Zenga Longmore rss

Edwardian London

Imagine Eastenders directed by David Lynch

11 October 2014
Printer’s Devil Court Susan Hill

Profile, pp.128, £9.99, ISBN: 9781781253656

Ghostly doings are afoot in Edwardian London. Choking fog rolls over the treacle- black Thames. Braziers cast eerie shadows in grimy alleyways. Two sinister doctors hunch beside a dying fire… Read more


The Quickening, by Julie Myerson — review

30 March 2013

The plot of The Quickening (Arrow/ Hammer, £9.99) by Julie Myerson (pictured) revolves around pregnant, newlywed Rachel and her sinister husband, Dan. Rachel’s ghostly journey begins when Dan suggests a… Read more

Getting the knives out

3 November 2012
The Cleaner of Chartres Salley Vickers

Penguin, pp.297, £16.99, ISBN: 9780670922123

It’s odd that this book should be about a cleaner, because it exactly conjures up the emotions I felt when I worked as a cleaning lady many years ago. Contemplating… Read more

Carrying on regardless

21 July 2012
Habits of the House Fay Weldon

Head of Zeus, pp.314, 16.99, ISBN: 9781908800046

As a devotee of Fay Weldon I was amazed but nonetheless delighted by the change of her usual style. Set in 1899, her latest novel charts the lives and loves… Read more

Golden oldies

16 June 2012
Reality, Reality Jackie Kay

Picador, pp.239, 12.99, ISBN: 9781447217565

Jackie Kay, one of Scotland’s most celebrated living writers, is a woman of many voices. In her latest collection of short stories the voices mainly belong to women of middle… Read more

Going to the fair

28 April 2012
Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life of Simon Cowell Tom Bower

Faber, pp.422, 18.99

Why would anyone want to buy this dreadful book? The frightful Simon Cowell appears to have co-operated with the author, and it is littered with repellent photographs — chiefly of… Read more

Growing up in no man’s land

23 April 2008
The Making of Mr Hai’s Daughter: Becoming British Yasmin Hai

Virago, pp.334, 14.99

People who say, ‘Why don’t Asians try to integrate?’ ought to have known Yasmin Hai’s father. A Marxist Anglophile from Pakistan, Mr Hai imposed ‘true Englishness’ on his bewildered English-born… Read more

Venus in tears

8 March 2007
The Hottentot Venus Rachel Holmes

Bloomsbury, pp.239, 14.99

Saartjie Baartman, who performed under the name of ‘the Hottentot Venus’, became one of the most famous theatrical attractions of Georgian London. Exhibited like an animal for the entertainment of… Read more

Happy days in Middle America

28 September 2006
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid Bill Bryson

Doubleday, pp.309, 18.99

According to Bill Bryson, 99.9 per cent of the world’s ills originated in America during the 1950s. Well, he doesn’t actually say that, as such, but in the course of… Read more

How to succeed as a failure

14 September 2006
The Sound of No Hands Clapping Toby Young

Abacus, pp.279, 11.99

‘Why do your tales of degradation and humiliation make you so popular?’ a fellow drinker at Moe’s Bar asks Homer Simpson. Homer replies, ‘I dunno, they just do.’ The toper… Read more

Rescued by reindeer

15 April 2006
On Trying to Keep Still Jenny Diski

Little, Brown, pp.307, 15.99

‘Something about the idea of being a travel writer distresses me,’ laments Jenny Diski in the introduction of her book. ‘So,’ she continues, ‘this is not a travel book.’ Well,… Read more

The distaff side of death

17 September 2005
Chin Up, Girls!: A Book of Women’s Obituaries from the Daily Telegraph edited by Georgia Powell and Katherine Ramsay

John Murray, pp.362, 16.99

The reason one heads straight for the obituary column when one is confronted by the Daily Telegraph is the abundance of rarefied mischievousness one finds therein. If it is grovelling… Read more

The ghosts that haunt Brick Lane

16 April 2005
An Acre of Barren Ground Jeremy Gavron

Scribner, pp.342, 14.99

What an extraordinary book. It reminds me of a magnificently woven carpet whose eclectic style combines oriental, East- ern European and Hebraic adornments. Threads are abruptly snipped and left dangling.… Read more

An uninspired foreign correspondent

23 October 2004
Dearest Virginia edited by Gayle Hunnicutt

Kyle Cathie, pp.224, 14.99

What are the essential elements that make a good book of letters? The first is mild spite. Had John Gielgud spared us his catty asides (such as his amusement at… Read more

A bas la différence!

22 November 2003
Dead Sexy Kathy Lette

Simon & Schuster,, pp.341, 14.99

Kathy Lette’s latest novel begins with a zany one-liner: ‘How can we win the sex war when we keep fraternising with the enemy?’ The next sentence is a zany one-liner:… Read more

Intruder in the dust

15 March 2003
EMMA'S WAR Deborah Scroggins

HarperCollins, pp.220, 17.99

The Emma of the title was an intrepid young woman who journeyed to the Sudan in search of exotic adventure. Owing to an ill-chosen marriage she found herself at the… Read more

Mr Nice and Mr Nasty

28 December 2002

Macmillan, pp.559, 18.99

Quentin Crisp was, among other delightful things, a human paradox. He loathed the Gay Liberation Movement as bitterly as he despised Oscar Wilde, yet he did more than anyone else… Read more