Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt by Chris Naunton

Reviewed by Harriet The civilisation of Ancient Egypt exerts a seemingly eternal fascination. All those pharaohs and their dynasties, stretching back to three thousand years before the birth of Christ, all those tombs and their precious artefacts. Archaeologists have been exploring them for centuries, but it was Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of the intact tomb…

Love is Blind by William Boyd

Reviewed by Harriet Sebastian Faulks has called William Boyd ‘the finest storyteller of his generation’, and it’s hard to argue with that. The stories he tells are mostly those of people’s lives – for example, in Any Human Heart, and The New Confessions, his central character’s life was told from his earliest beginnings to his…

The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin

Reviewed by Harriet How Ivor would have loved being dead! It was a shame he was missing it all. First published in 1975, this very welcome reprint shows Celia Fremlin at her best. A psychological thriller with a hint of the supernatural (or is it?), it’s a real page-turner with the usual brilliantly-drawn secondary characters…

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

Reviewed by Harriet Why had I never heard of Margaret Millar until I spotted this reprint by Pushkin Vertigo? Because, I suppose, she was one of those people who have their moment of fame and then sink without trace. In fact Millar, who was born in Canada, had a successful career, wrote 27 novels, and…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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?…

Apprenticeship by Peter Gill

Reviewed by Harriet Born in Cardiff in 1939, Peter Gill is a distinguished theatre director and playwright. But he started his career as an actor in the early 1960s, working first at the Royal Court Theatre and later at the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s this later event that forms the foundation of this book, in…

The Town by Shaun Prescott

Reviewed by Harriet This is how things are going to be from now on. This is how they’re going to stay. History can end, you know. It doesn’t have to keep going. In this strange, bewitching novel, a young writer comes to live in a New South Wales town. He has a project – he’s…

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…

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…

Caroline’s Bikini by Kirsty Gunn

Reviewed by Harriet ‘Alright’ I said, ‘I’ll try’…’But I’ve never done this kind of thing before’ is what I would have said next, I’m sure, as it still seems a strange thing to do, be involved in this kind of writing, the sort of project that was being suggested to me by Evan now. ‘I…

Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

Reviewed by Harriet This little treasure of a book tells the story, in his own words, of the last survivor of the last, illegal, cargo of enslaved Africans to be brought for sale in America. The horrors of slavery have been highlighted in literature and film before, but this account is unique in its freshness…

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…

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.…

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…