NYRB Fortnight (belated) – Alfred Hayes

I spotted that Lizzy was hosting an NYRB fortnight rather late in the actual fortnight, but I started reading this slim volume on the last day, so it counts in my book! My Face For the World to See by Alfred Hayes Hayes, who was born in London but emigrated to the US as a Read More

Graham Greene for the 1951 Club

The 1951 Club… …is the fourth in Simon and Karen’s reading years series – and I must say, I’m looking forward to the next decades!  1951 produced a plethora of books on my shelves. I could pick from Asimov, Bradbury or Wyndham in SF&F and there was Mitford’s Blessing, Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, Taylor’s A Read More

4 3 2 1 – Go! At last, a review…

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster This is the book I’ve been most excited about since I got my hands on it before Christmas, yet, it has taken until now to review it. My reading of this wonderful, ‘big fat book’ (Auster’s words) has history: I was invited to join an online book group Read More

Catching up – Jan and Feb Book Group reviews

I thought it was time I started reviewing the books I’ve read this year, so today I’m catching up with our book group reads discussed in Jan and Feb. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis This was the first book I read this year, managing to squeeze it in just before we met a few days into January. Read More

Branagh at the Garrick

The Entertainer by John Osborne Having a potentially wet weekend to myself, no chance of the planned car boot sale taking place, I looked to find myself a theatre ticket for a day out. I went to the Garrick to see Ken Branagh’s company do Terence Rattigan’s Harlequinade last December (see here). I wanted to book for the Read More

Book Group Report: Travel

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby In an effort to get more variety into our reading, we’ve started a subject cycle. We pick a topic to research, then next month everyone comes with a suggestion or two on that subject and we whittle them down to a handful to draw a Read More

A banned book for Reading Ireland

The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien I’ve been meaning to read more by O’Brien ever since I inherited my Mum’s old Penguins. She was a fan of O’Brien and I really enjoyed her Earthy novel August is a Wicked Month. I had thought to start the Country Girls trilogy sooner but found I was missing the first volume Read More

My Books of the Year 2014 – Part Two – The Blog edit

Yesterday I shared my best reads of 2014 as reviewed for Shiny New Books. Today, I turn my attention to titles reviewed here. The links will return you to my full reviews: – Best Retro-Subversive Laugh-Out-Loud Book Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler So nearly my book of the year, Discovering Scarfolk is just hilarious! Stuck firmly in Read More

Poor but mostly happy …

This Boy by Alan Johnson Politicians’ memoirs are not the norm for me to read when I choose non-fiction. Alan Johnson may be a fine politician, (and many think that Labour would be in a much better place if he had stood to become leader) but this volume doesn’t cover his later career, just his Read More

The first in an Italian trilogy…

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante Translated by Ann Goldstein I came to reading this book, the first volume in Ferrante’s Neapolitan Trilogy, with more than a little trepidation. Firstly I have only heard good things about it, so I was hoping that it would live up to its reputation. Secondly, my only previous experience of Read More

Old heads on young shoulders, and yet …

Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes Narrated by an eighteen year old photographer, MacInnes’ novel captures the essence of what it was like to be a teenager in London in the late 1950s … Mr Wiz continued, masticating his salmon sandwich for anyone to see, ‘It’s been a two-way twist, this teenage party. Exploitation of the Read More

“Echoed voices in the night she’s a restless spirit on an endless flight”

Babayagaby Toby Barlow Toby Barlow’s debut, Sharp Teeth, which I capsule-reviewed back in the early days of this blog should have really appeared in my Top novels I’ve read by men post from a couple of days ago. His Sopranos-style story of gang warfare amongst the werewolves in LA, written in the form of a prose Read More

Rule Britannia …

Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe I’ve long been a fan of Jonathan Coe, enjoying all of the books of his that I’ve read so far, from the broad comedy of What a carve up, to the heartbreak of The Rain Before it Falls, via the 1970s revisited in The Rotter’s Club. I was lucky enough Read More

Cook Quick tips from the 1950s

There’s something fascinating about period cookery books – I posted about my late mum’s Fanny Craddock books before, but whilst playing with my books the other day, I found another old cookbook – The Daily Telegraph Prize-winning Readers’ Recipes (with cook quick illustrations). There’s no date of publication, but it contains ‘Cook Quick’ methods from Read More

“Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way”

A Quiet Life by Beryl Bainbridge Alan sits in a café waiting for his sister Madge, whom he hasn’t seen for fifteen years – there to discuss their late mother’s effects. Both are now in their forties, and they’re still as different as chalk and cheese. Rewind twenty-five years. It’s the 1950s; petrol is still Read More

Revisiting a children’s classic from 1958

Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr In the Puffin edition (above), this book was my favourite contemporary children’s novel as I was growing up.  I read it in the late 1960s, not once, not twice, but countless times.  The story of a bed-bound girl whose drawings came to life in her dreams both entranced and scared Read More

For blacker than black, read super-noir

This post was republished into my blog’s original timeline from my lost posts archive. The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson Scene: A diner in Central City, Texas; it’s the early 1950s.  A man walks up to the counter to pay his bill… The proprietor shoved back my money and laid a couple of cigars on Read More

A groundbreaking novel…

This post was edited and republished into my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive.   Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 novel was hugely influential; it paved the way for Jackie Collins and all the other bonkbusters that followed. I’d been wanting to reach this book for ages, but knew nothing Read More

Everybody here has a secret…

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious This was our book group choice for October, and what a good one it was, for everyone who finished reading the book loved it. This is the book that set the benchmark for every soap opera and drama of small town America that followed, and it’s almost shocking to find Read More

Book Group Report – The Death of Grass

The Death of Grass by John Christopher A while ago I reviewed The Death of Grass by John Christopher (click here for the review. On Monday we discussed it at our Book Group, and it was a big hit. Unusually, everyone really enjoyed it, and although this meant no arguments, we did have a lively Read More

But darling the virus won’t affect us, will it?

The Death of Grass by John Christopher The 1950s saw an explosion of science fiction and cultural dystopias. In 1951 there was John Wyndham’s ground-breaking novel Day of the Triffids, followed by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in 1953. Then there was Quatermass on the television. William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies was also published Read More

A vivid dissection of middle-class life

In a Summmer Season by Elizabeth Taylor Many have told me that I should read the books of Elizabeth Taylor – an author I’d not heard of until the publication of Nicola Beauman’s recent biography The Other Elizabeth Taylor by the wonderful Persephone Books. Published in 1961, it follows one summer in the lives of a Read More