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Simon Baker rss

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The gambler’s daily grind

26 April 2014
The Ballad of a Small Player Lawrence Osborne

Hogarth, pp.257, £12.99, ISBN: 9781781900169

Lord Doyle is a shrivelled English gambler frittering away his money and destroying his liver in the casinos of Macau. Aptly, since he is in a place filled with mock-Venetian… Read more

Military personnel remove bags containing bodies of members of the Jim Jones' sect "Temple of people". More than 900 people died Photo: Getty

Madness and massacre in the jungle

15 March 2014
Children of Paradise Fred D’Aguiar

Granta, pp.363, £14.99, ISBN: 9781847088611

In his new novel, Children of Paradise, Fred D’Aguiar, a British-Guyanese writer, returns to the Jonestown massacre, previously the subject of his 1998 narrative poem, ‘Bill of Rights’. D’Aguiar often… Read more

Arming for conquest (Picture: John Bostock)

A creepy father, a lustful music teacher, four virgins — and one genuine love affair

1 February 2014
Sedition Katharine Grant

Virago, pp.289, £14.99, ISBN: 9781844089846

London, 1794. It’s a different world from that portrayed by the Mrs Radcliffes and Anons of the time: rich young women are not all naïve and swoony in Katharine Grant’s… Read more

Black Sheep 2

Village life can be gripping

2 November 2013
Black Sheep Susan Hill

Chatto, pp.135, £10.99, ISBN: 9780701184216

Black Sheep opens biblically, with a mining village named Mount of Zeal, which is ‘built in a bowl like an amphitheatre, with the pit winding gear where a stage would… Read more

Nicholas-Royle

Novel ways of writing

12 January 2013

If you consider ‘gripping metafiction’ a self-contradictory phrase (surely metafiction disables tension through its wink-at-the-audience style?), Nicholas Royle’s First Novel (Cape, £16.99), which is in fact his seventh, may change… Read more

Friendships resurrected

3 September 2011
Lazarus is Dead Richard Beard

Harvill Secker, pp.263, 14.99

A fact which often surprises those who pick up the Bible in adulthood, having not looked at it for years, is how very short the stories are. Adam and Eve,… Read more

The man who came to dinner

9 July 2011
There But For The Ali Smith

Hamish Hamilton, pp.357, 16.99

Each year Genevieve Lee holds an ‘alternative’ dinner party, to which she invites, along with her friends, a couple of people she wouldn’t ordinarily mix with — a Muslim, say,… Read more

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BOOKENDS: In the bleak midwinter

11 December 2010

Salley Vickers name-checks (surely unwisely) the granddaddy of all short stories, James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, in the foreword to her first collection, Aphrodite’s Hat (Fourth Estate, £16.99). Salley Vickers name-checks… Read more

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The loneliness of the long distance salesman

2 June 2010
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim Jonathan Coe

Viking, pp.352, 18.99

If only E. M. Forster hadn’t beaten him to it by exactly a century, Jonathan Coe could have coined the enigmatic phrase ‘only connect’ in this novel. If only E.… Read more

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Anything for a quiet life

14 April 2010
All That Follows Jim Crace

Picador, pp.320, 16.99

Jim, Crace’s latest novel, All That Follows, marks a deliberate change from past form. Jim, Crace’s latest novel, All That Fol lows, marks a deliberate change from past form. Gone… Read more

Just the bare bones

11 November 2009
The Humbling Philip Roth

Cape, pp.140, 12.99

It is impossible (as I prove in this sentence) to review Philip Roth without mentioning the surge of creativity that began when the author was around 60 and which now… Read more

The ex factor

9 September 2009
Juliet, Naked Nick Hornby

Viking, pp.249, 18.99

At first, the plot of Nick Hornby’s new novel, Juliet, Naked, seems too close to that of his first novel, High Fidelity (1995). At first, the plot of Nick Hornby’s… Read more

Past imperfect

5 August 2009
We Are All Made of Glue Marina Lewycka

Fig Tree, pp.432, 18.99

The Rehearsal Eleanor Catton

Granta, pp.317, 12

Yalo Elias Khory

Quercus, pp.320, 17.99

We Are All Made of Glue, by Marina Lewycka The Rehearsal, by Eleanor Catton Yalo, by Elias Khory, translated by Humphrey Davies We Are All Made of Glue is Marina… Read more

One out of five

6 May 2009
Nocturnes Kazuo Ishiguro

Faber, pp.221, 14.99

Nocturnes is a collection of five longish short stories, four about musicians and a fifth about friends who once bonded over musical tastes. As the title neatly suggests, the book… Read more

Dark fantasies

18 February 2009
Rhyming Life and Death Amos Oz

Chatto, pp.155, 12.99

Rhyming Life and Death, by Amos Oz Rhyming Life and Death is set in Tel Aviv during one night in the early 1980s, and concerns a man we know only… Read more

A choice of first novels

5 November 2008
A Fraction of the Whole Steve Toltz

Hamish Hamilton, pp.720, 17.99

Pollard Laura Beatty

Chatto & Windus, pp.320, 16.99

Inside the Whale Jennie Rooney

Chatto & Windus, pp.224, 12.99

Slaughterhouse Heart Afsaneh Knight

Doubleday, pp.307, 16.99

A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Toltz Pollard, by Laura Beatty Chatto & Windus Inside the Whale, by Jennie Rooney Chatto & Windus Slaughterhouse Heart, by Afsaneh Knight Doubleday… Read more

A furious, frazzled youth

24 September 2008

Indignation, by Philip Roth Indignation, Philip Roth’s 29th book, is about the sophomore year of its narrator, Marcus Messner, who attends college in 1951, a time when the Korean War… Read more

Deceit and dilemma

6 August 2008
Our Story Begins Tobias Wolff

Bloomsbury, pp.379, 18.99

Simon Baker reviews a collection of short stories by Tobias Wolff  This book contains ten new stories from Tobias Wolff, plus a selection from the three volumes of short stories he… Read more

Another tragic Russian heroine

9 July 2008

Karl Marx wrote that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. It’s tempting to adapt that and say that historians also often repeat themselves, first… Read more

The travels of an idealist

11 June 2008
Human Love Andrei Makine

Sceptre, pp.249, 12.99

Simon Baker reviews Andreï Makine’s latest novel In Andreï Makine’s previous novel, The Woman Who Waited (2006), which is set in 1970s USSR, the unnamed narrator sees through his peers’ weak ideologies;… Read more

A boy’s own world

16 April 2008
Pilcrow Adam Mars-Jones

Faber, pp.525, 18.99

The pilcrow is a typographical symbol which looks like this: ¶. It was once used in writing (often of the philosophical or religious kind) to indicate a new line of… Read more

The magic lingers on

8 April 2008
The Enchantress of Florence Salman Rushdie

Cape, pp.356, 18.99

At the beginning of Salman Rushdie’s new novel a charismatic Florentine rogue arrives at the Mughal court and claims to have a story which he must tell to the Emperor,… Read more

Sounds of the Seventies

1 April 2008
The Northern Clemency Philip Hensher

Fourth Estate, pp.738, 17.99

One of the difficult tasks when writing fiction about the recent past is to let the reader know the approximate year in which the action is taking place without giving… Read more

No getting away from it

12 March 2008
Nothing to Be Frightened Of Julian Barnes

Jonathan Cape, pp.250, 16.99

Some non-fiction books seem inevitable before they are even written. Dawkins on atheism, Hitchens on contrarianism, Ackroyd on London: with such works, the author is allied so closely to the… Read more

Smitten for life

2 January 2008
The Bad Girl Mario Vargas Llosa

Faber, pp.pp. 276, £16.99

Ricardo Somocurcio, the narrator of The Bad Girl, is an unambitious man whose sole wish, ever since his childhood in Peru, has been to live in Paris. He studied hard… Read more