James Walton rss

American novelist Siri Hustvedt Photo: Getty

Caught between a New Age rock and a theory junkie hard place

22 March 2014
The Blazing World Siri Hustvedt

Sceptre, pp.379, £18.99, ISBN: 9781444779646

Siri Hustvedt’s new novel isn’t exactly an easy read — but the casual bookshop browser should be reassured that it’s nowhere near as punishing as the opening pages might suggest.… Read more

The Windsor Faction, by D.J. Taylor - review

14 September 2013
The Windsor Faction D.J. Taylor

Chatto and Windus, pp.373, £14,99, ISBN: 9780701187873

In both his novels and non-fiction, D. J. Taylor has long been fascinated by the period between the wars. Now in The Windsor Faction, he brings us a counterfactual version.… Read more

Lion Heart by Justin Cartwright - review

31 August 2013
Lion Heart Justin Cartwright

Bloombury, pp.330, £18.99, ISBN: 9781408839799

Justin Cartwright is famously a fan of John Updike — and here he seems to owe a definite debt to one of his hero’s lesser known novels. In Memories of… Read more

The People’s Songs, by Stuart Maconie - a review

20 July 2013
The People’s Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records Stuart Maconie

Ebury, pp.420, £20, ISBN: 9780091933791

For Stuart Maconie fans, this book might sound as if it’ll be his masterpiece. In his earlier memoirs and travelogues, he’s proved himself a fine writer: sharp, funny, tender and… Read more

The Spinning Heart, by Donal Ryan - review

29 June 2013
The Spinning Heart Donal Ryan

Doubleday Ireland, pp.159, £12.99, ISBN: 9781781620069

Despite being so short, The Spinning Heart certainly can’t be accused of lacking ambition. Over the course of its 150-odd pages, Donal Ryan’s first novel introduces us to no fewer… Read more

And the Mountain Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini - review

11 May 2013
And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini

Bloomsbury, pp.404, £18.99, ISBN: 9781408842423

The American comedian Stephen Colbert once joked that when he publicly criticised the novels of Khaled Hosseini, his front garden was invaded by angry members of women’s books groups. They… Read more

Striped bodysuit designed by Kansai Yamamoto, 1973, for the Aladdin Sane tour

Why David Bowie is still underrated

13 April 2013

Is it just me, or is there quite a lot being written about David Bowie at the moment? Of course, there’s the fact that the V&A’s blockbuster exhibition has coincided… Read more

Scenes from Pride and Prejudice. Left to right: Charlotte and Mr Collins, Mr and Mrs Bennet at home, Lydia claims to be taller than her sisters, Mr Collins is horrified by the idea of reading a novel, Lady Catherine de Burgh with her nephews. Illustrations by Hugh Thomson from Happily Ever After

Whatever happened to dear Aunt Jane?

26 January 2013
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things Paula Byrne

Harper Press, pp.380, £25, ISBN: 9780007358328

Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Susannah Fullerton

Frances Lincoln, pp.240, £16.99 (ebook £14), ISBN: 9780711233744

In 1818, an unknown critic in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine went out on something of a limb. One day, he claimed, Jane Austen would be among the most popular of English… Read more

Canadian singer and poet Leonard Cohen i

Crying and laughing about it all

10 November 2012
I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen Sylvie Simmons

Cape, pp.546, £20, ISBN: 9780224090636

For many biographers of popular musicians, the obvious problem is that the only interesting bit comes when your subjects are in their brief creative pomp. For Sylvie Simmons, the situation… Read more

Still Waters run deep

13 October 2012
San Miguel T.C. Boyle

Bloomsbury, pp.367, £14.99, ISBN: 9781408830697

T.C. Boyle is not one of those authors who can be accused of writing the same novel again and again. Over the past 30 years, his subject matter has ranged… Read more


15 September 2012
John Saturnall's Feast Lawrence Norfolk Bloomsbury

pp.416, £16.99, ISBN: 9781408805961

Starting with Lemprière’s Dictionary — an unexpected worldwide hit in the early 1990s — Lawrence Norfolk has never been a man for the slim novella. Complicated of plot and huge… Read more


Bookends: The Saint Zita Society, by Ruth Rendell

18 August 2012

Sometimes it seems as if Ruth Rendell’s heart just isn’t in all that killing any more. Certainly, her latest book, The Saint Zita Society (Hutchinson, £12.99), works best as a… Read more

Little Miss Sunshine

4 August 2012
Mo said she was quirky James Kelman

Hamish Hamilton, pp.229, 14.99, ISBN: 9780241144565

James Kelman is famously not a man fond of making concessions — whether to bourgeois interviewers, literary fashions, traditional punctuation or his own readers. Sure enough, his latest novel comes… Read more

Don’t hold your breath

16 June 2012
Canada Richard Ford

Bloomsbury, pp.420, 18.99, ISBN: 9780747598602

The case for Richard Ford isn’t hard to make. Ever since his breakthrough novel The Sportswriter in 1986, his multi-award-winning fiction has combined an unsparing intelligence with an unashamed high-mindedness… Read more

Heroics and mock-heroics

14 April 2012
Jubilee Lines: 60 Poets for 60 Years edited by Carol Ann Duffy

Faber, pp.134, 12.99

‘Poets don’t count well,’ says Ian Duhig in his contribution to Jubilee Lines — an assertion unexpectedly confirmed by Carol Ann Duffy’s preface. Admittedly, if the book did contain one… Read more

To thine own self be true

31 March 2012
Azazeel Youssef Ziedan, translated by Jonathan Wright

Atlantic, pp.312, 15.99

Azazeel comes to Britain as the winner of the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, inevitably known as the ‘Arabic Booker’. It’s also been both a source of controversy and… Read more

Deviation and double entendre

17 March 2012
Briefs Encountered Julian Clary

Ebury, pp.364, 12.99

If there’s anything full-time novelists hate more than a celebrity muscling in on their turf, it’s the celebrity doing such a good job that it seems as if anybody could… Read more

Resounding successes

3 March 2012

The British Library’s ‘Spoken Word’ series, drawing heavily on the BBC archives, has already shown quite a range — from Tennyson’s famously crackly reading of ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’… Read more

Many parts of man

18 February 2012
The Divine Comedy Craig Raine

Atlantic, pp.184, 15.99

In some ways, you’ve got to hand it to Craig Raine. Two years ago, after a distinguished career as a poet and all-round man of letters, he published his first… Read more

Simon Hoggart: Chilean Miners

13 August 2011

Angus Macqueen is a film-maker whose CV includes The Death of Yugoslavia, Gulag, Cocaine and a slightly odd period commissioning the likes of The Secret Millionaire as Channel 4’s head… Read more

Golden corn

6 August 2011
On Canaan's Side Sebastian Barry

Faber, pp.256, 16.99

Sebastian Barry’s novels, I’m beginning to think, are a bit like that famous illusion of the two faces and a vase. Most of the time you’re reading them, they seem… Read more

Don’t blur the lines

30 July 2011
Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground Mark Mason

Random House, pp.376, 12.99

Did you know that on the Central Line’s maiden journey to Shepherd’s Bush, one of the passengers was Mark Twain? Or that The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Sign… Read more

When more is less

25 June 2011
Foreign Bodies Cynthia Ozick

Atlantic, pp.255, 16.99

If you know anything at all about Cynthia Ozick — an officially accredited grande dame in America, less famous in Britain — you won’t be surprised to hear that her… Read more

Freudian slip

14 May 2011
At Last Edward St Aubyn

Picador, pp.224, 16.99

At Last is the fifth — and, it’s pretty safe to say, most eagerly awaited — of Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels. At Last is the fifth — and,… Read more

Morphine memories

5 February 2011
Chapman's Odyssey Paul Bailey

Bloomsbury, pp.224, 16.99

Chapman’s Odyssey became quite famous before it was published, largely because it nearly wasn’t. Chapman’s Odyssey became quite famous before it was published, largely because it nearly wasn’t. Paul Bailey’s… Read more