City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster It’s been six years since Elizabeth Gilbert’s last work of fiction, The Signature of All Things (reviewed by Harriet, here), a warm, playful doorstopper telling the eventful life story of Alma Whittaker, a fictional nineteenth-century botanist whose staid existence in her father’s Philadelphia home unexpectedly opens outward through marriage, an adventure…

Doggerland by Ben Smith

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster There’s no sign of a decline in the popularity of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. If anything, it’s becoming even more prevalent – a symptom of our widespread anxiety about the future of the human race in a time of environmental crisis. Doggerland, the debut novel by Plymouth University creative writing lecturer…

The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology by Mark Boyle

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster It’s common practice nowadays, when publicizing a book review published in an online venue, to tag the author on social media. Provided I’ve been able to write a broadly positive review, I think of it as a nice way to reassure an author that someone has been reading and enjoying their…

A spotlight on the Wellcome Book Prize

By Rebecca Foster Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the Wellcome Book Prize is an annual award sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation founded by Sir Henry Wellcome in 1936 and dedicated to improving health. Books are put forward by publishers (which can nominate up to three titles each), must have been…

War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line by David Nott

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Looking out from my inconsequential life, I’m often envious of people who save lives on a regular basis – doctors, surgeons, EMTs, firefighters, and those everyday heroes who dive in to save someone who’s drowning. Maybe I’ve recommended a book that provided some much-needed entertainment or reassurance, or kept overseas scientists…

Under the Rock: the poetry of a place by Benjamin Myers

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Benjamin Myers has been having a bit of a moment. In 2017 Bluemoose Books published his fifth novel, The Gallows Pole, which went on to win the Roger Deakin Award and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and is now on its fourth printing. This taste of fame has brought…

The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster When I saw him introduce The Immeasurable World as part of the Faber Spring Party, William Atkins characterised it as being in “the old-fashioned travel writing tradition”. What he meant by that, I think, is twofold: one, that he travelled to his locations personally and spent significant time in each (a…

All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J Church

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Elizabeth J. Church’s debut novel, The Atomic Weight of Love (reviewed here), was about an 87-year-old amateur ornithologist whose husband was one of the creators of the atomic bomb. I could see some of its themes – the difficulty of a woman choosing her own path and making it fit into…

AN ODYSSEY: A FATHER, A SON AND AN EPIC By DANIEL MENDELSOHN

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Daniel Mendelsohn chairs the Humanities department at Bard College, where he was previously a Classics professor. He is the author of seven earlier books, ranging from literary criticism and translations of Cavafy to essay collections. With An Odyssey: A Father, a Son and an Epic, which was shortlisted for the 2017…

FAME IS THE SPUR BY HOWARD SPRING

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster   Fame Is the Spur (originally published in 1940) is the second out-of-print Howard Spring novel reissued by Head of Zeus’s Apollo imprint, following last year’s release of My Son, My Son. Spring is best known for his family sagas: My Son, My Son had autobiographical inspiration and concerned a writer…

Admissions by Henry Marsh

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Brain surgeon Henry Marsh’s first book, Do No Harm, was one of my favorite reads of 2015. In short, enthrallingly detailed chapters named after conditions he had treated or observed, he reflected on life as a surgeon, expressing sorrow over botched operations and marveling at the God-like power he wields over people’s quality of…

Theft by finding david sedaris

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster I’ve read six of David Sedaris’s humorous collections of personal essays. A college friend first recommended him to me in 2011, and I started with When You Are Engulfed in Flames – which I still think is his best book, though Me Talk Pretty One Day is also very good. Sedaris…

What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Born in the UK, raised largely in Nigeria, and now resident in Minneapolis, USA – Africa and the West are blended in debut author Lesley Nneka Arimah’s heritage just as they are in her vibrant short fiction. “Light,” one of the stories in What It Means when a Man Falls from…

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster From the title and the Montego Bay, Jamaica setting, you might be expecting a story line light enough to match the Beatles’ pop song. But Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel is no cheerful tale. Instead, you might think of the sun as coming to expose secrets, crimes and prejudice. The focus is…