‘I was facing truths I didn’t particularly want to look at’: Michael Moorcock interview

8 August 2015

By the kind of uncanny coincidence that would tickle his psychogeographically minded friends Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd, Michael Moorcock’s publishers have recently moved offices to the same corner of… Read more


Reading about your school is always a terrible idea

14 March 2015

Tom Brown’s Schooldays is a depressing book. It’s hard to see why anyone would encourage their child to read it before starting school, particularly Rugby, where the story is set.… Read more

French villager Lucile Angellier, played by Michelle Williams, falls for a Nazi soldier

Suite Francaise review: what is this film playing at, when it comes to Jews in attics?

14 March 2015
Suite Française 15, Nationwide

Suite Française is being billed as a second world war romance about ‘forbidden love’ and, in this regard, it is handsome, solid, well played and probably fine, if you haven’t… Read more

Sebastian Faulks Photo: Getty

Sebastian Faulks

14 February 2015

Just back from Sri Lanka, a place I first went to in 1981. It was then a dreamy island. I remember giving the room boy who had brought my case… Read more

Will Boast

Life doesn’t care if your misery has a plot – but readers do

24 January 2015
Epilogue Will Boast

Granta, pp.281, £12.99, ISBN: 9781847088208

Sometimes writers have to get a memoir out of their system before they can start on their great novel. Will Boast spent years trying to turn his life story into… Read more

Author Adam Thirwell Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty

Lurid & Cute is too true to its title

24 January 2015
Lurid & Cute Adam Thirlwell

Jonathan Cape, pp.368, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224089135

One of the duties of a reviewer is to alert potential readers to the flavour and content of a book, particularly if it comes into the category of ‘not a… Read more


A ghost story without the scary bits

24 January 2015
See How Small Scott Blackwood

Fourth Estate, pp.208, £12.99, ISBN: 9780007580934

Two men walk into an ice cream parlour in Austin, Texas, order the three teenage girls working there to undress, then tie them up and gag them with their own… Read more


Why you might not want corridors in your historical novel

1 November 2014

I read C.J. Sansom’s novel Dissolution on the train recently with pleasure. For an historical novel narrated in the 1530s, what was the author to do about language? He eschewed… Read more


L.P. Hartley’s guide to coping with a heatwave

26 July 2014

Those of us who have been struggling to endure the recent heat should turn to L.P. Hartley’s classic coming-of-age novel The Go-Between for some advice. ‘There’s no such thing as bad… Read more

(Photo: Central Press/Getty Images)

Jacqueline Wilson: 'The first book that made me cry'

12 April 2014

I’m not sure if Rumer Godden wrote An Episode of Sparrows for children or adults. It was originally published on an adult list but I read it when I was about ten,… Read more

Francis King   Photo: Denis Jones/Evening Standard /REX

From frankness to obsession - the novels of Francis King

1 March 2014

Gide wrote to Simenon: ‘You are living on a false reputation — just like Baudelaire and Chopin. … You are much more important than is commonly supposed.’ Something of the… Read more

Sting, William Burroughs and Andy Summers Photo: Getty

William S. Burroughs was a writer – not a painter, prophet, philosopher

8 February 2014
William S. Burroughs: A Life Barry Miles

Weidenfeld, pp.718, £30, ISBN: 9780297867258

William S. Burroughs lived his life in the grand transgressive tradition of Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde and, like all dandies, he had a nose for hedonistic hot spots which… Read more

A wounded soldier is carried through the mud near Boesinghe during the battle of Passchendaele in Flanders Photo: Getty

When No Man's Land is home

25 January 2014
The Lie Helen Dunmore

Hutchinson, pp.294, £14.99, ISBN: 9780091953982

Countless writers and film-makers this year will be trying their hand at forcing us to wake up and smell the first world war.  How do they plant a fresh, haunting,… Read more


By the book: The NSA is behaving like a villain in a 1950s novel

18 January 2014

The continuing drip-feed of stories about governments and friendly-seeming internet giants sifting through our data has left some citizens feeling outraged and a bit duped. I have no doubt that… Read more

Woman in black: Madeleine St John, due for revival. 
‘Her steadiest relationships were with a series of cats’

Breakdowns, suicide attempts — and four great novels

18 January 2014
Madeleine Helen Trinca

Text Publishing, pp.384, £12.99, ISBN: 9781921922848

Among the clever young Australians who came over here in the 1960s to find themselves and make their mark, a number, as we all know, never went back. A few… Read more


The many attempts to assassinate Trotsky

4 January 2014
The Man Who Loved Dogs Leonardo Padura, translated by Anna Kushner

Bitter Lemon Press, pp.576, £20, ISBN: 9781908524102

Leon Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov, is a retired chemist in his early eighties. I met him not long ago in the house in Mexico City where his grandfather was murdered… Read more

Margaret Drabble at the offices of publisher McLelland Stewart Photo: Toronto Star via Getty

Margaret Drabble tries to lose the plot

30 November 2013
The Pure Gold Baby Margaret Drabble

Canongate, pp.304, £16.99, ISBN: 9780956868389

Halfway through her new novel, Margaret Drabble tells us of Anna, the pure gold baby of the title, ‘There was no story to her life, no plot.’ That statement is… Read more

Ann Patchett Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images

Ann Patchett's new book will win you over, in spite of yourself

30 November 2013
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage Ann Patchett

Bloomsbury, pp.300, £16.99, ISBN: 9781408842393

Ann Patchett’s novels revel in the tightly constructed ecosystems imagined for their characters: an opera singer besieged among diplomats in the Orange Prize-winning Bel Canto; State of Wonder’s pharmacologist in… Read more

Elizabeth Taylor (left) chats with Pamela Hansford Johnson, 1954 Photo: Getty

Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor - review

30 November 2013
Angel The talented and beautiful Elizabeth Taylor (no, not the actress)

Virago, pp.336, £12.99, ISBN: 9781844089345

‘She wrote fiction?’ Even today, with the admirable ladies at Virago nearly finished reissuing her dozen novels, Elizabeth Taylor remains mostly unknown except to fellow novelists, literary journalists, worthier publishing… Read more

Thirty Years on2

Rebus is good, but not as sharp as he once was

16 November 2013
Saints of the Shadow Bible Ian Rankin

Orion, pp.427, £18.99, ISBN: 9781409144755

Cig 1 Auld Reekie . . . Edinburgh . . . brewers’ town, stinking of beer, whisky, tweeness, gentility, hypocrisy, corruption . . . DS Rebus awoke with a start,… Read more

(Photo: The Art Archive/Anthony Stewart / NGS)

The thrill of the (postmodern neo-Victorian) chase

9 November 2013
Rustication Charles Palliser

Norton, pp.325, £12.99, ISBN: 9780393348231

Charles Palliser’s debut novel The Quincunx appeared as far back as 1989. Lavish and labyrinthine, this shifted nigh on a million copies, while more or less inaugurating the genre of… 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


The imitable Jeeves

2 November 2013
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells Sebastian Faulks

Hutchinson, pp.272, £16.99, ISBN: 9780091954055

For as long as I can remember — I take neither pleasure nor pride in the admission — I have been one of those people who feels an irresistible curling… Read more


Carlos Acosta, the great dancer, should be a full-time novelist

2 November 2013
Pig’s Foot Carlos Acosta, translated by Frank Wynne

Bloomsbury, pp.333, £12.99, ISBN: 9781408833704

Carlos Acosta, the greatest dancer of his generation, grew up in Havana as the youngest of 11 black children. Money was tight, but Carlos won a place at ballet school,… Read more

‘The Goldfinch’ by Carl Fabritius, the theft of which is central to Donna Tartt’s new novel

Donna Tartt can do the thrills but not the trauma

12 October 2013
The Goldfinch Donna Tartt

Little, Brown, pp.771, £20, ISBN: 9781408704943

Donna Tartt is an expert practitioner of what David Hare has called ‘the higher hokum’. She publishes a long novel every decade or so. Her first book, The Secret History… Read more