Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel I’ve followed Fuller’s writing career since her marvellous debut, Our Endless Numbered Days, through her second totally different novel Swimming Lessons (reviewed here and here). Her third novel is different again. On first glance, it appears to be a country house mystery, however, to classify it as such would be to do…

Q&A with Nicola Upson on Stanley and Elsie

Questions by Harriet Harriet: Thanks for agreeing to do this, Nicola. I have recently finished reading and reviewing Stanley and Elsie and enjoyed it tremendously. So my first question has to be – when and how did the idea for the novel first come to you? Nicola: About ten years ago. I’ve loved Stanley Spencer’s…

Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson

Reviewed by Harriet Nicola Upson is best known to me, and probably to you, as the author of a series of excellent historical crime novels featuring the well-known novelist and playwright Josephine Tey. Here we have her in quite a different mode: Stanley and Elsie is a novel based in the true life history of…

Chromatopia: An Illustrated History of Colour by David Coles

Reviewed by Liz Dexter This truly spectacular book would grace any coffee table with ease, but it’s more than just a pretty face, with fascinating facts in abundance and offers a good read to anyone interested in art, colour or indeed chemistry. After an introduction to the author, who runs a small paint-making company in…

Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton I’ve enjoyed more or less everything I’ve read in the British Library Crime Classics series (everything has had something to recommend it), but Michael Gilbert’s books have been a particularly happy discovery. I really hope there will be more (there are some spectacularly ugly house of Stratus editions of his work…

We, the Survivors by Tash Aw

Reviewed by Rob Spence Malaysian novelist Tash Aw’s fourth novel marks a departure in style for him. Rather than the broad canvas he presented in earlier works such as The Harmony Silk Factory and Five Star Billionaire, here the focus is relentlessly on the life of one man, Ah Hock, and the murder that constitutes…

Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, edited by Lucy Caldwell

Reviewed by Laura Marriott Ireland is going through a golden age of writing: that has never been more apparent. I wanted to capture something of the energy of this explosion, in all its variousness… [Lucy Caldwell] When picking up a collection of short stories, many will choose to do the same as I did and…

Cold For the Bastards of Pizzofalcone by Maurizio de Giovanni

Translated by Antony Shugaar Reviewed by Gill Davies This is the third book in a series of police procedural novels by the successful Italian crime writer Maurizio De Giovanni (also the author of the best-selling Commissario Ricciardi series). This is the first novel by de Giovanni that I have read – and he certainly knows…

Lux by Elizabeth Cook

Reviewed by Julie Barham This is an immensely profound book. It encompasses huge themes – birth and death, self imposed exile and imprisonment, the deep thought of the well known and the hardly known. Bible stories and Tudor history flow through a novel that made me stop and think, consider the big questions of guilt…

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…

Berg by Ann Quin

Reviewed by Helen Parry Until a couple of months ago, I had never heard of Ann Quin. However, I then read that the independent publisher And Other Stories was re-issuing her 1964 novel, Berg, and it sounded very interesting: according to Wikipedia, Berg was influenced by the work of Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett and Anna…

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…

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth In the run-up to its publication, Isabella Hammad’s The Parisian was trumpeted as one of the most significant debuts of the year. There were promises of pure genius and literary stardom, all crystallized in a truly exceptional novel that tackles Palestine in the early decades of the 20th century. On the…

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

Reviewed by Liz Dexter I felt a little overwhelmed facing up to reviewing this book, as there have been many reviews published since it came out in March this year. But then, looking at those reviews, you notice something: most of them are by women. Because, inevitably it seems, this will have been ‘othered’, passed…

The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin by Geoffrey Hill

Reviewed by Rob Spence When Geoffrey Hill died in 2016, his monumental Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952 -2012 was still fresh, its astonishing range and scope providing ample testimony to the poet’s achievements over six decades. It seemed as if that volume would provide a fitting capstone to a career in which he had resolutely followed…

Five Fascinating Facts About… Daphne du Maurier

Compiled by Annabel Ali at her blog, Heavenali, is hosting Daphne du Maurier reading week from May 13-19, so we’re joining in. One:  Jamaica Inn, the setting for her famous novel of 1936, sits high on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. It was built in 1750 as a coaching inn and was a stopping-off place for…

Little Boy by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Reviewed by Karen Langley American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti is perhaps more regularly acknowledged nowadays for his pivotal role in pioneering the Beat Generation; from founding the famous City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, to championing writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg, he was a crucial element in the success of the Beat authors. Yet he’s also…

Horizon by Barry Lopez

Reviewed by Peter Reason Barry Lopez is one of the greats of ‘nature writing’ (although he dislikes the term, as it seems do most ‘nature writers’!). He is most widely known for Arctic Dreams: Imagination and desire in a northern landscape, which is widely regarded as a classic. His non-fiction includes Of Wolves and Men,…

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Reviewed by Gill Davies The cover illustration for the book is an aerial view of a suburban street. A pattern of identical houses with green lawns and tidy spaces symbolises the “America” of myth. It reflects a political fantasy of uniformity of race, class, gender and sexuality. But this is an America of exclusion, that…

The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin

Translated by Euan Cameron Reviewed by Harriet In this magical novel, we are in Japan, many many years ago. The small, unremarkable village of Shimae lies on the banks of the river Kusagawa, which for many years has provided an income for the village. For wonderfully large and beautiful carp can be caught in the…

Crossing by Pajtim Statovci

Translated by David Hackston Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth Crossing is perhaps one of the vaguest book titles I have come across recently, especially given the trend towards sentence-length titles (think Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared). I had my misgivings about it, suspecting an attempt…

The Kindness of Strangers by Salka Viertel

Reviewed by Lizzy Siddal There are times when an autobiography by someone you’ve never heard of just slots into your current reading stream. Such was the case when New York Review of Books released a new edition of Salka Viertel’s The Kindness of Strangers. With the #germanlitmonth readalong of Roth’s Radetzky March on the horizon,…

The Strange Case of Harriet Hall by Moray Dalton

Reviewed by Elaine Simpson-Long More and more unknown or unfamiliar writers of the Golden Age of detective fiction are being unearthed and reprinted and this pleases me mightily.  Having read and re-read all of Agatha Christie, D L Sayers and Ngaio Marsh to mention just a few, finding new authors coming to light is like…

Metropolis by Philip Kerr

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Swan Song (For A City) Stephen King once wrote of the ‘Grey Havens’ as a kind of afterlife where fictional characters can relax after their authors die or finish their stories. I had the idea that he got this from Tolkien, but a Wiki search brings up the place as a…