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Cressida Connolly rss

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Improbable, unconvincing and lazy - Ian McEwan’s latest is unforgivable

6 September 2014
The Children Act Ian McEwan

Cape, pp.224, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224101998

The Children Act could hardly be more attuned to the temper of the times, appearing just as our newspapers are full of a story about parents absconding to Spain with… Read more

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This thriller is as good as anything by Hilary Mantel

30 August 2014
The Silent Boy Andrew Taylor

HarperCollins, pp.432, £16.99, ISBN: 9780007506583

A few years ago, after a lifetime of wearing white shirts through which the straps of my white bra were plainly visible, I discovered a remarkable fact: if you wear… Read more

Dignity

The cruellest present you could give a hated old in-law

5 July 2014
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir Roz Chast

Bloomsbury, pp.240, £18.99, ISBN: 9781608198061

It takes a special sort of talent to be able to make drawings of your own 97-year-old mother on her deathbed funny. The person with that gift is Roz Chast.… Read more

John Burnside Photo: Getty

My desert island poet

31 May 2014
I Put a Spell on You John Burnside

Cape, pp.273, £14.99, ISBN: 9780224093873

If I had to be marooned on a desert island with a stranger, that stranger would be John Burnside. Not that he’s a literary Ray Mears: I rather doubt that… Read more

Jane Gardam Photo: Getty

No one would want to live in Jane Gardam's stories – but they're an amazing place to visit

24 May 2014
The Stories Jane Gardam

Little, Brown, pp.464, £20, ISBN: 9781408705681

In the world of Jane Gardam’s stories the past is always present, solid and often unwanted and always too big, like a heavy antique sideboard crammed into a modern retirement… Read more

Photo: Vetta / Getty

Mid-life crisis, 13th-century style

10 May 2014
The Ten Thousand Things John Spurling

Duckworth Overlook, pp.354, £16.99, ISBN: 9780715647318

The word delicate is seldom a compliment.  I once threw a saucepan of hot soup out of a fifth storey London window because a boyfriend said it had a delicate… Read more

George Saunders Photo: Getty

Samuel Beckett walks into a nail bar

29 March 2014
Tenth of December George Saunders

Bloomsbury, pp.288, £8.99, ISBN: 9781408837368

It isn’t very often that a writer’s work is so striking that you can remember exactly where and when you were when you first read it. I was in a… Read more

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Sometimes one story is worth buying a whole book for. This is one of those times

8 March 2014
Bark Lorrie Moore

Faber, pp.208, £14.99, ISBN: 9780307594136

All the Rage A.L. Kennedy

Cape, pp.224, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224098434

Any new book by Lorrie Moore is a cause for rejoicing, but her first collection of short stories for 16 years demands bunting, revelry and tap-dancing. She is one of… Read more

Scarlett O’Hara runs through the streets of burning Atlanta

'Where are the happy fictional spinsters?'

18 January 2014
How to be a Heroine, or What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much Samantha Ellis

Chatto, pp.250, £16.99, ISBN: 9780701187514

This book arose from an argument. Lifelong bookworm Samantha Ellis and her best friend had gone to Brontë country and were tramping about on the Yorkshire moors when they began… Read more

Letters of Note includes letters from Elvis Presley to President Nixon Photo: Mondadori via Getty

'God has given me a new Turkish colleague called Mustapha Kunt...'

30 November 2013
To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World Simon Garfield

Canongate, pp.464, £16.99, ISBN: 9780857868589

Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving a Wider Audience Shaun Usher

Canongate, pp.384, £30, ISBN: 9781782112235

Under normal circumstances, Simon Garfield’s chatty and informative excursion into the history of letter-writing would be a book to recommend. In recent years this author has produced eloquent and witty… Read more

Lucian Freud in his bedroom in Notting Hill, May 2011

Breakfast with Lucian, by Geordie Greig - review

12 October 2013
Breakfast with Lucian Geordie Greig

Cape, pp.272, £25, ISBN: 9780224096850

According to the medical historian Professor Sonu Shamdasani, Sigmund Freud was not the best, nor actually the most interesting, psychoanalyst in early 20th-century Vienna.  Rather, Freud’s genius lay in creating… Read more

Expo 58, by Jonathan Coe - review

21 September 2013
Expo 58 Jonathan Coe

Viking, pp.263, £16.99, ISBN: 9780670923724

In 1958 a vast international trade fair was held just outside Brussels. As well as being a showcase for industry, Expo 58 gave each country the chance to present something… Read more

Wreaking, by James Scudamore - review

27 July 2013
Wreaking James Scudamore

Harvill Secker, pp.389, £14.99, ISBN: 9780091933791

An abandoned lunatic asylum, a nasty pornographer in a wheelchair, a bizarre glass-ceilinged viewing dome beneath a scummy lake, a vast henchman, a mother who hears angels telling her she… Read more

All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld - review

25 May 2013
All the Birds, Singing Evie Wyld

Cape, pp.229, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224096683

Half in jest, Evie Wyld has described her highly garlanded first book After the Fire, a Still Small Voice as ‘a romantic thriller about men not talking’. The same description… Read more

The symbolism of the cemetery: the draped urn, popular among the Victorians, is usually taken to mean that the soul has departed the shrouded body for its journey to heaven

How to Read a Graveyard, by Peter Stanford - review

4 May 2013
How to Read a Graveyard Peter Stanford

Bloomsbury, pp.263, £16.99, ISBN: 9781441174777

Peter Stanford likes cemeteries. Daily walks with his dog around a London graveyard acclimatised him, while the deaths of his parents set him wondering about customs of mourning and places… Read more

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How Many Camels are there in Holland? by Phyillida Law - review

16 March 2013

Phyllida Law has a delightfully natural style, a gift for anecdote and the knack of seeing the funny side of pretty much everything.  She’s a good actor: she’s obviously a… Read more

Growing up the hard way

16 February 2013
Tin Toys Trilogy Ursula Holden

Virago Modern Classic, pp.418, £9.99, ISBN: 9781844088270

Like the gingerbread house, these three novels seem at first to be a delightful and innocent place, entirely suitable for the three not-quite orphaned young girls who are Holden’s heroines.… Read more

Love stories

9 February 2013
Unexpected Lessons in Love Bernadine Bishop

John Murray, pp.384, £16.99, ISBN: 9781848547827

The Fault in our Stars John Green

Penguin, pp.336, £7.99, ISBN: 9780141345659

Unfortunately for the reading public, most of Bernadine Bishop’s working life has been spent as a psychotherapist. Having published a couple of early novels, she put aside her pen, first… Read more

Virginia Ironside

Growing old disgracefully

19 January 2013

Virginia Ironside’s novel, No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses (Quercus £14.99) about a 65-year-old granny who belongs to a local residents’ association and does a fair bit of knitting may… Read more

The thin end of the wedge

1 December 2012
The Crocodile by the Door: The Story of a House, a Farm and a Family Selina Guinness

Penguin, pp.256, £16.99, ISBN: 9781844881574

Aunts, generally of an antic or highly unconventional kind, are a literary staple. Anyone wanting to find the best of them would do well to turn to Rupert Christiansen’s excellent… Read more

Urbs in rure

6 October 2012
Come to the Edge Joanna Kavenna

Quercus, pp.295, £12.99, ISBN: 9781780872131

When people express nostalgia for the glory days of British television, it doesn’t take long for them to propose the 1966 BBC play Cathy Come Home as among the pinnacles… Read more

Christopher Hitchens

Contrarian to the last

15 September 2012
Mortality Christopher Hitchens

pp.106, £10.99, ISBN: 9780857897657

We all love Oscar Wilde for saying, with his final breath, ‘I am dying beyond my means’. We love it because it’s funny, but also because it shows that he was… Read more

Are You My Mother, by Alison Bechdel

25 August 2012
Are You My Mother? Alison Bechdel

Cape, pp.286, 16.99, ISBN: 9780618982509

Alison Bechdel’s first book, Fun Home, enjoyed great acclaim: a memoir presented in comic-strip form, it described her father’s suicide and hidden homosexuality, her childhood visits to the family funeral… Read more

More table talk

4 August 2012
The Dinner Herman Koch

Atlantic Books, pp.309, 12.99, ISBN: 9781848873827

Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin has a lot to answer for. In the months after its publication, it became the printed equivalent of holy communion: wheresoever two… Read more

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A friendly poet

14 July 2012
Stephen Spender: New Selected Journals 1939-1995 Laura Feigel and John Sutherland with Natasha Spender

Faber & Faber, pp.816, 45, ISBN: 9780571237579

In real life, Stephen Spender was gentle and very tall, with wide-open pale blue eyes and a persistent air of slight hesitancy, as if he expected to be violently contradicted… Read more