John de Falbe rss

Chaos and the old order

28 January 2012
An Ermine in Czernopol Gregor von Rezzori, translated by Philip Boehm

New York Review of Books, pp.380, 9.99

If Gregor von Rezzori is known to English language readers, it is likely to be through his tense, disturbing novel Memoirs of an Anti-Semite (partly written in English), and/or his… Read more

Memories in a world of forgetting

17 September 2011
All That I Am Anna Funder

Viking, pp.315, 18.99

It is several years since Anna Funder published Stasiland, her acclaimed book about East Germany. Her new book is a novel concerning a group of German political activists surrounding the… Read more


Captain courageous

7 May 2011
Captain Cook: Master of the Seas Frank McLynn

Yale, pp.490, 25

The sum of hard biographical facts about Captain Cook never increases, nor is it expected to. It is the same with Shakespeare. J. C. Beaglehole’s Life of Captain James Cook… Read more

Desk-bound traveller

5 March 2011
The London Satyr Robert Edric

Doubleday, pp.367, 16.99

The Lives of the Savages Robert Edric

P.S. Publishing, pp.126, 11.99

With a new novel each year, Robert Edric cannot have much time for courting London’s literary establishment, but does he stay at home in East Yorkshire? The London Satyr is… Read more


The start of the affair

30 October 2010
Eight White Nights Andre Aciman

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, pp.360, 17.99

In this season of Franzen frenzy, spare a thought for André Aciman, an American writer whose name, I think, is so far unmentioned in the daft pursuit of the Great… Read more


Small but perfectly formed

23 June 2010
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance Edmund de Waal

Chatto, pp.351, 16.99

Some years ago, Edmund de Waal inherited a remarkable collection of 264 netsuke from his great-uncle Iggie, whom he had got to know 20 years previously while studying pottery and… Read more

Far from idyllic

28 October 2009
Mother Land Dmetri Kakmi

Eland, pp.288, 16.99

We’re Levantines … hold your head up high and say, ‘Yes, I am. What of it? Byzantine and Ottoman…’ We’re Levantines … hold your head up high and say, ‘Yes,… Read more

The lure of the gypsies

8 July 2009
Along the Enchanted Way: A Romanian Story William Blacker

John Murray, pp.305, 20

William Blacker ‘set off to explore the newly “liberated” countries of Central Europe immediately after Christmas 1989’. From Berlin he went to Prague, where he wondered, ‘Should I continue eastwards,… Read more

A patriarch and his family

13 May 2009
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders Daniyal Mueenuddin

Bloomsbury, pp.256, 14.99

The title story of this exceptional collection is the only one directly concerned with the presiding figure of K. K. Harouni, a wealthy Pakistani patriarch. In each of the others,… Read more

One-man triumph

28 January 2009
The Companion to British History (Third Edition) Charles Arnold Baker

Loncross Denholm Press, pp.1425, 78

The Companion to British History (Third Edition), by Charles Arnold Baker Readers familiar with the first edition of The Companion to British History (Loncross, 1997) will already know that its… Read more

Hope and Glory

29 October 2008

Home, by Marilynne Robinson Marilynne Robinson’s magnificent previous novel, Gilead, was structured as a letter by the elderly, ailing Reverend John Ames to his young son. A persistent theme was… Read more

Night thoughts in an unhappy home

27 August 2008
Man in the Dark Paul Auster

Faber, pp.180, 11.99

Man in the Dark by Paul Auster August Brill is a widower whose leg has been smashed by a car. He lies awake at night in the house he shares… Read more

Good length delivery

6 August 2008
24 for 3 Jennie Walker

Bloomsbury, pp.144, 9.99

This short novel was first published in a tiny edition at the end of last year. Since then it has won the McKitterick Prize (for the best first novel by… Read more

Flouting the rules

26 March 2008
Machine Peter Adolphsen

Harvill / Secker, pp.88, 10

This intriguing novella tells the story of a drop of oil from its earlier form as the heart of a prehistoric horse to its combustion in the engine of a… Read more

Love among the journalists

23 January 2008
We Are Now Beginning our Descent James Meek

Canongate, pp.295, 16.99

At the centre of James Meek’s new novel — a fine successor to The People’s Act of Love — there is a brilliant scene in which Adam Kellas, a war… Read more


A one off

21 November 2007
My Tango with Barbara Strozzi Russell Hoban

Bloomsbury, pp.162, 10.99

Late in My Tango with Barbara Strozzi, Phil Ockerman, the main narrator, goes to Diamond Heart in Scotland, ‘a centre of dynamic calm in which mind and spirit gather energy… Read more


Once happy havens

7 November 2007
Farewell to Salonika: City at the Crossroads Leon Sciaky, with an introduction by Neil Barnett

Haus, pp.257, 16.99

92 Acharnon Street John Lucas

Eland, pp.218, 12.99

Leon Sciaky was born in Salonica in 1893, when the city was still a provincial Ottoman town. His family were grain merchants, Sephardic Jews who had been settled there for… Read more


Shifting hearts, shifting sands

10 October 2007
The Maytrees Annie Dillard

Hesperus, pp.185, 12.99

A man of about 60 who had read the American edition of this novel — it was published there a couple of months ago — told me lately that it… Read more

Radium and the nature of love

19 October 2006
The Story of Blanche and Marie Per Olov Enquist

Harvill Secker, pp.218, 16.99

For 16 years, from 1878, Blanche Wittman was a patient in the infamous Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, diagnosed by the famous Dr Charcot as a hysteric. Putting Blanche on display… Read more

The maze of the mind

5 July 2006
Your Face Tomorrow 2: Dance and Dream Javier Mar

Chatto, pp.341, 16.99

With the publication last year of Your Face Tomorrow 1: Fever and Spear, the first volume of a trilogy and his eighth translated work of fiction, it was plain that… Read more

Memories of loss

1 April 2006
The Other Side of You Salley Vickers

Fourth Estate, pp.292, 14.99

The first short chapter of The Other Side of You looks so simple. After introducing us to Elizabeth Cruickshank, a suicide patient who ‘in a certain light could have been… Read more

The rich harvest of the random

5 November 2005
The Brooklyn Follies Paul Auster

Faber, pp.304, 16.99

There is a delightful moment in this novel when Nathan, the narrator, is standing on one side of the street with his nephew, Tom, and they see Nancy Mazzucchelli on… Read more

Broadening the mind without moving

22 October 2005
Damascus: Taste of a City Marie Fadel and Rafik Schami

Haus Armchair Traveller,, pp.309, 12.99

Venice for Lovers Louis Begley and Anka Muhlstein

Haus Armchair Traveller, pp.216, 12.99

Along the Ganges Ilija Trojanow

Haus Armchair Traveller, pp.266, 12.99

From Cape Wrath to Finisterre Bjorn Larsson

Haus Armchair Traveller, pp.341, 12.99

The phrase ‘armchair travel’ sounds quaint; suggestive of austerity at home and anarchy abroad; an era of currency restrictions and mustachioed bandits, when it was altogether more advisable to stay… Read more

The lower end of the higher good

23 July 2005
The People’s Act of Love James Meek

Canongate, pp.387, 12.99

This superb novel takes place in the remote settlement of Yazyk, at the end of a 100-mile spur off the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is 1919. Most of the inhabitants belong… Read more

The shooting gallery

28 May 2005
The Rules of Perspective Adam Thorpe

Cape, pp.340, 12.99

The Rules of Perspective is set in a provincial German art museum as it is bombed by the Americans at the end of the second world war. The pivotal scene… Read more