Lead book review

Summer reading

Mary Killen Gone Girl by the American writer Gillian Flynn comes recommended by both high- and middle-brow readers (Orion, £7.99). I want the reported total absorption from the off and the welcome relief from thinking about anything other than what’s on the next page. The Blue Riband, Peter York’s anecdotal history of the Piccadilly Line

The Men Who Lost America, by Andrew O’Shaughnessy – review

On Christmas Day 1776, the ambitious, well-connected war hero, General John Burgoyne, soon to be appointed commander of British forces in Canada, agreed a wager of 50 guineas with Charles James Fox ‘that he will be home victorious from America by Christmas Day 1777.’ Nine weeks short of that date, on 17 October, Burgoyne surrendered

More from Books

The Professor of Poetry, by Grace McCleen – review

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 find herself ‘attached by a chain of spit to her own cardigan’. A brain tumour is diagnosed, and removed. Expecting death, Elizabeth receives the news

An Englishman in Madrid, by Eduardo Mendoza – review

To Spaniards, the English must appear a highly contradictory people. The stereotype of the restrained, well-dressed gentleman (Spain’s largest department store is El Corte Inglés, ‘the English cut’) must contend with the binge-drinking phalanxes of tourists occupying Spain’s beaches every summer. Though generally thought to be fairly law-abiding, the English are still, mostly affectionately, referred

Hotel Pool

Twelve? Thirteen? She arrives in advance of her parents, fat as I was thin, wrapped in a towel, pattering to safety — a bench where she sits obscured before abandoning herself to the indecency of a walk towards water, (though who’s to see? To care? The retirees? Me with my puckered stomach?) My eyes meet

Boliver, by Marie Arana – review

So here we go again into a heart of darkness:  the humbug and horror which is the history of Spanish South America ever since Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola. Now modern Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the island’s population had within a few decades of Columbus’ arrival, through genocide and disease, been reduced

The Girl from Station X, by Elisa Segrave – review

On her seventh birthday, Elisa Segrave’s five-year-old brother Raymond drowned in their grandmother’s swimming pool. From that day onwards, her mother Anne was emotionally detached and alcoholic. ‘My mother was only 42 when I, my father and my two remaining brothers lost her — to grief.’ Rebuffed by her mother in the days after Raymond’s

The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner – review

This bright, burning flame of a novel takes place in the art world of 1970s New York. Our guide to this scene of glittering parties and eccentric characters — such as the White Lady, who wears white and goes to a grocery store to buy ‘milk, white bread, a can of hominy, and two jars

The Spinning Heart, by Donal Ryan – review

Despite being so short, The Spinning Heart certainly can’t be accused of lacking ambition. Over the course of its 150-odd pages, Donal Ryan’s first novel introduces us to no fewer than 21 narrators living in or around the same small town in the west of Ireland. One by one, they reflect on their lives, past

Edwardian Requiem, by Michael Waterhouse – review

The photograph on the jacket, reproduced above, says it all — or at least all of what most of us think we know about Sir Edward Grey. Patrician, reflective, dignified, he stares into the future with the uncompromising honesty of one who has never even contemplated straying from the paths of rectitude. In fact, he