Blighted island: Strangers at the Port, by Lauren Aimee Curtis, reviewed

Lauren Aimee Curtis, born in Sydney and recently named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, sets her intriguing second book on the Aeolian island of Salina in the late 19th century, when the arrival of phylloxera destroyed the island’s vines and economy, prompting mass emigration. These facts are easy to deduce, especially with the clarification provided in the author’s note, but in the novel itself Curtis names the island ‘S’ and the time becomes ‘that spring, when the men arrived’. She entices us into the mythical realm of not-quite history. Part One is narrated by Giulia, looking back to when she was ten years old and telling her

Ice and snow and sea and sky: Lean Fall Stand, by Jon McGregor, reviewed

Jon McGregor has an extraordinary ability to articulate the unspoken through ethereal prose that observes ordinary lives from above without judging. While he is also skilful at depicting the particular, it is his overview of different lives running in parallel that is so bewitching, as if he is looking down on ants running around with their own urgent purposes, but each one minuscule in the scheme of the world. All his books have been treasures, capturing both the scramble of individual lives and the stillness of the universe and nature, impassive and immutable. His latest novel centres around an Antarctic expedition, where catastrophe seeps into the tranquillity like blood on

The creators of Breeders are locked into a game of How Far Can You Go

Sky One’s Breeders (Thursday) bills itself as an ‘honest and uncompromising comedy’ about parenting. To this end, the opening scene featured Martin Freeman as Paul trying to do some work while his two children under seven made a bit of noise a couple of rooms away. Having given himself a little pep talk about not screaming at them, Paul then screamed at them — bursting in on their blameless fun to yell: ‘Jesus fucking Christ! How many times do I have to tell you to be quiet?’ He further informed them that he was going to leave home and they should ‘tell mummy that daddy’s gone cos he couldn’t stand