Many parts of man

18 February 2012
The Divine Comedy Craig Raine

Atlantic, pp.184, 15.99

In some ways, you’ve got to hand it to Craig Raine. Two years ago, after a distinguished career as a poet and all-round man of letters, he published his first… Read more

Winter wonderland

18 February 2012
The Snow Child Eowyn Ivey

Headline Review, pp.432, 14.99

Jack and Mabel move to Alaska to try to separate themselves from a tragedy — the loss of their only baby — that has frozen the core of their relationship.… Read more


Bookends: A network of kidney-nappers

18 February 2012

Raylan Givens, an ace detective in the Raymond Chandler mould, has encountered just about every shakedown artist and palooka in his native East Kentucky. His creator, Elmore Leonard, is a… Read more

Frank exchange of views

11 February 2012
Hope: A Tragedy Shalom Auslander

Picador, pp.292, 16.99

Solomon Kugel is morbidly obsessed with death: his own, and that of those he loves, including his wife Bree and his only son Jonah. He spends his idle hours writing… Read more

Intrigue and foreboding

11 February 2012
A Small Circus by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hofmann

Penguin Classics, pp.578, 20

In 2009, Alone in Berlin, Hans Fallada’s masterpiece about civilian resistance to Nazism, appeared in English for the first time. Now A Small Circus, Fallada’s literary breakthrough, makes its English… Read more


Menace, mystery and decadence

11 February 2012
The Alexandria Quartet Lawrence Durrell

Faber, pp.880, 14.99

Amateurs in Eden Joanna Hodgkin

Virago, pp.335, 25

It is fitting that Charles Dickens’s bicentenary coincides with Lawrence Durrell’s centenary, for the two novelists have crucial resemblances: both of them are triumphant in the intensity and power of… Read more


Bookends: Trouble and strife

4 February 2012

It isn’t true that Joanna Trollope (pictured above) only produces novels about the kind of people who have an Aga in their kitchen: what she writes about are families. Her… Read more

A choice of first novels

4 February 2012
Mountains of the Moon I.J. Kay

Cape, pp.368, 16.99

Alys, Always Harriet Lane

Weidenfeld, pp.224, 12.99

The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals Wendy Jones

Corsair, pp.208, 12.99

Mountains of the Moon is narrated by a woman just released after spending ten years in jail. The reason for her sentence and the details of her previous life are… Read more

Finding Mr Wright

28 January 2012
Jack Holmes and His Friend Edmund White

Bloomsbury, pp.390, 18.99

The film When Harry Met Sally may be infamous for the scene in which the heroine mimics orgasm in a crowded café, but the real point of the story is… Read more

The phantom lover

28 January 2012
The Greatcoat Helen Dunmore

Hammer, pp.208, 9.99

Driving past several long abandoned second- world-war airfields in East Anglia last year I was struck by how spooky they seemed, just like the decommissioned army base that used to… Read more

Chaos and the old order

28 January 2012
An Ermine in Czernopol Gregor von Rezzori, translated by Philip Boehm

New York Review of Books, pp.380, 9.99

If Gregor von Rezzori is known to English language readers, it is likely to be through his tense, disturbing novel Memoirs of an Anti-Semite (partly written in English), and/or his… Read more

Questioning tales

7 January 2012
Married Love Tessa Hadley

Cape, pp.242, 14.99

Tessa Hadley’s previous book, The London Train, was one of the best novels of last year, though overlooked by prize committees. It concerned the gently disentangling lives of a pair… Read more

Lake Michigan days

7 January 2012
The Art of Fielding Chad Harbach

Fourth Estate, pp.450, 16.99

It is probably hard to enjoy this new big novel from America without some understanding of the shortstop’s position on the baseball field. But that is easily remedied, thanks to… Read more

Rather a cold fish

31 December 2011
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall Paul Torday

Weidenfeld, pp.288, 12.99

Published first novel (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) at the age of 59, Richard and Judy choice, won Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction; spent his whole career in… Read more


Poison Ivy

17 December 2011

‘Who was she?’, a browser might ask on finding three re-issued novels by Ivy Compton-Burnett, and ‘Why should I read them?’ Dame Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884-1969) was one of 13 children… Read more


Bookends: Saving JFK

10 December 2011

Stephen King’s latest novel is a time-travel fantasy about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. At almost 750 pages, 11.22.63 is drawn-out even by blockbuster standards. Critics have bemoaned its… Read more


Lifelong death wish

10 December 2011
Three Lives: A Biography of Stefan Zweig Oliver Matuschek, translated by Allan Blunden

Pushkin Press, pp.381, 20

In February 2009, in a review in these pages of Stefan Zweig’s unfinished novel, The Post Office Girl, I wrote: ‘Here surely is what Joseph Conrad meant when he wrote… Read more

Recent crime novels

3 December 2011

The crop of recent crime fiction is generously sprinkled with well-known names; as far as its publishers are concerned, Christmas is not a time of year for risk-taking. The Impossible… Read more


Bookends: Not filthy enough

26 November 2011

The Pursued (Penguin, £12.99) is a lost crime thriller by C. S. Forester, the author of the Hornblower novels. It was written in 1935, rediscovered in 2003 and is now… Read more

A literary curio

26 November 2011
The Sea is My Brother Jack Kerouac

Penguin, pp.426, 25

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, better known as Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the son of French-Canadians spiced with the blood of Mohawk and Caughnawaga Indians and subdued, no doubt, by migration from… Read more


Children’s Books: Myth and magic

26 November 2011

It was the second week of term and my grandson’s birthday. He had just started at primary school and the only alternative to social suicide seemed to be to invite… Read more

Pea-soupers and opium dens

19 November 2011
The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel Anthony Horowitz

Orion, pp.294, 18.99

So: does Moriarty exist, or not? Well no, not really, and not just in the literal sense of being a fictional character. He’s hardly even that. We have no evidence… Read more

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

12 November 2011
Death Comes to Pemberley P.D. James

Faber, pp.310, 18.99

The novels of Jane Austen have much in common with traditional detective fiction. It is an affinity that P. D. James has herself explored, notably in her essay ‘Emma Considered… Read more

Bird Brain by Guy Kennaway

12 November 2011
Bird Brain Guy Kennaway

Cape, pp.291, 14.99

Basil Peyton-Crumbe is a multi-millionaire landowner. An embattled man known to all, even his dogs, as ‘Banger’, he claims to have despatched at least 41,000 pheasants with the cheap old… Read more


Books of the Year

12 November 2011

A further selection of our reviewers’ favourite reading in 2011 Richard Davenport-Hines Amidst the din, slogans and panic of modern publishing, my cherished books are tender, calm and achieve a… Read more