The skull beneath the skin: Ghost Pains, by Jessi Jezewska Stevens, reviewed

Hell, according to Jean-Paul Sartre, is other people. Jessi Jezewska Stevens would nominate parties. Social catastrophe can stem from the invitation: ‘Email!’ she laments. ‘The way all modern tragedies begin.’ She homes in on the space between what a woman thinks and says and does. Her anti-heroines can be relied on to make wrong decisions – men, marriage, nipple-piercing and, of course, parties. The choice invariably ends in failure. Ghost Pains is a collection of 11 stories, sardonic and elegant, imbued with a sense of isolation and self-awareness. Stevens’s women throw spectacularly disastrous parties. And attend them. The result can be amusing for the reader while being grievous for the

It’s the fisherman who’s truly hooked

Trying to catch fish with rod and line is a pursuit that, for many, goes far beyond the pleasant passing of a few leisure hours, the diverting indulgence of a hobby. It becomes little short of a reason for existence, an end for which the other bits of life are merely the means. I have never been so afflicted, being a casual sea-angler, but I look upon those who are with profound curiosity. Like deep religious faith, such zeal might sometimes look cranky, but there is much to envy too. ‘Fishing simply sent me out of my mind,’ confessed the Russian writer Sergei Aksakov. In The Lightning Thread, David Profumo

The world’s largest, rarest owl is used for target practice in Siberia

The montane forests of far-eastern Russia have given rise to one of the finest nature books of recent years, The Great Soul of Siberia. In it the Korean cameraman Sooyong Park describes his quest to document the life of the region’s Amur tigers, evoking both his totem beast and its remarkable landscape in loving detail. Jonathan Slaght is an American author, cut from the same cloth in terms of the sheer grit required to cope with the sub-zero temperatures and gloomy, snow-entombed winter woods of Siberia. Nearly 20 years ago he embarked on a similarly arduous mission, not to study the world’s biggest cat, but its largest owl, a ten-pound