The Photographer at Sixteen by George Szirtes

Reviewed by Rob Spence This remarkably compelling memoir is, surprisingly, the first prose publication of George Szirtes, one of our most distinguished poets. At its centre is the disquieting life of his mother, Magda, and its culmination in an ambulance accident following a suicide attempt at the age of fifty-one in 1975. Szirtes, in a…

Where Shall We Run To? by Alan Garner

Reviewed by Annabel. I’ve been a fan of Alan Garner’s novels ever since my childhood when I first encountered The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and its sequel The Moon of Gomrath in the 1960s. I can think of few books that are imbued with such a sense of place as that pair, being set at Alderley…

The Light in the Dark: A winter journal by Horatio Clare

Reviewed by Peter Reason Reading the title of this book and seeing the book cover, the prospective reader might, as did I, expect a book about the darker period of the year, and the night. And they would be right: this book is indeed about those darker times. But I have always liked the dark…

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…

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…

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…

From the Archives: Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn

One of a series of reviews republished from the Shiny Archive of Issue 1 to celebrate our 4th birthday Reviewed by Annabel Gaskell I wish Tracey Thorn was my cousin, sister even. I can say that – for we share not only a maiden name, but a love of David Cassidy, a fascination with Morrissey,…

Rosie: Scenes from a Vanished Life by Rose Tremain

Reviewed by Harriet I’m a huge admirer of Rose Tremain’s brilliant novels, and very fond of childhood memoirs as a genre, so this one was a must for me. It’s the story of growing up in a world that might seem comfortable and privileged, but one with many uncomfortable spikes under its apparently smooth surface.…

Diary of a Bipolar Explorer by Lucy Newlyn

Reviewed by Jean Morris This book is both useful and beautiful. Lucy Newlyn, recently retired Oxford professor of English literature, author of a lovely book, among others, about Dorothy and William Wordsworth (reviewed here at SNB by Harriet) and poet with two collections to her name (Ginnel, Carcanet, 2005, and Earth’s Almanac, Enitharmon, 2015), has…

My Life, Our Times by Gordon Brown

Reviewed by Liz Dexter It’s the book everyone’s been waiting for that fills in the gaps left by Tony Blair’s autobiography and the various books on the financial crisis, the 2010 election and the fortunes of Labour. If you’re looking for a quick and easy read, this, to be fair, isn’t it: if you’re looking…

Unaccompanied Minor by Alexander Newley

Reviewed by Annabel The children of celebrity couples inevitably have a hard time growing up, especially when their parents split. You need only think of the late Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher as a prime example. Carrie was later canny and secure enough in her writing and performing – and her…

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Reviewed by Annabel I love reading medical memoirs; we’ve featured neurosurgeon Henry Marsh’s two volumes here at Shiny, and heart surgeon Stephen Westaby’s book Fragile Lives was a great read for me earlier this year. These books were written by surgeons who’ve reached the zenith of their careers. The chapters within concentrate on particular operations,…

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

Reviewed by Harriet I’ve always admired Maggie O’Farrell’s fiction, and greatly loved her most recent novel, This Must Be the Place, which I reviewed on Shiny last year. I didn’t know much about her personal life, though, so I seized on this recently published autobiographical work hoping to fill in the blanks. Well, let me…

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Reviewed by Simon Thomas Many book lovers have fantasies about what it would be like to work in a bookshop – perhaps particularly a secondhand bookshop. There is an aura of nostalgia, romance, and indulgence put together by the picture. How could it be otherwise, surrounded by books all day long? Now, I happen not…

No Cunning Plan: My Story by Tony Robinson (pbk)

Reviewed by Laura Marriott Like many people I first came to know Tony Robinson through his role as Baldrick on Blackadder, before following him as he helmed Time Team. This autobiography, though, shows that there is so much more to Robinson than that. Starting out as a child actor he has led an exceptional life,…

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…

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.…

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…