The Idiot by Elif Batuman (pbk)

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth In his The Idiot – the original – Dostoevsky set out on a mission to depict “the positively good and beautiful man.” The namesake, Prince Myshkin, has a goodness and open-hearted simplicity to him that others take as an absence of intellect and insight; and it makes him the perfect guinea…

To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine

Reviewed by Annabel When punk happened, although I was the right age – in my later teens – I’d already diverted off into prog rock, (I know!). So, I never consciously listened to the Slits, but I was aware of a girl punk group who hung out with the Sex Pistols. Now, decades later, such…

The Bright Side of Life by Emile Zola

Translated by Andrew Rothwell Reviewed by Harriet Fans of Monty Python may have a bit of trouble with this title – I’ve had their iconic song stuck in my head for weeks. In French the novel was called La Joie de Vivre – the joy of life – and I’m not convinced that the new…

How to Change your Mind: The new science of psychedelics by Michael Pollan

Review by Peter Reason ‘The soul should always stand ajar.’ It is fitting that Michael Pollan introduces his latest book on the resurgence in interest in LSD, psilocybin and other psychedelics with this epigraph from Emily Dickinson. For, as he concludes in this entertaining and informative book, exploration of alternative states of consciousness can have…

Girl with Dove by Sally Bayley

Review by Harriet If you’ve read Annabel’s account of the Golden Booker presentation, you’ll have noticed that one of the judges, Lemn Sissay, urged the audience to read this book. This made me feel slightly smug, as I’d already read it, but also made me think about the fact that the book has somewhat divided…

Sentimental Tales by Mikhail Zoshchenko

Translated by Boris Dralyuk Review by Karen Langley Russian satirical writing has a rich heritage, stretching all the way back to  the  time of Catherine the Great and continuing into the current day. It’s a way of writing that has served the country’s people well during any number of repressive regimes, and was particularly vital…

Release by Patrick Ness (YA, pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel These days, I read fewer YA and children’s books, but Patrick Ness is one of those authors I will always look out for. His YA novels, and this one verges onto adult territory anyway, make true crossover reads that adults will enjoy too. Only the fact that I’d never read Mrs Dalloway blinded me…

Room to Dream by Kristine McKenna and David Lynch

Reviewed by Harriet David Lynch’s films are certainly not for everybody. Almost all of them are strange, dark, and increasingly hard to pin down to a plot summary, let alone an interpretation. But they have a huge number of avid admirers. They have won many prizes, including the Palme d’Or for Wild at Heart; and…

Vernon Subutex 2 by Virginie Despentes

Translated by Frank Wynne Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies Almost two decades ago I saw a French movie called Baise-moi. It contained, besides much simulated violence, what Wikipedia fastidiously calls ‘several unsimulated sex scenes’. Yes, actual fucking and sucking, the two principals being played, necessarily, by porn actresses. Filth at the arthouse? Sort of, along with…

The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin

Translated by Lisa Hayden Reviewed by Karen Langley You awake in a hospital bed. You have no memory of who you are or how you came to be there, apart from a name – Innokenty Petrovich Platonov. Gradually your memory begins to come back in random fragments here and there so that you (and the…

Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk

Reviewed by Rob Spence I began reading this book just as the outcry over the Trump regime’s treatment of migrants was gathering pace. It seemed an appropriate time to enter Chuck Palahniuk’s dystopian vision of a very-near future in which a bunch of young misfits engineer – almost by accident – a bloody coup in…

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi

Translated by Tina Kover Reviewed by Marina Sofia With a blurb promising a story of growing up in exile and even the title cleverly playing on words ‘disoriented’ and a sense of ‘disassociating’ oneself from ‘oriental’, this was always going to be a book that appealed to me. However, even if you are not as…

Retribution Road by Antonin Varenne (pbk)

Translated by Sam Taylor Reviewed by Gill Davies Having become rather jaded with the predictability of the crime fiction genre and wearied by the sheer number published, I’ve been interested to explore non-British novels. Then I found that Retribution Road is a historical novel with a British focus and wondered if I would be disappointed.…

Sacred Britannia by Miranda Aldhouse-Green

Reviewed by Liz Dexter Miranda Aldhouse-Green is a specialist in Romano-British studies and Iron Age archaeology and has written other books on myth and religion in this period, so you know you’re in safe hands as she draws together a wealth of information from archaeological finds dating from the 18th century to 2015 in this…

The Golden Man Booker Prize

Report by Annabel When I booked my ticket for this event a couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to find an odd single seat in the middle of the stalls, a few rows from the front. I was ideally placed to watch the event and surrounded by publishing folk who had obviously block-bought.…

Man Booker at 50: 2009-2017

And finally, this fifth decade brings us up to date with previous winners of the Man Booker Prize. In 2010, the organisation decided to create “The Lost Booker” to celebrate books that missed out due to a change in the prize’s rules over publication dates. As previously, a shortlist was drawn up and put to…

Man Booker at 50: The ones that got away

It’s not always the case (or often?) that judges and readers are all in agreement on longlists, let alone the shortlists or eventual winners of literary prizes. Here we look at a few of those shortlisted books and authors that our reviewers feel should have won. Let us know if you agree, and do tell…

Man Booker at 50: 1999-2008

The prize’s fourth decade marked the first time, in 2001, that the longlist was revealed to the world at large. It decade also marked two second wins for previous winners, Carey and Coetzee, who both won for the first time in the 1980s. In 2008, it was the fortieth anniversary of the prize. Once again…

Man Booker at 50: 1989-1998

During the prize’s third decade, for the second time in its history, two books tied for top spot in 1992. Then, in 1993, the prize turned twenty-five. To celebrate, three previous judges met to choose a “Booker of Bookers”. They picked Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children from 1981. In 1998, for the Prize’s thirtieth birthday, Booker…

Man Booker at 50: 1979-1988

The second decade of the prize, apart from producing the “Booker of Bookers” in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, was enlivened by some tight judging decisions. In 1980, it was William Golding vs Anthony Burgess with Earthly Powers – and apparently Burgess refused to attend the presentation unless he was told in advance whether he had…