D. J. Taylor rss

The devastation left behind after the Blitz (Photo: Getty)

Ghosts of the past haunt Pat Barker’s bomb-strewn London

29 August 2015
Noonday Pat Barker

Hamish Hamilton, pp.259, £18.99, ISBN: 9780241146064

If the early Martin Amis is instantly recognisable by way of its idiosyncratic slang (‘rug-rethink’, ‘going tonto’ etc) then the later Pat Barker can be similarly identified by its finely… Read more

Barbara Pym (Photo: Getty)

Barbara Pym: a woman scorned

23 May 2015
Barbara Pym: A Passionate Force Ann Allestree

Book Guild, pp.158, £17.99, ISBN: 9781910298510

Anyone who has ever listened to the thump of a rejected manuscript descending cheerlessly on to the mat can take comfort from the roller-coaster career of Barbara Pym. Between 1950… Read more

October 1984:  Firemen inspect the shell of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, destroyed by an IRA sleeper bomb which was intended to kill Margaret Thatcher. Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images

Hilary Mantel’s fantasy about killing Thatcher is funny. Honest

27 September 2014
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories Hilary Mantel

4th Estate, pp.244, £14.99, ISBN: 9781627792103

Heaven knows what the millions of purchasers of the Man Booker-winning Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies will make of the ten stories collected here, for they return us… Read more

(Photo: The Art Archive/Anthony Stewart / NGS)

The thrill of the (postmodern neo-Victorian) chase

9 November 2013
Rustication Charles Palliser

Norton, pp.325, £12.99, ISBN: 9780393348231

Charles Palliser’s debut novel The Quincunx appeared as far back as 1989. Lavish and labyrinthine, this shifted nigh on a million copies, while more or less inaugurating the genre of… Read more

Nowhere to go but down

21 April 2012
Skagboys Irvine Welsh

Cape, pp.548, 12.99

I am just old enough to remember the terrific fuss that was made about the first Scots literary renaissance when it kicked into gear in the early 1980s. Inaugurated by… Read more

Doomed to disillusion

7 May 2011
The Forgotten Waltz Anne Enright

Cape, pp.240, 16.99

The Forgotten Waltz is one of those densely recapitulative novels that seek to interpret emotional crack-up from the angle of its ground-down aftermath. At the same time, it is not… Read more


Acting strange

11 September 2010
The Water Theatre Lindsay Clarke

Alma Books, pp.435, 12.99

Reviewing Lindsay Clarke’s Whitbread-winning The Chymical Wedding a small matter of 20 years ago, and noting its free and easy cast and wistful nods in the direction of the Age… Read more

Physical and spiritual decay

7 July 2010
The Misogynist Piers Paul Read

Bloomsbury, pp.257, 16.99

The most striking thing about Piers Paul Read’s early novels was their characters’ susceptibility to physical decay. The most striking thing about Piers Paul Read’s early novels was their characters’… Read more


Dogged by misfortune

17 March 2010
Landed Tim Pears

Heinemann, pp.230, 12.99

Unusually for a work of fiction, Tim Pears’ new novel opens with a spread of black-and-white photographs, part of an ‘investigator’s report’ into a fatal collision said to have taken… Read more

Rural flotsam

21 October 2009
Notwithstanding Louis de Bernières

Harvill/Secker, pp.275, 12.99

Notwithstanding’s suite of inter- linked stories draws on Louis de Bernière’s memories of the Surrey village (somewhere near Godalming, you infer) where he lived as a boy. Notwithstanding’s suite of… Read more

Transcontinental satires

1 July 2009
Jerusalem Patrick Neate

Penguin/Fig Tree, pp.407, 16.99

One could easily get lost in Jerusalem’s myriad compartments. To begin with there is Preston Pinner, CEO of ‘AuthencityTM’, otherwise known as the ‘hip hub’, a ‘contemporary cultural consulting and… Read more

Trouble at the Imperial

6 May 2009
In the Kitchen Monica Ali

Doubleday, pp.430, 17.99

It was probably a mistake for Monica Ali to call the hero of her third novel Gabriel Lightfoot. The reader thinks of Hardy’s bucolic swains and the reddle-man’s cart disappearing… Read more

A master of drab grotesques

29 October 2008
Craven House Patrick Hamilton

Black Spring Press, pp.272, 9.95

Craven House, by Patrick Hamilton Patrick Hamilton (d. 1962) was a supremely odd fish, a kind of case-study in psychological extremism who drank himself to death at the early age… Read more

Waves of geniality

2 July 2008
Grub Street Irregular: Scenes from Jeremy Lewis

Harper Press, pp.330, 20

No disrespect to Jeremy Lewis, this third amiable volume of autobiography or his hopeful sponsors at the Harper Press, but it is extraordinary that books like this still get written.… Read more

The return of Kureishi-man

27 February 2008
Something to Tell You Hanif Kureishi

Faber, pp.344, 15.99

Anthony Powell always maintained that readers who disliked his early books did so on essentially non-literary grounds. Conservative reviewers of the 1930s, irked by the party-going degenerates of a novel… Read more

Capturing the decade

23 January 2008
Granta 100 edited by William Boyd

Granta, pp.349, 12.99

Tugging the review copy of Granta 100 out of its jiffy bag, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I would write down the names of the writers whom I… Read more

The fading of the Cambridge dawn

7 November 2007
Fame and Fortune Frederic Raphael

JR Books, pp.295, 16.99

An exhausting life it must be, being the hero of a Frederic Raphael novel. There you are, writing your bestselling books, finessing those Hollywood film scripts that pile up on… Read more

War-war and jaw-jaw

10 October 2007
The Painter of Battles Arturo Perez-Reverte, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden

Weidenfeld, pp.224, 12.99

Much of The Painter of Battles takes place in a crumbling watchtower on the Spanish coast, its silence broken only by the respectful commentary issuing from the daily tourist boat.… Read more

Trusty steeds and saucy varlets

8 August 2007
Charlemagne and Roland Allan Massie

Weidenfeld, pp.pp. 232, £12.99

Supposedly narrated by the scholar and Aristotelian Michael Scott to his pupil the future Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, sometime in the early 13th century, Charlemagne and Roland completes the… Read more

Too little, too late

8 March 2007
A Curious Earth Gerard Woodward

Chatto, pp.290, 12.99

Aldous Jones, the hero of Gerard Woodward’s heroically odd third novel, has sunk into a decline. His wife dead, his only solace the bottle, the retired art teacher sits in… Read more

Things falling apart

1 February 2007
Measuring Time Helon Habila

Hamish Hamilton, pp.383, 16.99

Q: How to write imaginatively about the developing world? The old Naipaul-style methods of tragicomic ironising seem to be on the way out. Magic realism, where the butterfly clouds float… Read more

Two stricken strikers

11 October 2006
Best and Edwards Gordon Burn

Faber, pp.255, 16.99

The most affecting moment in Gordon Burn’s new book is only marginally connected to its subjects. Borrowed from Jackie Milburn’s autobiography Golden Goals, it takes in a long-ago Christmas morning… Read more

Laughing to some purpose

28 September 2006
Revel with a Cause: Liberal Satire in Postwar America Stephen E. Kercher

University of Chicago Press, pp.560, 22.50

As a late Seventies teenager, I was exposed to two distinct brands of American humour — or ‘yomour’ as it tended to be pronounced — each diametrically opposed to the… Read more

More than meets the eye — or not

12 July 2006
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman Haruki Murakami tr. by Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin

Harvill Secker, pp.334, 16.99

Not long ago I listened to a Radio Two interviewer interrogating Kate Bush about her new album. The particular track that had excited his interest was ‘Mrs Bartolozzi’, a puzzling… Read more

Fragments of village life

31 May 2006
Alentejo Blue Monica Ali

Doubleday, pp.297, 14.99

Listing page content here Brick Lane, Monica Ali’s first novel, sold a great many copies and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It was also criticised by those guardians… Read more