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Novelists

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Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester

29 October 2011
Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller Jennifer Kloester

Heinemann, pp.464, 20

Those of us who have spent an embarrassing number of hours immersed in the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer have learned to live dangerously. We have been overturned in high… Read more

A singular voice

30 July 2011
Civil to Strangers and Other Writings Barbara Pym, with an introduction by Hazel Holt

Virago, pp.400, 8.99

Barbara Pym, now thought of as a reliable and popular novelist of the 1950s and 1960s, has almost disappeared from sight, overshadowed by the more explicit and confessional writers we… Read more

A choice of first novels

30 July 2011

As L.P. Hartley noted, the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. And no more so than during the two world wars, a fact that has provided… Read more

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The revised version

23 July 2011
The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes

Cape, pp.150, 12.99

The narrator of Julian Barnes’s novella has failed disastrously to understand his first love. David Sexton admires this skilful story, but finds something missing Julian Barnes once said that the… Read more

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When the going got tough

16 July 2011

The acute emotional pain caused by his first wife’s infidelity was of priceless service to Evelyn Waugh as a novelist, says Paul Johnson Evelyn Waugh died, aged 62, in 1966,… Read more

When more is less

25 June 2011
Foreign Bodies Cynthia Ozick

Atlantic, pp.255, 16.99

If you know anything at all about Cynthia Ozick — an officially accredited grande dame in America, less famous in Britain — you won’t be surprised to hear that her… Read more

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Morality tales

18 June 2011
A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: The Collected Stories Margaret Drabble

Penguin Classics, pp.223, 20

Francis King celebrates Margaret Drabble’s distinguished career and vividly recalls their first meeting I first met a youthful Margaret Drabble when, already myself an established author, I was working at… Read more

We are the past

4 June 2011
Then Julie Myerson

Cape, pp.296, 12.99

Julie Myerson’s eighth novel is told by a woman who roams the City of London after an unspecified apocalypse (no power, bad weather). Julie Myerson’s eighth novel is told by… Read more

All shook up

28 May 2011
The Trouble with Alice Olivia Glazebrook

Short Books, pp.277, £12.99

Olivia Glazebrook’s first novel begins with a disaster. Olivia Glazebrook’s first novel begins with a disaster. Kit, painter of meretricious society portraits, has whisked Alice, his younger, pregnant girlfriend, off… Read more

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The way to dusty death

21 May 2011
The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress Beryl Bainbridge

Little Brown, pp.198, 16.99

Beryl Bainbridge’s last novel is a haunting echo of her own final years, according to A. N. Wilson Some writers die years before bodily demise. They lose their grip. In… Read more

In Di’s guise

16 April 2011
Untold Story Monica Ali

Doubleday, pp.345, 16.99

What if Princess Diana hadn’t died, but, aided by her besotted press secretary, had faked her death and fled to America to live under an assumed identity? Is this an… Read more

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An existential hero

16 April 2011
The Pale King David Foster Wallace

Hamish Hamilton, pp.547, 20

Sam Leith is enthralled by a masterpiece on monotony, but is devastated by its author’s death When David Foster Wallace took his own life two and a half years ago,… Read more

A choice of first novels

9 April 2011
The End Salvatore Scibona

Cape, pp.304, 16.99

My Name is Mary Sutter Robin Oliviera

Penguin, pp.384, 12.99

Scissors, Paper, Stone Elizabeth Day

Bloomsbury, pp.256, 11.99

Rocco LaGrassa was ‘stout around the middle . . . wee at the ankles, and girlish at his tiny feet, a man in the shape of a lightbulb’. In Salvatore… Read more

Kill or cure

Ifs and Buts: Personal Terms 5 Frederic Raphael

Carcanet, pp.185, 19.95

Frederic Raphael was the first man to use a four-letter word in The Spectator: the work of his fellow playwright Stephen King-Hall, he wrote in 1957, made him ‘puke’. Frederic… Read more

Whatever next?

9 April 2011
King of the Badgers Philip Hensher

Fourth Estate, pp.436, 18.99

Philip Hensher’s King of the Badgers is set in Hanmouth, a small English coastal town described so thickly that it is established from the outset as effectively a character in… Read more

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The wisdom of youth

9 April 2011
People Who Say Goodbye P.Y. Betts

Slightly Foxed, pp.312, 15

‘You must write it all down’ is the age-old plea to elderly relatives about their childhood memories. ‘You must write it all down’ is the age-old plea to elderly relatives… Read more

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The passionate friend

2 April 2011
A Man of Parts: A Novel David Lodge

Harvill Secker, pp.565, £18.99

Sam Leith explores H. G. Wells’s addiction to free love, as revealed in David Lodge’s latest biographical novel In the history of seduction, there can have been few scenes quite… Read more

Triumph and disaster

19 March 2011
When God Was a Rabbit Sarah Winman

Headline Review, pp.325, 13

The title of this first novel refers to a version of childhood as a magical kingdom where evil can be overturned and heaven and earth remade at the whim of… Read more

Desk-bound traveller

5 March 2011
The London Satyr Robert Edric

Doubleday, pp.367, 16.99

The Lives of the Savages Robert Edric

P.S. Publishing, pp.126, 11.99

With a new novel each year, Robert Edric cannot have much time for courting London’s literary establishment, but does he stay at home in East Yorkshire? The London Satyr is… Read more

Death of the Author

5 March 2011
Today David Miller

Atlantic Books, pp.176, 12.99

The death of the Polish-born British novelist Joseph Conrad is the central event of David Miller’s debut novel. The death of the Polish-born British novelist Joseph Conrad is the central… Read more

Recent crime novels

5 March 2011

Andrew Rosenheim is building a solid reputation for intelligent, thoughtful thrillers driven by character and theme rather than plot mechanics. His latest, Fear Itself (Hutchinson, £14.99), breaks new ground for… Read more

Desk-bound, needing to get out more

26 February 2011
Great House Nicole Krauss

Penguin/Viking, pp.289, 16.99

Great House is an ambitious novel, if it’s a novel at all. Great House is an ambitious novel, if it’s a novel at all. It’s an exploration of regret, longing,… Read more

The call of the wild

19 February 2011
Bird Cloud Annie Proulx

Fourth Estate, pp.234, 16.99

Annie Proulx (pronounced ‘Pru’) began her writing career — quite late, in her fifties — as E.A. Proulx, to baffle misogynist editors; then she was E. Annie Proulx, until she… Read more

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And then there was one . . .

5 February 2011
The Trinity Six Charles Cumming

HarperCollins, pp.406, 12.99

The English fascination with spies is gloriously reflected in our literature, from Kim to A Question of Attribution, and while their Egyptian and Israeli counterparts remain untranslated, and the Americans… Read more

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Names to conjure with

5 February 2011

Golly gee. Academic literary critics are going to hate Faulks on Fiction like sin. Here is Sebastian three-for-two Faulks, if you please, clumping onto their turf with a book of… Read more