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Fiction

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

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

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue

12 November 2011
The Sealed Letter Emma Donoghue

Picador, pp.398, 18.99

Emily ‘Fido’ Faithfull, a stout, plain, clever Victorian, founder-member of the feminist Langham Place group, manager of the ground-breaking Victoria Press which extends employment possibilities for women, has her story… Read more

The ripple effect

5 November 2011
How It All Began Penelope Lively

Fig Tree, pp.248, 16.99

Penelope Lively’s new novel traces the consequences of a London street mugging. As the culprit sprints away with a handbag, the victim, Charlotte, a retired widow, falls and cracks her… Read more

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Books of the Year

5 November 2011

Our regular reviewers were asked to name the books they’d most enjoyed reading this year. More choices next week •  A.N. Wilson Rachel Campbell-Johnson’s Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work… Read more

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

5 November 2011
The Marriage Plot Jeffrey Eugenides

Fourth Estate, pp.486, 20

Jonathan Franzen. David Foster Wallace. Jeffrey Eugenides. Giant, slow-moving, serious writers, notching up about a novel per decade, all with their sights set on The Big One, The Beast, The… Read more

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

5 November 2011
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson

Cape, pp.230, 14.99

In the 26 years since the publication of her highly acclaimed first novel, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson has proved herself a writer of startling invention, originality… Read more

The Golden Hour by William Nicholson

29 October 2011
The Golden Hour William Nicholson

Quercus, pp.438, 20

He’s got a winning formula, this writer, and he’s sticking to it. Set the action over seven days, in and around the Sussex town of Lewes, with occasional day trips… Read more

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

29 October 2011
The Thread Victoria Hislop

Headline, pp.390, 18.99

Oh what a tangled web she weaves! Victoria Hislop’s third novel, the appropriately titled The Thread, is pleasingly complex. The story traces several generations of a fictional Greek family called… Read more