Alice by Elizabeth Eliot

Reviewed by Simon Hurrah to Dean Street Press and their continued Furrowed Middlebrow series, bringing back underrated women writers that most of us haven’t heard of before. Elizabeth Eliot certainly fits that category for me, but after reading Alice (1949), I’ll be keen to read more Eliot. Despite being called Alice, the narrator is Margaret…

No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel

Translated by Stephanie Smee Reviewed by Harriet When I was first offered this book for review, I turned it down, for reasons that are now not clear to me. Then I had second thoughts and how glad I am that I did. If I say it’s my best read for 2019 that’s not saying much,…

Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

Reviewed by Harriet Written in just two months while its author was a patient in a psychiatric clinic, Zelda Fitzgerald’s first and only novel found a publisher in 1932. Three thousand copies were printed, but fewer than half actually sold, and for more than thirty years the novel sank without trace. When it was republished…

The Chronicles of Clovis by Saki

Reviewed by Simon Saki is one of those writers a lot of people have heard of but haven’t read – and, as A.A. Milne’s introduction in this reprint (itself a reprint from a much earlier edition) notes, his fans are cautious of sharing so wonderful a gem with those who might not be appreciative. Well,…

The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin

Reviewed by Harriet How Ivor would have loved being dead! It was a shame he was missing it all. First published in 1975, this very welcome reprint shows Celia Fremlin at her best. A psychological thriller with a hint of the supernatural (or is it?), it’s a real page-turner with the usual brilliantly-drawn secondary characters…

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

Reviewed by Harriet Why had I never heard of Margaret Millar until I spotted this reprint by Pushkin Vertigo? Because, I suppose, she was one of those people who have their moment of fame and then sink without trace. In fact Millar, who was born in Canada, had a successful career, wrote 27 novels, and…

Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Reviewed by Harriet Do you believe in fairies? Probably at a young age most people would say they did. And together with an idea implanted by popular books and paintings, which presented them as tiny ethereal creatures flitting around on gossamer wings, would come a concept of fairyland, undefined, pretty, vague and hazy. The scepticism…

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…

The Bright Side of Life by Emile Zola

Translated by Andrew Rothwell Reviewed by Harriet Fans of Monty Python may have a bit of trouble with this title – I’ve had their iconic song stuck in my head for weeks. In French the novel was called La Joie de Vivre – the joy of life – and I’m not convinced that the new…

Sentimental Tales by Mikhail Zoshchenko

Translated by Boris Dralyuk Review by Karen Langley Russian satirical writing has a rich heritage, stretching all the way back to  the  time of Catherine the Great and continuing into the current day. It’s a way of writing that has served the country’s people well during any number of repressive regimes, and was particularly vital…

Man Booker at 50: 2009-2017

And finally, this fifth decade brings us up to date with previous winners of the Man Booker Prize. In 2010, the organisation decided to create “The Lost Booker” to celebrate books that missed out due to a change in the prize’s rules over publication dates. As previously, a shortlist was drawn up and put to…

Man Booker at 50: The ones that got away

It’s not always the case (or often?) that judges and readers are all in agreement on longlists, let alone the shortlists or eventual winners of literary prizes. Here we look at a few of those shortlisted books and authors that our reviewers feel should have won. Let us know if you agree, and do tell…

Man Booker at 50: 1999-2008

The prize’s fourth decade marked the first time, in 2001, that the longlist was revealed to the world at large. It decade also marked two second wins for previous winners, Carey and Coetzee, who both won for the first time in the 1980s. In 2008, it was the fortieth anniversary of the prize. Once again…

Man Booker at 50: 1989-1998

During the prize’s third decade, for the second time in its history, two books tied for top spot in 1992. Then, in 1993, the prize turned twenty-five. To celebrate, three previous judges met to choose a “Booker of Bookers”. They picked Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children from 1981. In 1998, for the Prize’s thirtieth birthday, Booker…

Man Booker at 50: 1979-1988

The second decade of the prize, apart from producing the “Booker of Bookers” in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, was enlivened by some tight judging decisions. In 1980, it was William Golding vs Anthony Burgess with Earthly Powers – and apparently Burgess refused to attend the presentation unless he was told in advance whether he had…

Man Booker at 50: 1969-1978

When the Booker Prize was inaugurated, prizes for literature were rather looked down upon, they just didn’t make much impact. Tom Maschler looked at the huge success of the French Prix Goncourt, and campaigned for an English prize with the aim of stimulating interest in British literature. Convinced this idea had legs, he started to…

Vocations by Gerald O’Donovan

Reviewed by Julie Barham This Irish novel, originally published in 1921, reprinted by Handheld Press, is a tremendously engaging read. Dealing with the fates of two girls in Catholic Ireland, it is a searing picture of the way that the established church worked in small communities dominated by priests and the local convent. Moreover, it…

The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers

Translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo Reviewed by Gill Davies The Seventh Cross is set in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and was first published in German in 1942. Seghers was a Communist, of Jewish descent, and escaped to Mexico with her husband and children in 1940. The novel was published there, and in the United…

A Dead Rose by Aurora Cáceres

Translation, Foreword & Notes by Laura Kanost Reviewed by Karen Langley The female form is often idealised in art and media, from classical sculptures through paintings and in more modern times with fashion photography and the general objectification of women. It takes a brave woman to take on those stereotypes and play with them, which…

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull

Reviewed by Harriet ‘From its first appearance in 1934, Richard Hull’s The Murder of my Aunt was recognised as something special in crime fiction’. So says Martin Edwards in his introduction to this recent reissue in the British Library Crime Classics series. The novel was highly praised when it first came out, and was much admired…