Emily Rhodes

Picture study: Second Self, by Chloë Ashby, reviewed

Having established a name for herself as a talented art critic for the national press, Chloë Ashby employs her expertise with illuminating effect in her fiction. In her first novel, Wet Paint, she used the uncomfortable gaze of the barmaid in Manet’s ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’ to explore how her protagonist sees and is

Turmoil in Tuscany: The Three Graces, by Amanda Craig, reviewed

The title of Amanda Craig’s enjoyable and provocative ninth novel might conjure the dancing trio in Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ (which we visit in the book, set in Tuscany); but the three graces here are Ruth, Diana and Marta, elderly expat friends who meet for weekly gossips over coffee, ‘united by age, exile, the love of dogs

Michela Wrong, Emily Rhodes and Cindy Yu

21 min listen

This week: Michela Wrong asks whether anywhere is safe for Kagame’s critics (00:58), Emily Rhodes charts the rise of fake libraries (07:54), and Cindy Yu reviews a new exhibition at the British Museum on China’s hidden century (15:25).  Produced and presented by Oscar Edmondson. 

Harry’s crusade: the Prince vs the press

31 min listen

This week:  Prince Harry has taken the stand to give evidence in the Mirror Group phone hacking trial which The Spectator’s deputy editor Freddy Gray talks about in his cover piece for the magazine. He is joined by Patrick Jephson, former private secretary to Princess Diana, to discuss whether Harry’s ‘suicide mission’ against the press is ill-advised.

Cooking the books: the rise of fake libraries

There is a growing fashion for fake books. Not fake as in written by a series of AI prompts, but fake as in things – cleverly painted empty boxes, or a façade of spines glued to a wall – designed to mislead the casual onlooker into thinking that they are books. A recent New York

The Native American lore of Minnesota’s lakes and islands

Louise Erdrich intrigues with her very first sentence: ‘My travels have become so focused on books and islands that the two have merged for me.’ She explores this integration in her astonishing account of her trips to the lakes and islands of Minnesota and Ontario, where ancient painted signs on rocks inspire her to perceive

Max Jeffery, Emily Rhodes and Daisy Dunn

19 min listen

This week: Max Jeffery reads his letter from Abu Dhabi where he visited the International Defence Exhibition (00:56), Emily Rhodes discusses the tyranny of World Book Day (05:59), and Daisy Dunn tells us about the mysterious world of the Minoans (10:22).  Produced and presented by Oscar Edmondson.

The tyranny of World Book Day

‘Dear parents, a reminder that we are dressing up for World Book Day! Don’t forget your child should come to school in costume as their favourite character tomorrow…’ It’s the email every parent dreads receiving. (Or one of them, anyway.) It tends to be opened at eight o’clock the evening before World Book Day, to

Seeing and being seen: Wet Paint, by Chloë Ashby, reviewed

In this arresting debut novel we follow 26-year-old Eve as she tries to come to terms with the loss of her best friend Grace. Flashbacks punctuate the present day of Eve’s London life, gradually revealing her role in the grim circumstances of Grace’s death. Eve lives in a flatshare with a patronisingly well-meaning couple who

A modern Medea: Iron Curtain, by Vesna Goldsworthy, reviewed

Vesna Goldsworthy’s finely wrought third novel explodes into life early on with a shocking scene in which Misha — the boyfriend of our protagonist, Milena Urbanska — returns from a short, tough spell of military service, initiates a game of Russian roulette (‘the only Russian thing I could face right now’) and blows his brains

The stuff of everyday life: Real Estate, by Deborah Levy, reviewed

Real Estate is the third and concluding volume of Deborah Levy’s ground-breaking ‘Living Autobiography’. Fans of Levy’s alluring, highly allusive fiction will appreciate the insights into her life; moreover, anyone with an ounce of curiosity will be fascinated by her compelling tour of city streets, island rocks and meandering diversions into ideas from a wealth

The art of negotiation: Peace Talks, by Tim Finch, reviewed

Early on in Tim Finch’s hypnotic novel Peace Talks, the narrator — the diplomat Edvard Behrends, who facilitates international peace negotiations — reflects: ‘Peace talks settle into this repeating pattern after a while, a pattern like that of the floor carpets in places like this conference centre, in which a polygonal weave mesmerises the eye

Male violence pulses through Evie Wyld’s The Bass Rock

‘It’s a woman’s thing, creation,’ says Sarah,a girl accused of witchcraft in 18th-century Scotland, in one of the three storylines in Evie Wyld’s powerful new novel. Sarah is pregnant, having been raped and nearly killed. She is looking at a piece of sacking sewn by a sister and mother, and continues: ‘You can see how

Hell and high water: eco-anxiety dominates Jenny Offill’s latest novel

Lizzie, the narrator of Jenny Offill’s impressive third novel Weather, is ‘enmeshed’ with her brother, according to her psychologist-cum-meditation teacher. The word ‘mesh’ returns a few pages later, in a podcast, referring to the interconnectedness of different species: ‘a better term than “web”, they think’. With its paradoxical meaning of both containing spaces and joining

Jessie Burton’s The Confession is, frankly, a bit heavy-handed

Jessie Burton is famous for her million-copy bestselling debut novel The Miniaturist, which she followed with The Muse. Now she’s written her third, The Confession. Like The Muse, it is a double narrative, moving between the early 1980s and 2017 (a departure from the historical settings of her previous books). In 1980, 20-year-old Elise meets