Book reviews

A choice of first novels

9 April 2011 12:00 am

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 Scibona’s first novel we join this lightbulb of a man on perhaps his darkest day: the day on which the police arrive at his door to tell him his son has just died of tuberculosis in a prisoner-of-war camp in North Korea.

Recent crime fiction

9 April 2011 12:00 am

Henning Mankell bestrides the landscape of Scandavian crime fiction like a despondent colossus.

Kill or cure

9 April 2011 12:00 am

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’.

Rather in the lurch

9 April 2011 12:00 am

Will it ever end? The romantic interest in the architecture, history and life lived in the country house is as alive today as it was in 1978, when Mark Girouard wrote his seminal Life in the English Country House.

Whatever next?

9 April 2011 12:00 am

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 itself.

The wisdom of youth

9 April 2011 12:00 am

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

Bookends: Murder in the dark

2 April 2011 6:30 am

When the Observer critic Philip French started writing on the cinema in the early 1960s, he once explained in an…

A world of her own

2 April 2011 12:00 am

This book, written by someone whose husband was for three years prime minister of Britain, is impossible to review.

Haitian horrors

2 April 2011 12:00 am

Twenty years ago, in 1991, I was shown round the National Palace in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The trail goes cold

2 April 2011 12:00 am

For centuries, the history of the far North was a tapestry of controversies and mis- understandings, misspellings, dubious arrivals and equally dubious departures.

In the pink

2 April 2011 12:00 am

In 1988 Katherine Swift took a lease on the Dower House at Morville Hall, a National Trust property in Shropshire, and created a one-and-a-half acre garden in what had been a field.

The passionate friend

2 April 2011 12:00 am

Sam Leith explores H. G. Wells’s addiction to free love, as revealed in David Lodge’s latest biographical novel

Bookends: Capital rewards

26 March 2011 6:00 am

London has been the subject of more anthologies than Samuel Pepys had hot chambermaids. This is fitting, as an anthology’s appeal — unexpected juxtaposition — matches that of the capital itself. But it does mean that any new contender has to work hard to justify its publication.

The masters in miniature

26 March 2011 12:00 am

Jeremy Treglown finds something for everyone in Penguin’s new Mini Modern series

A clash of commerce and culture

26 March 2011 12:00 am

Other People’s Money — and How the Bankers Use It by Louis D. Brandeis was a collection of articles about the predatory practices of big banks, published in book form in 1914. Nearly a century later, it remains in print. In 1991 Danny de Vito starred as ‘Larry the Liquidator’ in the film Other People’s Money. The wanton boys of banking sport with us in life and art and in Justin Cartwright’s latest novel.

Iron in the blood

26 March 2011 12:00 am

How curious that such an outsize man, in physique as well as personality, should be remembered today mainly for giving his name to a small fish.

Glutton for punishment

26 March 2011 12:00 am

With its vast areas of barely explored wilderness, and its heady mix of the sublime, the bizarre and the lushly seductive, South America would appear to have all the ingredients to attract the travel writer.

A grief ago

26 March 2011 12:00 am

The cautionary slogan ‘less is more’ has never been the American writer Joyce Carol Oates’ watchword.

Sins of the fathers

26 March 2011 12:00 am

The papacy is in good shape and looks set to last another 2,000 years, says Paul Johnson; but too few popes in the past have been pious or clement or innocent

A chorus of disapproval

19 March 2011 6:00 am

At more than 700 pages including appendices, Guardian writer Dorian Lynskey’s 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs…

Triumph and disaster

19 March 2011 12:00 am

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 a power-crazed infant.

Nostalgie de la boue

19 March 2011 12:00 am

In the late 1960s I grew up in the London borough of Greenwich, which in those days had a shabby, post-industrial edge.

Design for living

19 March 2011 12:00 am

The first thing to be said about this remarkable book is that it has nothing to do with animal rights.

‘We’ll always have Paris’

19 March 2011 12:00 am

The long war between France and the US has its liveliest consequence in the world of film: Hollywood does movies, the French do cinema.

Rogues’ gallery

19 March 2011 12:00 am

The distinguished writer Brian Masters in his handsomely produced book on the actors of the Garrick Club has set himself a formidable task.