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…

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Reviewed by Harriet Asymmetry is defined as ‘lack of equality or equivalence between parts’, a definition that applies both to a theme of this brilliant debut novel and to its structure. As anyone who’s read a review of the book will know, it’s divided into three parts, the first two of which appear to be…

A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey

Reviewed by Harriet A Long Way from Home, as the title implies, is a novel of a journey in more than one sense. An actual physical journey takes up the central portion of the book, which is divided into three related parts, but it’s also a journey to self-knowledge, with all that implies, for one…

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.…

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Reviewed by Harriet We’ve reviewed two of Laura Lippman’s novels in Shiny, here and here. One was a police procedural and the other a standalone – Lippman’s output is fairly evenly divided between the two. She’s known as a crime writer, but if that’s not your genre of choice, don’t dismiss her novels, which rise…

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Reviewed by Harriet I forget everything between footsteps. ‘Anna!’ I finish shouting, snapping my mouth shut in surprise. My mind has gone blank. I don’t know who Anna is or why I’m calling her name. I don’t even know how I got here. I’m standing in a forest, shielding my eyes from the spitting rain.…

The World Broke in Two by Sam Goldstein

Reviewed by Harriet This enthralling multiple biography is subtitled ‘Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and the year that changed literature’. The year is 1922, and the claim is a large one which can only be fully substantiated by referring to writers who are not major players here: in that year, James Joyce…

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Reviewed by Harriet I have certain reservations about novels in which the central character is someone who really existed. Sometimes it works really well, as for example in the case of Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea, or the Josephine Tey novels of Nicola Upson. Other times, though I won’t name names, I’ve been a bit…

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Translated by Sam Taylor Reviewed by Harriet Moroccan born novelist Leïla Slimani is not the first woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, though she’s only the 13th woman to do so since the prize was established in 1903. Her novel, Chanson Douce, now translated as Lullaby, is however the first…

Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann

Reviewed by Harriet Most people probably think that the presence of black people in Britain began with the large influx of nearly 500 who came over from Jamaica in 1948 on the MV Empire Windrush. Before that, we may have a vague idea that the relatively small number of black people who appear in 18th century…