The Race to Save the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport

Reviewed by Karen Langley The fate of the last of the Romanov Tsars and his family has exerted a fascination over the public during the century since their violent death in a basement in Ekaterinburg. Over the decades since there have been books and documentaries; investigations and conspiracy theories; and perhaps most famously a whole…

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Reviewed by David Harris Skinny Pete went to sleep, underfed and bony Skinny Pete went to sleep, and died a death so lonely. The enemy aren’t the Villains, nomads, scavengers, insomniacs, Ice-Hermits, Megafauna, nightwalker, hiburnal rodents or flesh eating cold slime – it’s the Winter. This is a standalone volume from Jasper Fforde, not part…

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth What happens when the walls around someone collapse – in this case, both literally and metaphorically? One take is that when you’re left without shelter under the open sky, you may have lost your security but have gained a clearer view on life instead. This is the premise for Barbara Kingsolver’s…

Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman

Reviewed by Liz Dexter Cathy Newman is one of Channel 4 News’ main studio presenters and specialises in investigative journalism too. Here she brings her feminism and writing talents to bear on, as she puts it in the subtitle of the book, some women that people might not have heard of, bringing their stories to…

The Flame – Leonard Cohen

Reviewed by Rob Spence For a while in the mid sixties to the early seventies, the singer-songwriter reigned supreme in popular music. Dylan, of course, was the pioneer, followed by James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and the rest of the hipperati of Laurel Canyon and beyond. Riding on the first wave, Leonard Cohen, recruited…

The Light in the Dark: A winter journal by Horatio Clare

Reviewed by Peter Reason Reading the title of this book and seeing the book cover, the prospective reader might, as did I, expect a book about the darker period of the year, and the night. And they would be right: this book is indeed about those darker times. But I have always liked the dark…

Murder By The Book by Claire Harman

Reviewed by Gill Davies Here is a real treat for readers interested in the sometimes hidden side of Victorian society and its relationship with literary culture. The book relates the story of a shocking crime that took place in 1840. An elderly and fairly insignificant member of the aristocracy was found in his bed with…

The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc

Translated by Derek Coltman Reviewed by Karen Langley There’s been a buzz recently about Penguin’s (re?) launch of their European Writers series, with the first two books by Mercè Rodoreda and Cesare Pavese garnering much online attention. The series has been described as an initiative to promote European literature to British readers; radical, perhaps, in…

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen Reviewed by Rob Spence The strap line chosen by the publishers for the cover of this massive novel is instructive: “None of us are ever finished. Everyone is always a work in progress.” Despite its Dickensian length, Murakami’s eighteenth work of fiction has the feel of the unfinished…

Books do furnish a Painting by Jamie Camplin & Maria Ranauro

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton Thames and Hudson have got form for publishing tempting books that combine art and literature – Eric Karpeles’ Paintings in Proust: a visual companion to In Search of Lost Time is easily the most compelling reason I’ve ever seen for reading In Search of Lost Time (maybe one day). Books do…

The Second Rider by Alex Beer

Translated by Tim Mohr Reviewed by Gill Davies The Second Rider is the first novel in a projected new series by the Austrian writer, Alex Beer. It is set in Vienna in winter 1919. The World War may be over but its horrors persist for the wounded, the hungry, the sick, the homeless and unemployed.…

Hippie by Paulo Coelho

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth Hippie is the newest addition to Coelho’s bibliography, but to say that it is something new from Coelho would be lying. Coelho’s previous autobiographical novels are all set on journeys: The Pilgrimage describes the author’s spiritual awakening on his 500-mile hike to Santiago de Compostela, The Valkyries tells the story of…

Death of the Vazir-Mukhtar by Yuri Tynianov

Translated by Susan Causey Translation editor Vera Tsareva-Brauner Reviewed by Karen Langley Recent years have seen a large number of works by Russian authors newly translated into the English language; many of these had disappeared under Soviet rule or while the authors were living abroad as émigrés, or simply because fashions in reading change. I’ve…

Viking Britain: A History by Thomas Williams

Reviewed by Liz Dexter Williams opens this wonderful, absorbing book with a big statement about how the Vikings are not afforded the same respect as, say, the Romans, having become almost a cartoonish stereotype, equated just about with pirates, cavemen and dinosaurs. He shares a rather ridiculous review of the British Museum’s Vikings: Life and…

By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts

Reviewed by David Harris Roberts seems to have been very busy lately so I’m glad he managed to include a return to the world of The Real-Town Murders, one of my favourite books of 2017. R!-Town is a futuristic version of Reading (the town on the Thames, not the bookish activity) though the futuristicness is less embodied in…

Banned Books Week: The Russians

By Karen Langley “The important task of literature is to free man, not to censor him.” (Anais Nin) The banning of books is an emotive topic; so much of the process seems to be arbitrary, subjective and liable to change as times change. However, it’s such a phenomenon that there is actually now a week…

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Reviewed by Laura Tisdall Having read every novel that Sarah Moss has written (plus most of her non-fiction) I was eagerly anticipating Ghost Wall. It didn’t disappoint, although its brevity made it feel a little less substantial than previous stand-outs like The Tidal Zone and Bodies of Light.  Set in the 1990s at a recreated Iron…

On Rape by Germaine Greer

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth To say that the statistics are grim is a blatant understatement. One woman in five will experience sexual violence, but very few cases end up in court, and the perpetrator faces punishment in even fewer. Non-consensual sex may be more common than consensual. Intense fear of rape is something of a…