Not For This Princess

Posted on by Tom Fleming

When I was an undergraduate at Cambridge an eminent Professor of French came to lecture us on ‘Rabelais and the Comic’. At one point in his presentation he paused to read a passage in which the tables turned on one of Rabelais’s villains attempts to flee on the back of a donkey from those he […]

Forget the Fluff

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Somewhere in this well-balanced memoir Susannah Clapp says that Bruce Chatwin could be ‘too much’ for some people. As a person, he was decidedly too much for me. Snobbism, equally camp and genuine; showy connoisseurship of a quirky kind; the deadly energy of a raconteur; the insensitivity of the tuft-hunter; a gift for mimicry; sexual […]

Paranoid Fantasy

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘Nothing is implied in this publication about any person, living or dead, which is not herein explicitly stated.’ Thus runs the caveat inside the front cover of this sustained politico-religious polemic against homosexuals and homosexuality. Ah, Stephen, would that the law of libel were as simple as that.

How to Stay Together

Posted on by Marketing Manager

Tereza is a nice Polish Catholic poet who has come to New York University to study literature. Jose is a ‘roughly handsome’ Brazilian anthropologist, also Catholic, who has come to the same university to research a book on the theological debate provoked by the 1972 Andes air crash survivors who ate their dead fellow passengers […]

Some Flashes of Light

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Alan Warner’s name is invariably mentioned in references to the recent, spectacular renaissance in Scottish literature. It is therefore embarrassing to report that after two careful readings of These Demented Lands, I remain puzzled. Partly, this is to do with the plot, or stated bluntly, with an inability to work out what on earth is […]

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Mortician as Poet

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Most poets’ accounts of their livelihoods would make dull reading indeed: Classroom Couplets, Shelf Lives and Tales of a Writer in Residence don’t sound as if they’d be much fun. But it was a bright idea of Robin Robertson, an editor at Cape and no mean poet himself, to suggest to the American poet Thomas […]

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Still Glowing?

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In the concluding chapter to his classic travel book, English Journal, written in 1933, J B Priestley wrote this sublime passage: Ours is a country that has given the world something more than a million yards of calico and thousands of steam engines. If we are a nation of shopkeepers, then what a shop! There […]

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Highly Enjoyable Proustatectomy

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From the title and the chapter headings, this promises to be a very irritating book indeed: superfluous, semi-biographical criticism of a canonical author dressed up in nudging ‘irreverence’ from the student bar, like Travesties without the drama, or Monty Python twenty-five years too late. Alain de Botton has written a meditation on aspects of Proust […]

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Thin Ice

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Memories, memories, ah, fond memories! Flicking rapidly through the above-mentioned tome for the purposes of this review, I could not help but recall those golden days in the early Seventies – or was it the late Eighties? – when a distinguished coterie of British writers, among them my own good self, would make every effort […]

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April 2017 Crime Round-up

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Books sent out for review usually come with a press release. It tends to include quotes from good reviews of the author’s previous novels, pre-publication praise of the one it accompanies and a useful précis of the story. But occasionally the commentary catches the attention rather more than the book itself. One of this month’s […]

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Writing Wrongs

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Thirty years ago, while on holiday in Cape Cod, I bought a second-hand copy of The Airman and the Carpenter (1985), Ludovic Kennedy’s account of the kidnapping in 1932 of the aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby son from the family home in New Jersey and the framing of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant who worked […]

Rashad Ramazanov

Posted on by Tom Fleming

President Ilham Aliyev is notorious for his hardline approach towards free expression in Azerbaijan and I have written here before about attacks on dissident voices and the media. Members of the opposition and critical journalists face immense obstacles and hardship when trying to carry out their work. Many suffer death threats, surveillance, judicial harassment and […]

End of the Affair

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It starts, in 1974, with a girl (it always starts with a girl). Aldo and Vanda, youngish Neapolitans, have been married for twelve years. They have two children, Sandro (nine) and Anna (five), and a fair income from Aldo’s university job; they go on family trips to campsites and beaches. They’re models of everyday life. […]

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Village People

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 is a portrait of a whole village. It’s an attempt not just to document the lives of those who reside in this rural community, but also to capture its ephemeral networks of interaction and interdependence, along with the constant presence of history and nature.  There is no single, compelling plotline; instead […]

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In Apricot Place

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Joseph, Madeleine, Joseph, Madeleine, and so on: the two stories in Michèle Roberts’s new novel, separated by more than a century, alternate from beginning to end. One moment we are in the seedy side streets of Victorian London, the next in a sleek bar in the City. More disconcerting than the shifting locations are the […]

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Kremlin Watch

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Peter Conradi, a former Moscow correspondent and now the Sunday Times’s foreign editor, has produced a timely and highly readable account of the history of Russia’s relations with the West from the fall of the Soviet Union to Trump’s election as US president. In other words, it is the story of the Soviet empire’s fall […]


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