Justin Cartwright rss


Owen Sheers disregards the first commandment of novel-writing: to show, not tell

6 June 2015
I Saw a Man Owen Sheers

Faber, pp.312, £14.99, ISBN: 9780571317721

This is a thriller, a novel of betrayal and separation, and a reverie on death and grieving. The only key fact I can provide without giving away the plot is… Read more

Giotto’s ‘The Kiss of Judas’ in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Justin Cartwright on redheads, anti-Semitism and the betrayal of Christ

4 April 2015
Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle Peter Stanford

Hodder, pp.309, £20, ISBN: 9781444754728

Peter Stanford is a writer on religious and ethical matters. He was for four years editor of the Catholic Herald. Writing Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle must… Read more

Philip Marsden gets close to the impenetrable secrets of Tintagel (left) and Bodmin Moor (right), among many other mysterious sites

The bonkers (and not-so-bonkers) theories of what the pre-historic people of Cornwall believed

18 October 2014
Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place Philip Marsden

Granta, pp.348, £20, ISBN: 9781847086280

Philip Marsden’s book is about place. He makes a distinction between place and space. In his mind ‘place’ is something resonant, evoking a connection with the land and its meaning.… Read more

American abolitionist John Brown believed in armed revolt to end all slavery Photo: Getty

The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride - review

25 January 2014
The Good Lord Bird James McBride

Riverhead Books, pp.417, £16.99, ISBN: 9781907372612

James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird is set in the mid 19th century, and is based on the real life of John Brown, the one who lies a-mouldering in his… Read more


There's a corner of South Africa that considers itself French

21 September 2013

Franschhoek — French Corner — is a place which serves South Africans as a kind of sophisticated fantasy, an alternative version of what life could be. The small town is… Read more

Justin Cartwright

1 June 2013

Too often, I go to South African theatre with a sense of foreboding: I anticipate something overwrought, tendentious, poorly acted and emotionally exploitative. So I arrived at the Hampstead Theatre… Read more

The tragedy of a hamlet

16 February 2013
Harvest Jim Crace

Picador, pp.272, £16.99, ISBN: 9780330445665

Jim Crace’s novels have one thing in common, which is that each is set in an entirely original world. None of these worlds is of a specific time or place,… Read more

A Barista’s Pupil

22 September 2012

It was my idea to do a two-hour course of barista training. I was keen to learn how to finish off my coffee with a picture of a heart or… Read more

Welcome to surreal Luton

21 July 2012
The Yips Nicola Barker

Fourth Estate, pp.550, 18.99, ISBN: 9780007476657

Nicola Barker’s new novel is set in Luton. You could hardly find a place in Britain  more emblematic of non-being. It has an airport; it used to make something or… Read more

Putting the fun in fundamentalism

5 May 2012
Pure Timothy Mo

Turnaround Books, pp.388, 16.99

Turnaround Books, the publishers of Timothy Mo’s remarkable Pure, are revealed to operate from Unit 3, Olympia Trading Estate, Coburg Road, London N22. From this we may deduce that the… Read more

Road to ruins

21 April 2012
The A303: Highway to the Sun Tom Fort

Simon & Schuster, pp.332, 14.99

This is a delightful book, nostalgic, slyly witty, perceptive and at times flirting — deliberately — with old fogeyism. Tom Fort, a BBC radio journalist, starts from the assumption that… Read more

Mumbai and Mammon

25 June 2011
Last Man in Tower Aravind Adiga

Atlantic Books, pp.560, 17.99

This is a state of the nation novel or more accurately a state of Mumbai novel. Behind the tale of a struggle by a developer to acquire, for flashy redevelopment, … Read more


11 June 2011

Writers are traditionally said to lead a quiet life. But my diary has recently been spectacularly full. I have been in Sydney on Man Booker International Prize business, which ended… Read more

When the best defence is no defence

12 March 2011
A Just Defiance Peter Harris

Portobello, pp..00, 14.99

This remarkable book is the account by their lawyer of the trial, imprisonment and sentencing to death in the late Eighties of a group of young men who came to… Read more


Positively Kafkaesque

13 November 2010
Life and Times: Stories 1952-2007 Nadine Gordimer

Bloomsbury, pp.549, 30

This is a companion to a collection published earlier this year of Nadine Gordimer’s non-fiction, called Telling Times. This is a companion to a collection published earlier this year of… Read more


Taking on the turmoil

26 May 2010
Telling Times: Writing and Living, 1950-2008 Nadine Gordimer

Bloomsbury, pp.742, 35

Nadine Gordimer is now in her mid-eighties. For as long as I have been alive, she has been the towering figure of South African literature, a fact recognised in l991… Read more


A canker on the rose

3 March 2010
Point Omega Don DeLillo

Picador, pp.127, 14.99

This is a very short book with large type. DeLillo has said that he no longer feels a compulsion to write long, compendious books. In his later years Saul Bellow… Read more


Decline in New York

20 January 2010
Homer and Langley E. L. Doctorow

Little Brown, pp.208, 11.99

A connection between poetry and blindness is a classical trope. Homer was thought to be blind — if indeed he was one person — and Milton of course suffered torture… Read more

The man who saved Oxford University

14 October 2009

The Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford is an astonishing building, designed by Christopher Wren. Its painted ceiling has just been restored, so that the darkish miasma that was Robert Streeter’s original… Read more

To be mortal

2 September 2009
The Infinites John Banville

Picador, pp.299, 14.99

I have read two outstanding books this summer. This is one of them; the other is Summertime by J.M. Coetzee (reviewed on page 42). As I read The Infinities, with… Read more

Zuluboy is here

22 April 2009
South Africa’s Brave New World: The Beloved Country since ApartheidAfter the Party: Corruption and the ANC R. W. Johnson

Allen Lane, pp.701, 25

South Africa’s Brave New World: The Beloved Country since Apartheid, by R. W. Johnson After the Party: Corruption and the ANC, by Andrew Feinstein I am writing this in Cape… Read more

My memories of the American Dostoevsky

28 January 2009

Justin Cartwright recalls his conversations over the years with John Updike, who died this week, and the master’s contention that the only excuse for reading is to steal I love… Read more

Christmas Short Story

12 December 2008

When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas by Justin Cartwright In 1920, at the age of 38, Franz Kafka wrote a letter to his father, Hermann,… Read more

The coven reconvenes

29 October 2008
The Widows of Eastwick John Updike

Penguin, pp.308, 18.99

The Widows of Eastwick, by John Updike The Witches of Eastwick was published in 1984; it was a retrospective cele- bration of the new sexual liberties and powers available to… Read more

Who is selling what to whom?

27 August 2008
Powers of Persuasion: The Story of British Advertising Winston Fletcher

OUP, pp.304, 16.99

Powers of Persuasion: The Story of British Advertising by Winston Fletcher The impression you get from reading this book, which covers post-war advertising until the present, is of a chaotic,… Read more