Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Reviewed by Harriet It’s every parent’s nightmare – one minute your child is there, next minute they’re gone. My own three-year-old daughter once wandered off in a busy market in central London, and the hour or so before we tracked her down to a nearby police station was one of the most agonising of my…

Maigret Goes to School by Georges Simenon

Reviewed by Harriet Translated by Linda Coverdale What was he doing there? A hundred times, in the middle of an investigation, he’d had the same feeling of helplessness or, rather, futility. He would find himself abruptly plunged into the lives of people he had never met before, and his job was to discover their most…

Aphra Behn: A Secret Life by Janet Todd

Reviewed by Harriet ‘Aphra Behn was a woman who wore masks’. So says Janet Todd at the beginning of this monumental, newly revised biography of Behn, who was a prolific dramatist, poet, novelist and translator, and ‘the first English woman to earn her living solely by her pen’. Born sometime between 1637 and 1643 (though…

Deaths of the Poets by Paul Farley and Michael Simmons Roberts

Reviewed by Harriet The deaths of poets matter to us because they become a lens through which to look at the poems. So say the authors, both poets themselves, in this satisfying, thought-provoking book about – well, about the deaths of poets. It’s structured as a series of journeys the two of them made, in…

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Reviewed by Harriet And if such a gift could come to him at such a time…— he opened his eyes, and yes, there it was, the perfect knowledge: Anything was possible for anyone. Just over a year after the publication of the amazing My Name is Lucy Barton (reviewed here in paperback), Elizabeth Strout has…

Hamlet: Globe to Globe by Dominic Dromgoole

Reviewed by Harriet Dominic Dromgoole was the Artistic Director of London’s Globe Theatre from 2005 to 2016. During this successful period he initiated many memorable achievements, including a 2012 festival in which all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays were staged by companies from all around the world. It went supremely well, but the departing euphoria left…

The Devil and Webster by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Reviewed by Harriet I’d never heard of Jean Hanff Korelitz when her 2014 novel, You Should Have Known, landed unsolicited in my mailbox. I read it with huge admiration and enjoyment, and gave it a very positive review in the very first edition of Shiny [here]. Now it’s 2017, and her latest novel, The Devil…

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Reviewed by Harriet I wanted to write about people whose voices have not echoed through time and whose struggles and passions have been hidden from history So writes Helen Dunmore in the afterword of this, her latest novel. I’ve always vaguely known about her writings, but I could never remember if I’d actually read any…

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…

The Lark by Edith Nesbit

Reviewed by Harriet Last year there was a bit of a flutter in the blogging world when Edith Nesbit’s complete works popped up on Amazon for a very low price. The one that caught everyone’s attention was her final novel, The Lark. Several people, including me, felt that this was a prime candidate for Persephone…

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (pbk)

Reviewed by Harriet You will have only one story… You’ll write your one story many ways. Don’t ever worry about story. You will have only one. This advice, given to the protagonist on a writing course, really sums up what is happening in this superb novel. Lucy Barton is struggling to make sense of, and…

Heartthrobs by Carol Dyhouse

Reviewed by Harriet Subtitled ‘A History of Women and Desire’, this book explores the fields of literature, film and popular romance. Ranging from the early nineteenth century to the present day, the book sets out to show how, as women’s position in society changed, so did their idealisation of men. What did women want? asked…

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

Reviewed by Harriet Who is JP Delaney? All that is known at the time of writing this review is that the pseudonym conceals the identity of ‘a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names’. Perhaps all will soon be revealed, but whoever s/he is, this is certainly a cracker of a book.…

The Olive Oil Diet by Dr Simon Poole and Judy Ridgway

Reviewed by Harriet When I was a small child my mother, who spent a lot of time in France and loved French cooking, used to have to go to the chemist to buy olive oil, which was sold in small bottles, presumably to be used for some medicinal purpose. Things have moved on a lot…

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

Reviewed by Harriet All along, from the beginning of his conscious life, the persistent feeling that the forks and parallels of the roads taken and not taken were all being travelled by the same people at the same time, the visible people and the shadow people, and that the world as it was could never…