Salley Vickers

The discreet shape of tears

Mothers and memoirs are fashionable at the moment. We’ve had Edward St Aubyn’s novel Mother’s Milk and few respectable books’ pages appear without a brand-new set of tragic, comic or tragi- comic reminiscences, leaving us grateful, if apologetic, for our own drearily staid lives. Yet it is a fact that a really good memoir usually

Chekhov in the home counties

Dorothy Whipple was once a highly regarded bestselling novelist and it is typical of the excellent Persephone books that they have restored her glory within their elegant silver jackets and distinctive floral end papers. In They Were Sisters, with its, surely intentional, Chekhovian undertones, Whipple explores the fortunes of three sisters: Lucy, Charlotte and Vera.

The dark side of laughter

As a rule, I disapprove of reviews which review the author and not the book, but some occasions demand it. The British, I don’t know why, are notoriously myopic, mean-spirited even, about multiple talents. In France one could be a poet and a stripper and be taken equally seriously as either. David Baddiel is best

The pardoner’s tale

Books about wartime experiences are thick enough on the ground to make one wonder if it is really worth the trauma of reading yet another, but Adriaan Van Dis’s book, translated, a little clumsily, from the Dutch, offers a fresh angle. Set in Holland, it tells in retrospect the story of an illegitimate boy, born