Winterson’s powerful debut novel

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson I don’t know how I’ve managed to escape reading Winterson’s debut – I’ve read (and loved) her autobiography Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, (reviewed here), and I very much enjoyed the TV adaptation of this book with Geraldine McEwan playing the fearsome mother. Read More

A novel with a rather long title…

One Clear Ice-cold January Morning at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century by Roland Schimmelpfennig Translated by Jamie Bulloch The worst thing about this book is its cumbersome title – which is actually the beginning of the novel’s first sentence, which continues thus: …just after daybreak, a solitary wolf crossed the frozen river marking the Read More

20 Books of Summer #1 – Why have I never read Kent Haruf before?

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf Over the years, so many people have sung the praises of Kent Haruf, but he remained undiscovered for me until I got one of his novels at a book sale – then it sat on the shelf until I picked it up for this years 20 Books of Read More

A Wild Swans for this generation?

Once Upon a Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo It is inevitable that Guo’s memoir, which was shortlisted this year for the Rathbones Folio Prize (which I wrote about here), will be compared with Jung Chang’s brilliant family history and memoir Wild Swans, with Guo adding her story as a young woman from the Read More

The Power of Fairy Tales: Marina Warner & Sally Gardner

Once Upon a Time by Marina Warner Subtitled ‘A short history of fairy tale’, Warner’s compact volume belies its small size. It’s a tiny hardback, but within its 200 or so pages, the author recounts the rich history behind the beloved fairy tales we all know from their most common (often arguably via Disney film Read More

PFD Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year shortlist – Minoo Dinshaw

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman by Minoo Dinshaw I think I can be forgiven for going ‘Steven Who?’ when faced with this doorstop of a book to read as a Shadow Judge of this prize. History has never been my strong suit, and I’d never heard of Runciman – who turned out Read More

Book Group Report: Medicine

Our topic for discussion this month was medicine. Two months ago, when we were choosing which medical book to read, the nominations were varied – from real surgeons and psychiatrists or psychologists to fictional surgeons and psychiatrists or psychologists… Saturday – Ian McEwan Outbreak by Robin Cook    Not a red hair in sight – Read More

An Atwoodian YA tale…

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill It’s rare that a cover quote on a book cover sums up a novel so completely, but the one from Vagenda on one of the paperback editions of Louise O’Neill’s debut novel is near-perfect: ‘Mean Girls meets The Handmaid’s Tale’ But of course I can’t leave it there! The moment I Read More

Small town secrets and lies…

This post was republished into my blog’s original timeline from my lost post archive. Orient by Christopher Bollen This is a thriller about small town America writ large – and chunky, weighing in at 609 pages. However, it was totally gripping right from the start as each page peels away all the secrets and lies that foster Read More

The bells, the bells…

This post was edited and republished into its original place in my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive. A Musical Interlude I’ve just finished reading Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, which I loved and have reviewed for Shiny New Books here. In the novel, the narrator’s mother is a German concert pianist Read More

A Trio of Short Reviews

I thought I’d sneak a couple of short book reviews into that week between Christmas and New Year.  Too bloated with turkey, booze and chocolate to concentrate on reading, I often find I’m scouring the web at this time for stuff to read and do! The Last Kings of Sark by Rosa Rankin-Gee This is Read More

Medieval Iceland – a place of cod wars even then…

On the Cold Coastsby Vilborg Davidsdottir, trans Alda Sigmundsdottir At the heart of this novel is the tale of Ragna, a young Icelandic woman from a family with property in Greenland which she will inherit. Still a young teenager, yet betrothed to Thorkell, Ragna becomes unmarriageable when she becomes pregnant by an English sailor who Read More

Short Takes on Two Short Stories…

I don’t read many short stories, but this week, I’ve happened to read two … The Small Miracleby Paul Gallico Published in  1951, Gallico’s story is a charming fable of faith and love about an orphan boy Pepino, and his donkey Violette. Pepino and Violette live in Assisi. They make ends meet by doing donkey Read More

Australian Literature Month – Just about made it!

This January has been Australian Literature Month, hosted by Kim at Reading Matters, and the interweb has been alive with Aussie Lit. Before I give my thoughts on the book I read for the month, I’d like to recall my very first experience of Australian books… It was the early 1970s I think, and my Read More

Old reviews from Feb 2011: Jones – Lukas – Nicholls

A novel of ‘Great expectations’ – Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones With its lovely cover, and the promise of Dickensian fun in paradise, I was easily lured into this novel.  I’ll admit that having missed most of the hype about it when it came out, I was expecting a soft and lightly humorous novel along the Read More

Art is a commodity not for looking at!

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin Steve Martin’s latest novel is not funny. He plays it straight in An Object of Beauty as the world chronicled within is so full of self-parody that there’s little need to add extra layers of satire to achieve a certain sort of vicious comedy. Set in New York Read More

Will they, won’t they?

Obstacles to Young Love by David Nobbs. Billed as a story of ‘faith, love and taxidermy’, this is the seventeeth novel from septuagenarian author David Nobbs, creator of the sublime (certainly in the hands of Leonard Rossiter) Reginald Iolanthe Perrin. This novel follows the lives of Timothy and Naomi over a period of thirty years, starting back Read More

Reading the Canongate Myths, vol XIII

Orphans of Eldorado by Milton Hatoum Translated by John Gledson I’ve temporarily jumped to the current end of the Canongate Myths list (see my dedicated page for the series here) to read this short novel inspired by Amazonian fables of an enchanted city, and the search for Eldorado. The action centres around the Brazilian city Read More

A tale of two families at war with themselves

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan There is a much used quote of Leo Tolstoy’s from Anna Karenina: -“All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This is particularly true to the two chronicled in this novel. Firstly we meet Meridia. Her mother Ravenna had nearly died Read More

Grim but gripping …

Once Upon a Time in England by Helen Walsh This book was totally gripping from the outset – the life experienced by the working class family within is truly grim; an unremitingly bleak existence, reinforced by a series of poor decisions and having to live with the consequences. Each time they pick themselves up, something Read More