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…

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…