No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel

Translated by Stephanie Smee Reviewed by Harriet When I was first offered this book for review, I turned it down, for reasons that are now not clear to me. Then I had second thoughts and how glad I am that I did. If I say it’s my best read for 2019 that’s not saying much,…

Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

Reviewed by Harriet Written in just two months while its author was a patient in a psychiatric clinic, Zelda Fitzgerald’s first and only novel found a publisher in 1932. Three thousand copies were printed, but fewer than half actually sold, and for more than thirty years the novel sank without trace. When it was republished…

Dramatic Exchanges by Daniel Rosenthal (Editor)

Reviewed by Harriet When we think of London’s National Theatre, most of us will envisage the great concrete complex on the South Bank of the Thames, designed by Denis Lasdun and opened in 1976. With its three stages, the building has the capacity to seat audiences of up to 2500 people a night, and has…

Childhood by Gerard Reve

Translated by Sam Garrett Reviewed by Harriet Gerard Reve (1923-2006) was a Dutch writer – according to Wikipedia, one of the ‘Great Three’ of Dutch postwar literature. I have to admit to never having heard of him, but if the two novellas contained in this attractive hardback from Pushkin are anything to go by, it…

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…