The Language of Birds by Jill Dawson

Review by Susan Osborne, 1 April 2020 I’m a fan of Jill Dawson’s writing. Her last novel, The Crime Writer, was a wonderful piece of literary fan fiction, a perverse love letter to Patricia Highsmith. However, when I read that The Language of Birds was based on the notorious Lord Lucan affair I wasn’t at…

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Reviewed by Harriet, 31 March 2020 I’ve reviewed two of Peter Swanson’s excellent psychological thrillers on Shiny – here and here. There have been a couple of others since then, reviewed on my blog rather than on here, and the standard has always been high. So I was delighted to get my hands on a…

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

Review by Laura Marriott, 26 March 2020 We start at a dinner party. If you groan inwardly at the very thought of a family dinner party then you are on the same page as Johnny Casey. The oldest of the three Casey brothers, all talented and good looking with impressive wives, he is turning 49…

The Ruins by Mat Osman

Review by Annabel, 19 March 2020 I am an absolute sucker for any novel with a bit of rock’n’roll in it, and two of my favourite reads from 2019 fitted that bill. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & The Six was one of them (reviewed here), but the novel that went on to be top…

Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin

Translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins Review by David Hebblethwaite, 12 March 2020 Winter in Sokcho is a first in several senses: the debut novel by French-Korean writer Elisa Shua Dusapin, and the first title published in Daunt Books’ new Originals list. Dusapin’s narrator is a young woman working in a guest house…

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth, 3 March 2020 There’s a point in Miss Austen where I felt that my sins had been found out. Cassandra, Jane Austen’s now elderly sister, tells a younger relation off for speculating about Jane’s love life: ”When your Aunt Jane was still with us and enjoying her little burst of success,…

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Review by Annabel, 25 February 2020 Anyone who works in a school will, these days, be familiar with ‘lockdown’ procedures, with code reds being the ones you hope you’ll only ever have to practice; the make yourselves as invisible as you can to an intruder ones. Lupton’s latest novel takes such an awful situation, placing…

Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini

Translated by J. Ockenden Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Who could resist the title of this Italian bestseller? A black comedy about a hermit in the Italian Alps, it starts off like Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life and becomes increasingly reminiscent of Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead with its remote…

Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe (pbk)

Lizzie Vogel, whom we first met aged nine in Stibbe’s novel, Man at the Helm (reviewed here), is now eighteen: it’s 1979 and she is ready to find a proper full time job. She’s had some practice: when she was fifteen, she worked as a nursing auxiliary, recounted in a second volume, Paradise Lodge (reviewed…

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Reviewed by Laura Tisdall, 13 February 2020 Jai is nine years old and lives with his family in the slums of New Delhi. He loves watching reality cop shows, especially Police Patrol (presumably a fictionalised version of Crime Patrol), waits hungrily for his mother to bring back special food from her job as a maid in one of the…

It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo

Translated by Elizabeth Bryer Review by Susan Osborne, 11 February 2020 Venezuelan writer Karina Sainz Borgo’s It Would Be Night in Caracas is one of three novels published to launch HarperVia, a new imprint from HarperCollins dedicated to publishing literature in translation. It sets the bar pleasingly high with its immersive story of a middle-aged…

Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas

Review by Annabel, 4 February 2020 Oligarchy is Thomas’s first adult novel for a few years; lately she has written three well-received children’s books, but is now back with one for grown-ups – or is it? Oligarchy is set in a boarding school for girls, its protagonists are a group of teenaged pupils, but while…

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Review by Anna Hollingsworth, 21 January 2020 Let’s face it: anything involving human tragedies, poverty, despair, abuse and crime offers a wealth of material for a novelist of any genre. At the risk of sounding cold-bloodedly utilitarian, the stories of the thousands of migrants attempting to cross the US-Mexico border every year fit the bill…

Happy Ever After by C. C. MacDonald

Review by Basil Ransome-Davies, 21 January 2020 Adultery. It crops up everywhere. Few grown-up pastimes are as popular as disobeying the sixth Commandment. Where would novels, plays and movies be without it? It’s transgressive, it’s exciting, it motors the story. Historically, it has been far more tolerable for men than for women. A man needs…

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (pbk)

Review by Annabel, 12 December 2019 This short novel told in letters took me pleasantly by surprise. Within pages I was hooked, and I read it in one extended sitting, shedding a tear along the way as I followed the story of the developing friendship between two lonely middle-aged people.  Tina and Anders are separated by…

Sorry for the Dead by Nicola Upson

Reviewed by Harriet, 27 November 2019 Here at Shiny we are great admirers of Nicola Upson’s books – her most recent novel, Stanley and Elsie, was reviewed here, and we’ve also covered two of her Josephine Tey crime novels here and here.  These were numbers six and seven in this on-going series, and now we…

The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North

Review by David Harris, 26 November 2019 A new book by Claire North is always a very special event in my reading calendar, and William Abbey didn’t disappoint. In something of the same vein as the Flying Dutchman, this is a tale of a man cursed after an act of selfishness. William Abbey is a mediocre doctor in…

Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton (pbk)

Review by Helen Skinner, 26 November 2019 It’s 1768 and Sara Kemp has just arrived in Spitalfields, the London parish which has become home to a thriving community of Huguenot silk weavers. Sara is full of hope and optimism, ready to start a new life, but before she’s had time to get her bearings she…

Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong

Translated by Natascha Bruce Review by David Hebblethwaite, 21 November 2019 Ho Sok Fong is a Malaysian writer whose short stories have won a number of awards. Lake Like a Mirror is her second collection, originally published in Chinese in 2014. The women at the heart of these nine stories are not in full control…

The Measure of a Man by Marco Malvaldi

Translated by Howard Curtis and Katherine Gregor Review by Terence Jagger, 21 Nov 2019 I was intrigued to see this novel on my doormat: Malvaldi is better known (to me at least) as a writer of crime stories, and I read his Three-Card Monte with pleasure (my Shiny review is here). But that is light,…

Your Duck is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg

Review by Terence Jagger, 14 November 2019 This, in spite of its slightly silly sounding title, is an interesting and slightly mysterious collection of six short stories. They are all very different, but share a common characteristic, that the author lets the reader into the narrative secrets only gradually, and then not completely.  Some of…

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver (pbk)

Review by Annabel, 12 November 2019 I read and really enjoyed Paver’s first two adult novels, both ghost stories. The first, Dark Matter was located in the Arctic, which was followed by Thin Air set in the Himalayas, and both were also set in the mid 1930s. Given their similar nature, I preferred Thin Air, which I had read first, particularly…

Akin by Emma Donoghue

Review by Harriet, 7 November 2019 Back in 2010 I read Emma Donoghue’s best selling, prize winning Room. I admired it but I can’t say I enjoyed it. Not only because the story itself, which deals with the experiences of Jack, a five-year-old boy who has lived his entire life trapped, by his rapist father,…

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Review by Liz Dexter, 5 November 2019 Amma is a playwright and director who’s moved from the fringes to the mainstream (or has it moved to her?). Yazz is a millennial student, sure of herself and never wrong, who categorises her godparents according to what accompanies their birthday cards. Dominique made a mistake and ended…

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Review by Harriet, 31 October 2019 I’ve reviewed two of Elizabeth Strout’s novels on Shiny here and here and both were brilliant. But possibly my favourite up to now has been her 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, which, in a series of interlinked short stories, introduces the eponymous Olive, a middle-aged schoolteacher living in the…