The Professor of Poetry, by Grace McCleen - review

29 June 2013
The Professor of Poetry Grace McCleen

Sceptre, pp.304, £14.99, ISBN: 9781444769951

Elizabeth Stone, English professor at UCL,  has long lived on ‘paper and words and thin air’. Single, friendless, dessicated, respected, she passes out during a faculty meeting and wakes to… Read more

Constance, by Patrick McGrath - review

22 June 2013
Constance Patrick McGrath

Blooomsbury Circus,, pp.256, £12.99, ISBN: 9781408821138

Patrimony and infidelity are defining themes of the Anglo-American relationship, as they are of Constance, a novel with alternating narrators: Sidney Klein is English, in his forties, and an authority… Read more


Bedford Park, by Bryan Appleyard - review

15 June 2013
Bedford Park Bryan Appleyard

Weidenfeld ebook, pp.320, £3.99

Nothing in Bryan Appleyard’s Bedford Park betrays the fact that it is his first period novel: not its deft characterisations, its virtuoso dialogue, its dry and economical wit, or its… Read more

The Dark Road, by Ma Jian - review

1 June 2013
The Dark Road Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew

Chatto, pp.260, £16.99, ISBN: 9780701187538

If you are considering adopting — that is, buying — a Chinese baby girl, recycling a television or computer, or buying a Vuiton bag, think again. Ma Jian, author of… Read more

Whirligig, by Magnus Mcintyre - review

1 June 2013
Whirligig Magnus Mcintyre

Short Books, pp.288, £7.99, ISBN: 9781780721279

I do not have much time for the idea of the redemptive power of the countryside. I am not alone in this. Even theologians tend to dream of the day… Read more

Last Friends, by Jane Gardam - review

1 June 2013
Last Friends Jane Gardam

Little Brown, pp.213, £16.99, ISBN: 9781609450939

Any writer who embarks on a trilogy is either extremely confident or taking something of a risk. The danger is that the reader will have forgotten the first two volumes… Read more

They really were in love: Scott, Zelda and their daughter Frances (‘Scottie’) in Paris

Z, by Therese Anne Fowler, Beautiful Fools, by R. Clifton Spargo, Careless People, by Sarah Churchill - review

1 June 2013
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald Therese Anne Fowler

Two Roads, pp.376, £17.99, ISBN: 9781444761405

Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald R. Clifton Spargo

Duckworth, pp.366, £16.99, ISBN: 9780715645437

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby Sarah Churchwell

Virago, pp.438, £16.99, ISBN: 9781844087662

The Great Gatsby is one of those great works of literature, like Pride and Prejudice, that appeals as much to the general reader as to the literary bod. It’ll always… Read more

All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld - review

25 May 2013
All the Birds, Singing Evie Wyld

Cape, pp.229, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224096683

Half in jest, Evie Wyld has described her highly garlanded first book After the Fire, a Still Small Voice as ‘a romantic thriller about men not talking’. The same description… Read more

The Hive, by Gill Hornby - review

25 May 2013
The Hive Gill Hornby

Little, Brown, pp.305, £12.99, ISBN: 9781408704356

Who would have thought that the idea for a novel about mothers at the school gate would spark a frenzied bidding for world  rights? Not a subject to make the… Read more

Crime fiction reviewed by Andrew Taylor

18 May 2013

An epigraph taken from Goebbels’s only published novel certainly makes a book stand out from the crowd. A Man Without Breath (Quercus, £18.99) is the ninth instalment in Philip Kerr’s… Read more

Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver - review

18 May 2013
Big Brother Lionel Shriver

HarperCollins, pp.344, £16.99, ISBN: 9780007271092

‘I am white rice’ states Pandora Half-danarson, narrator of Lionel Shriver’s obesity fable. ‘I have always existed to set off more exciting fare.’ The exciting fare on offer is the… Read more


The not-so-great Gatsby

11 May 2013

You do not need to have read the book or even seen a film adaptation to feel a thrill at the word ‘Gatsby’. More than a novel, a film or… Read more

And the Mountain Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini - review

11 May 2013
And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini

Bloomsbury, pp.404, £18.99, ISBN: 9781408842423

The American comedian Stephen Colbert once joked that when he publicly criticised the novels of Khaled Hosseini, his front garden was invaded by angry members of women’s books groups. They… Read more

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi - review

4 May 2013
Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

HarperCollins, pp.399, £20, ISBN: 9780007306220

Ghana Must Go Taiye Selasi

Viking, pp.336, £14.99, ISBN: 9780670919864

Excitement over the extraterritorial birthplace of authors on Granta’s recent list of Britain’s best young novelists must have been old news in the United States, where the New Yorker’s equivalent… Read more

Portrait of Nikolai Leskov by Anatoly Lelako

The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories, by Nikolai Leskov - review

4 May 2013
The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories Nikolai Leskov, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Vintage Classics, pp.608, £25, ISBN: 9780307268822

Though underestimated in the English-speaking world, Nikolai Leskov is one of the greatest of 19th-century Russian writers. Donald Rayfield has described him as ‘Russia’s best-kept secret’. Richard Pevear’s excellent introduction… Read more

A Delicate Truth, by John le Carré - review

4 May 2013
A Delicate Truth John Le Carré

Viking, pp.309, £18.99, ISBN: 9780670922790

John Le Carré is one of a select group of novelists whose vivid and internally coherent imaginative worlds are so recognisable that their names have become adjectives — Dickensian, Wodehousian, … Read more

The Spoken Word: Short Stories, Volume II - review

4 May 2013

Largely unheard since their original performances or BBC broadcasts between 1939 and 2011, these readings of 12 short stories by their authors are a treasure trove. * E.M.Forster’s 1948 reading… Read more

'The Infatuations', by Javier Marías - review

9 March 2013
The Infatuations Javier Marías

Hamish Hamilton, pp.346, £18.99, ISBN: 9780241145364

A café in Madrid. From her table across the room a solitary woman watches an attractive couple share breakfast morning after morning and speculates pleasurably about their relationship. One day… Read more

The Childhood of Jesus', by J.M. Coetzee - review

9 March 2013
The Childhood of Jesus J.M. Coetzee

Harvill/Secker, pp.277, £18.99, ISBN: 9781846557583

Stripping down prose is not a risk-free undertaking. The excision of adverbs and the passive voice is sound practice in journalism. However, to make very bare writing a thing of… Read more

'Mimi', by Lucy Ellmann - review

9 March 2013
Mimi Lucy Ellmann

Bloomsbury, pp.352, £12.99, ISBN: 9781620400203

Harrison Hanafan is a plastic surgeon in New York. Every day, he slices and stitches deluded women, reshaping healthy flesh to pander to 21st-century aesthetics. One Christmas Eve, absent-minded Harrison… Read more

Right thinking

2 June 2012

David Frum has spoken for American conservatism for a generation – now he despairs of it David Frum has been a major force in American conservatism for more than 20… Read more

Straying from the Way

26 May 2012
The Server Tim Parks

Harvill Secker, pp.278, £16.99

No sensible writer wastes good material. A couple of years ago Tim Parks published a memoir, Teach Us to Sit Still, a tale of chronic, debilitating back pain that appeared… Read more

Recent crime novels

26 May 2012

William Brodrick’s crime novels have the great (and unusual) merit of being unlike anyone else’s, not least because his series hero, Brother Anselm, is a Gray’s Inn barrister turned Suffolk… Read more

Doctor in distress

26 May 2012
The Gold-rimmed Spectacles by Giorgio Bassani, translated from the Italian by Jamie McKendrick

Penguin Modern Classics, pp.137, 9.99

It is winter 1936. Every weekday morning a group of young people travel by train from Ferrara, their home city, to Bologna where they are studying at the university. Theirs… Read more


Method in her magic

12 May 2012
Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel

Fourth Estate, pp.411, 20

Bring Up the Bodies, as everybody knows, is the sequel to Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s fictional re-imagining of the life and times of Henry VIII’s most effective servant, Thomas Cromwell.… Read more