The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Review by Basil Ransome-Davies, 13 August 2019 I’m no great fan of fiction written exclusively in the present tense, for all its reputed ‘immediacy’; I generally fancy novels with a past. But that’s not to say it can never work. I more than once laid aside The Chain to do something else, only to be…

The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds by Stephen Rutt

Review by Liz Dexter, 8 Aug 2019 This charming and perceptive book opens with a gut-wrenching account of taking off in a very small plane from Kirkwall in Orkney, travelling to North Ronaldsay. But how has the author got to this point? Well, he got into birdwatching through his father seeing his first Cetti’s warbler:…

The Perfect Wife by J P Delaney

Review by Annabel, 8 August 2019 I recently read J P Delaney’s first psychological thriller, The Girl Before, (which Harriet reviewed here) in advance of a crime panel event he was speaking at. The event was excellent and JP was fascinating to listen to talking about his second novel Believe Me, which was inspired by…

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

Review by Anna Hollingsworth, 6 August 2019 If Dr Frankenstein’s creation took the form of a book, Frankissstein is what I imagine it would look like. There’s a transgender doctor harvesting body parts for a rogue researcher, there’s a Welsh sexbot investor, and there’s Mary Shelley making love and writing her way across Europe with…

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff (pbk)

Review by Susan Osborne, 6 August 2019 Sofka Zinovieff’s Putney is a subtle novel which explores the fallout of sexual abuse all wrapped up in an engrossing piece of storytelling, accessible enough to offer an absorbing, intelligent summer read. When young composer Ralph visits the Putney home of a successful novelist keen to see his…

Necropolis by Vladislav Khodasevich

Translated by Sarah Vitali Review by Karen Langley, 1 Aug 2019 The Russian Library series from Columbia University Press has thrown up some marvellous treasures of literature from Russia, several of which I’ve previously covered here on Shiny New Books (here, here and here). However, they’ve outdone themselves with this recent release, a marvellous literary…

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio

Translated by Ann Goldstein Review by Gill Davies, 30 July 2019 It is 1975, somewhere in the south of Italy. A thirteen year old girl drags a suitcase and a bag of shoes up the stairs of a tenement building in an unknown town. She is about to meet  – and live with – people…

This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein (pbk)

Reviewed by Max Dunbar There’s a common British anecdote that goes: ‘We had some American friends here on holiday, and on the third day they drove to Stonehenge!’ The idea behind it is that because the UK is a small island, even driving to the next village seems like an epic poem. But Americans grow…

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

Reviewed by Harriet He wished that he could just once hear his sister play a solo again. Or help his sister pin up the hem on a dress she’d made. Or have a goodnight peck on the cheek from his mother – the most intimacy she could manage. They were not a family who touched.…

The Frayed Atlantic Edge by David Gange

Reviewed by Peter Reason David Gange is historian at the University of Birmingham and has a passion for mountains and wild water. Well before The Frayed Atlantic Edge was published, I came across him on Twitter and through his blog,  Mountain, Coast, River, much appreciating his stunning photographs from the western coasts of the British…

Picture by Lillian Ross

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies Picture is Lillian Ross’s 1951 account of the making and unmaking of a John Huston project, The Red Badge of Courage, a film adaption of Stephen Crane’s 1895 novel. It was originally serialised in the New Yorker. Among Ross’s numerous antipathies, according to a piece by Andrew O’Hagan (LRB 41, 13),…

The Body Lies by Jo Baker

Reviewed by Gill Davies The prelude to the main events of the novel is a random, terrifying sexual assault on the central character. She is a young writer, with a well-received debut novel, living in south London in a small flat with her husband Mark, a teacher. She is working in a bookshop, trying to…

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…

This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

Edited by Clare Farrell, Alison Green, Sam Knights, and William Skeaping. Review by Peter Reason There cannot be many followers of Shiny New Books who are not aware of the activities of Extinction Rebellion. Reports of the shutdown of London bridges and the later occupation of five major London sites for ten days, and of…

A Stranger in my Grave by Margaret Millar

Reviewed by Harriet Margaret Millar, born in Canada in 1915, lived for most of her life in California with her husband Ken, who wrote crime novels under the name Ross Macdonald. She died in 1994 but still has a loyal following, so it’s great that Pushkin Vertigo are reprinting some of her 27 novels. I…

Tragedy, Farce and the Future: the Red Circle Minis

Reviewed by Karen Langley As I’ve explained in my Bookbuzz feature, the Red Circle Minis are three slim volumes of original writing published by Red Circle Authors. Each book is by a writer who’s either Japanese or living in Japan, but the works are being issued in English initially as an attempt to widen the…

Red Circle Authors: An unusual and innovative venture

Feature by Karen Langley Japanese literature has a long and rich heritage stretching from early works like The Pillow Book (990s) and The Tale of Genji (early 11th century) to modern masters such as Murakami. Some of my personal favourites, such as Yukio Mishima, hail from the 20th century, but Japan continues to be a…

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

Translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce Reviewed by Annabel Since I discovered the feelgood novels by French author Antoine Laurain, brought to us in translation by Gallic Books, I’ve seized upon each new release upon publication. Vintage 1954 is his seventh, his first new work since French Rhapsody, which I reviewed for Shiny here,…

The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz

Translated by Roger Allen Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth On the rare occasions that someone uncovers unpublished work by a deceased writer, publishing takes an archeological turn. An unpublished manuscript, like a mummified pharaoh or a Stone Age tool, can prove to be a gift from beyond the grave – for literature lovers and no doubt…

Selfies by Sylvie Weil

Translated by Ros Schwartz Reviewed by Karen Langley The selfie might seem to be a very modern phenomenon; the sight of people constantly stretching their arms out and craning to get a snap of themselves in a special location or with a famous person has become commonplace. We live in a modern age characterised by…

Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies The day my review copy of Cari Mora arrived I spent the afternoon strolling on Morecambe’s splendid promenade. The view across the Bay from the Naples of the North is elevating even in dull weather. Hitting Morrisons for a light shop, as you do, I was overwhelmed at the entrance by…

The Cracks in our Armour by Anna Gavalda

Translated by Alison Anderson Reviewed by Harriet Way back in the early days of Shiny (issue 5 to be exact) I reviewed Anna Gavalda’s slender novel Billie. As I said in that review, I was first introduced to Gavalda in a French class, where we were reading and translating her celebrated novel Ensemble, C’est Tout,…

Lisbon Tales, edited by Helen Constantine

Translated by Amanda Hopkinson Reviewed by Karen Langley If you’re an armchair traveller like I am, the “City Tales” collection of books from Oxford University Press will be a real treat and perfect reading for you. To date there have been eleven titles collecting together stories from places like Moscow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna and Rome…