Vocations by Gerald O’Donovan

Reviewed by Julie Barham This Irish novel, originally published in 1921, reprinted by Handheld Press, is a tremendously engaging read. Dealing with the fates of two girls in Catholic Ireland, it is a searing picture of the way that the established church worked in small communities dominated by priests and the local convent. Moreover, it…

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin I can’t remember seeing a more perfect cover for a book in a while. Everything you need to know about The Water Cure is there. The obscure water hiding all manner of unknowable things. The girl vulnerable, head lifted, neck exposed. The fleshiness, with the female body at the centre of everything. The…

The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers

Translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo Reviewed by Gill Davies The Seventh Cross is set in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and was first published in German in 1942. Seghers was a Communist, of Jewish descent, and escaped to Mexico with her husband and children in 1940. The novel was published there, and in the United…

The Sing of the Shore by Lucy Wood

Reviewed by Helen Parry I have been a fan of Lucy Wood’s writing since reading her début collection of short stories, Diving Belles, and so I was thrilled to see that she was publishing a new book. The Sing of the Shore, like Diving Belles, is a collection of stories all rooted very firmly in…

Star of the North by D B John

Reviewed by Annabel Very few westerners get to visit North Korea, and DB John is one of them – he’s seen the public face of this secretive place from the inside, although he acknowledges that his visit ‘barely scratched the surface’. Now he’s written a thriller about the country and his timing couldn’t be better…

A Dead Rose by Aurora Cáceres

Translation, Foreword & Notes by Laura Kanost Reviewed by Karen Langley The female form is often idealised in art and media, from classical sculptures through paintings and in more modern times with fashion photography and the general objectification of women. It takes a brave woman to take on those stereotypes and play with them, which…

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull

Reviewed by Harriet ‘From its first appearance in 1934, Richard Hull’s The Murder of my Aunt was recognised as something special in crime fiction’. So says Martin Edwards in his introduction to this recent reissue in the British Library Crime Classics series. The novel was highly praised when it first came out, and was much admired…

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima

Translated by Geraldine Harcourt Reviewed by Annabel This latest addition to Penguin Classic’s expanding list of new translations in an upmarket paperback format is a beguiling novella following the story of a young mother and her young daughter after she has separated from her husband. It was originally published during the late 1970s in installments…

House of Beauty by Melba Escobar de Nogales

Translated by Elizabeth Bryer Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies Each time I walk into town from my house I pass at least one nail/beauty salon/spa/bar/studio (the titles variously inflect the appeal). Spread around the town are up to a dozen. Such places are not for elderly geezers, but I do occasionally reflect on the roaring…

The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan

One of a series of reviews republished from the Shiny Archive of Issue 1 to celebrate our 4th birthday Reviewed by David Hebblethwaite Open Kirsty Logan’s debut collection, and you’ll be met first with the title story, which broadly sets the tone for what is to come. The Rental Heart takes us to a version…

Blood on the Tracks: Railway Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

Reviewed by Karen Langley Golden Age crime, which has had such a revival recently, is renowned for particular tropes and settings; the country house location or the locked room mystery are often featured, but another very popular backdrop is trains. So many famous mysteries are set on trains, Murder on the Orient Express being the…

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

One of a series of reviews republished from the Shiny Archive of Issue 1 to celebrate our 4th birthday Reviewed by Annabel Gaskell Good popular science books don’t come along that often, and when they do, they’re inevitably about four topics it seems: quantum physics, space, genetics or the periodic table.  Hooray for one that’s…

White Houses by Amy Bloom

Reviewed by Susan Osborne I’ve yet to read anything by Amy Bloom that I’ve not loved. Her writing is both deft and empathetic, pressing all my literary buttons. Spanning a weekend in April 1945, shortly after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, White Houses tells the story of his wife Eleanor and Lorena Hickok, the…

Zola: An Introduction to his books

By Victoria Best Penguin’s decision to publish some of the novels of Émile Zola that have not been in translation for more than a hundred years begs an introduction to this iconic writer of the working classes. When Zola came on the scene with his racy, sordid novels, he brought new life to the genre…

Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

Reviewed by Harriet Four years after Emma Healey’s best selling Elizabeth is Missing (reviewed here) comes her second novel, Whistle in the Dark. It’s a psychological thriller of sorts, but don’t expect any murders. This is an exploration of the troubled mind of a mother who can’t solve the mystery of her teenage daughter’s disappearance.…

The Akeing Heart by Peter Haring Judd

Reviewed by Simon How you approach The Akeing Heart will depend largely on how familiar you are with the names Sylvia Townsend Warner, Valentine Ackland, and Elizabeth Wade White. These three are in the subtitle of the book, which declares itself to be their letters. If this is the first you’ve heard of them, or you’ve…

From the Archives: Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport

The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses  One of a series of reviews republished from the Shiny Archive of Issue 1 to celebrate our 4th birthday Reviewed by Harriet Devine On 17 July 1918, four young women walked down twenty-three steps into the cellar of a house in Ekaterinburg. The eldest was twenty-two, the…

Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato

Reviewed by Alice Farrant For seven years, Florence, Lucy and Edgar have lived in the wake of Frank’s death. No one mentions Frank’s passing and so Grandmother, Daughter-in-law and Son live under the weight of the grief Frank left behind. When Florence dies Lucy is forced to face a reality she has been avoiding, and…

Interview with Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing

Interview by Lucy Unwin Jesmyn Ward is certainly highly decorated. At a recent reading, the roll call of her awards felt like they’d fill the full hour; shortlisting for The Women’s Prize for Fiction tagged to the end of an already weighty list. But this Mississippi author was once rejected by book agents who thought her literary…