the hungry, the sick, the homeless and unemployed.…

Hippie by Paulo Coelho

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth Hippie is the newest addition to Coelho’s bibliography, but to say that it is something new from Coelho would be lying. Coelho’s previous autobiographical novels are all set on journeys: The Pilgrimage describes the author’s spiritual awakening on his 500-mile hike to Santiago de Compostela, The Valkyries tells the story of…

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…

Two debut novels from Salt

Reviewed by Annabel Salt Publishing, based in Cromer, Norfolk hit the headlines earlier this year In May. They were in danger of folding, and urged readers in a Twitter campaign to buy #JustOneBook via their online shop or indie book stores to keep them from going under. It worked, raising over £16,000 from 1700 orders and…

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…

Death of the Vazir-Mukhtar by Yuri Tynianov

Translated by Susan Causey Translation editor Vera Tsareva-Brauner Reviewed by Karen Langley Recent years have seen a large number of works by Russian authors newly translated into the English language; many of these had disappeared under Soviet rule or while the authors were living abroad as émigrés, or simply because fashions in reading change. I’ve…

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…

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

Reviewed by Harriet Have you ever wondered how the children of a witch and a vampire might turn out? Well, wonder no longer as you can now see them in the persons of Becca and Philip, the two year old twins of Diana Bishop and her husband Matthew Clermont. No idea what I’m talking about?…

By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts

Reviewed by David Harris Roberts seems to have been very busy lately so I’m glad he managed to include a return to the world of The Real-Town Murders, one of my favourite books of 2017. R!-Town is a futuristic version of Reading (the town on the Thames, not the bookish activity) though the futuristicness is less embodied in…

Banned Books Week: The Russians

By Karen Langley “The important task of literature is to free man, not to censor him.” (Anais Nin) The banning of books is an emotive topic; so much of the process seems to be arbitrary, subjective and liable to change as times change. However, it’s such a phenomenon that there is actually now a week…

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Reviewed by Annabel Having been Man Booker shortlisted in 2011 for her debut novel, Half Blood Blues, set in Berlin during WWII and fifty years later, Edugyan’s second novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, about the immigrant experience in 1960s Canada seemed to disappear without trace. But for her third, she is back on…

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Reviewed by Laura Tisdall Having read every novel that Sarah Moss has written (plus most of her non-fiction) I was eagerly anticipating Ghost Wall. It didn’t disappoint, although its brevity made it feel a little less substantial than previous stand-outs like The Tidal Zone and Bodies of Light.  Set in the 1990s at a recreated Iron…