A Chill in the Air by Iris Origo

Reviewed by Terence Jagger This is a fascinating book, written during the year or so preceding Italy’s entry in to the 1939-45 war, when whether she would join – and even in some people’s minds, on what side she would join – were open questions. Iris Origo was a young woman at the time, an…

Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani

Reviewed by Terence Jagger This is a tricky book to read, though I enjoyed much of it. It is funny and observant, but painful too. Kimani has a strong view on the total evil of colonialism and its creatures, and this unalloyed negativity and cynicism can be corrosive, however justified much of his criticism is.…

Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry

Reviewed by Terence Jagger Japan suffers multitudes of earthquakes every year and is among the best prepared countries in the world. Tsunami, too, are common, and both are planned for meticulously. But March 2011 was different. This is a staggering book, intensely moving, and a wonderfully penetrating insight into modern Japan, both its resilience and…

Zen and the Art of Murder by Oliver Bottini

Translated by Jamie Bulloch Reviewed by Terence Jagger We are not in Japan, but Germany; set in the snowy Black Forest, not far from the French border, this novel starts with ‘maverick chief inspector’ Louise Boni being told to investigate a strange, lonely man wandering through the snow, an unknown Japanese monk. She is resentful…

The Apothecary’s Shop by Roberto Tiraboschi

Translated by Katherine Gregor Reviewed by Terence Jagger Venice 1118 Anno Domini. In early twelfth century Venice set we our scene, although the cod historical touch is maybe just a little unfair, there is quite a lot of ‘the Year of Our Lord’, single Italian words thrown in for effect and so on, and some…

1919 Between the Wars 1939  by  Philip Ziegler

Reviewed by Terence Jagger   So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years – Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres   T S Eliot, Four Quartets: East Coker This book covers a period which for me – as for the author himself – is relatively unknown, coming…

Shadows and Sun by Dominique Sylvain

Translated by Neil Caistor Reviewed by Terence Jagger I enjoyed this book, set amongst the French police in Paris and in Abidjan, but that’s not to say I really followed it – it was most confusing. But Chandler apparently didn’t always understand his plots, so maybe that’s OK. One isn’t trying to follow clues or…

The Santiago Pilgrimage by Jean-Christophe Rufin

Translated by Malcolm Imrie and Martina Dervis Reviewed by Terence Jagger Monsieur Rufin is an impressive man, having founded Médecins sans Frontières, been an ambassador for France in Senegal, written extensively in various genres, winning the Prix Goncourt, and was one of the youngest ever members of the Académie Française. I reviewed a novel of…

Checkpoint by Jean-Christophe Rufin

Translated by Alison Anderson Reviewed by Terence Jagger The first character we meet is Maud, a young and naive Frenchwoman who is apparently badly injured, being driven by Marc through the snow, pursued by forces they clearly fear but of which we know nothing. This prologue, it quickly appears, is not a prelude but a…

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

Translated by Susan Bernofsky Reviewed by Terence Jagger This is a rather engaging book, which on the surface is not entirely innocent of the grave crime of being cute, but the matter – and the way it is treated – not to mention the humour and the penetrating sidelights on everything from consumerism, climate change,…

Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo

Reviewed by Terence Jagger Lagos is not the capital of Nigeria – that is planned, concrete, unexciting Abuja, in the middle of the country but without a past or much atmosphere, the centre of government but of little real commercial or historic interest; this is where the lawmakers sit – it is not where the…

The Gardens of Consolation by Parisa Reza

Reviewed by Terence Jagger Translated by Adriana Hunter To the east, bare earth as far as the eye can see. To the west, hills … then on the horizon, mountains.  And a road, traced along the length of the desert, the length of the mountains, from Isfahan to Tehran.   That is the beginning of…