Systems Down

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the 1980s, when Tom LeClair wrote about ‘systems novels’, it must have seemed a brief phase wholly embodied in the works of a handful of American novelists – chiefly Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon – who were raised in wartime and found themselves scrambling to figure out the new world of consumer electronics and […]

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The Ties That Bind

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

If you were to cross L P Hartley’s The Go-Between with Harold Pinter’s script for Joseph Losey’s film Accident and add some mockery of the excesses of the Notting Hill/Chipping Norton set, you might come up with something like the plot of Elizabeth Day’s latest novel. Her first-person narrative is split between Martin Gilmour and […]

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Blast from the Past

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Donnelly family, the central figures in Nick Laird’s third novel, ought to be happy. They’re reasonably well off. Many of them work in the estate agency founded by Kenneth, while Alison, the second of his three children, is about to embark on what should be a blissful second marriage after a disastrous first with […]

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Demolition Job

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Road to Vermilion Lake careens from the tedious to the absurd en route to a finale where an orgasm causes a geological fissure, forcing the couple responsible to move to a Hawaiian island. It aims to be a postmodern fever dream exploring the human condition, but it turns into a masturbatory fantasy where nothing […]

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At Your Service

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Junichiro Tanizaki, who was born in 1886, is one of the giants of 20th-century Japanese literature. His work ranges from epic novels such as The Makioka Sisters, delving deep into the lives of four wealthy sisters in western Japan up to and including the early years of the Second World War, to the celebrated In […]

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Altitude Sickness

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Daniel Kehlmann has a knack for making light work of monumental themes. In 2005 he made a name for himself with his unlikely bestseller Measuring the World, a fictionalised account of the lives of two 19th-century German scientists. It’s a novel that tackles some weighty – potentially leaden – subjects, from the pursuit of knowledge […]

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Question Time

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When it comes to narrative art, there are two broad groups among readers, viewers and the like: the tyers and the looseners. The tyers like their narratives, by the end, to be wrapped up in a neat little bow, all plot points addressed, each stray storyline bound satisfyingly into a unified whole. The looseners, on […]

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Lambs to the Slaughter

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Amanda Craig has written that her novels ‘try and capture something of the way we live now’. The Lie of the Land is a satire on the problems facing divorcing couples, the clash of city versus country life and the tensions caused by immigration and zero-hours contracts. It centres on Quentin and Lottie Bredin, who […]

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Dmitry Popkov

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On 12 June, Russia’s National Day, anti-corruption protests took place across many of its cities. Crowds of people chanted, ‘Putin out!’ and ‘Russia without thieves!’ Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested and others were beaten by police. Amnesty International claims that the authorities tried to intimidate protesters into avoiding these demonstrations and then punished those who […]

Northern Highlights

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Highland lodges occupy a peculiar and sometimes baffling architectural niche. Designed primarily as holiday homes, they sprout in the middle of nowhere, often of palatial extent and constructed with every flourish of style. To the modern eye they are sources of wonder. What race of giants could have built on such a scale

Shades of Grey

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Effie Gray’s story is extraordinary and Cooper feasts upon it with appetite. ‘Her life reads like a novel, full of colour, sensation, despair and romance.’ So does Cooper’s biography. We engage with Effie immediately. Cooper starts her story on the day Effie left her husband, the art critic and social reformer John Ruskin, to return […]

Sunny Side of Saddam

Posted on by Marketing Manager

This is a very odd book to review. Over and over again, I found myself agreeing with almost every word Said Aburish has written – about the wilful political blindness of the West towards the Arab world, the corrupt nature of Arab regimes, the hypocrisy of American power in the Middle East, the nature of […]

Nothing So Decadent as Pemberton Billing

Posted on by Marketing Manager

Among the many dotty and hilarious trials which have enlivened our legal history, the Pemberton Billing libel action in the closing year of the 1914–18 war must rank among the Top Ten. Reference was made throughout the proceedings to a mysterious German ‘Black Book’, which was said to contain the names of 47,000 prominent British […]

Last Seen Raging

Posted on by Marketing Manager

To look for your lost mother, a mother you both fear and desire to find, while sailing in the vast whitenesses of Antarctica – Jenny Diski’s new book has the gripping, dream-like logic of a fairy story. A new version of Ham Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, perhaps, with the terrifying figure of the ice-queen […]

Take Your Pick

Posted on by Marketing Manager

Surely it’s impossible for two authors to engage simultaneously in writing full-length biographies of Turner without becoming aware, as they beaver away in archives and galleries, that they have a literary doppelgänger? Well, it didn’t stop Messrs Bailey and Hamilton, nor their publishers, from going ahead, and I must admit to near-despair when I opened […]

Endogamous Nesting

Posted on by Marketing Manager

This is a mysterious book. Its mystery is suggested in the plainness of its title, Duncan Grant. At the end of more than four hundred pages thronged with people, love affairs, painting, travel and reminiscence surrounding Duncan Grant, he remains a vague figure. Perhaps that is a proper portrait. To his friends and lovers, Grant […]

Reading with Primo

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

If you are like me, when you visit someone’s home for the first time you look at the bookshelves to see what the selection of books can tell you about your host. Primo Levi had ‘a habit of placing [his] favourite books on the same shelf, independently of their theme and their age’. They were […]

With Words He Governed Men

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Another book on Churchill! The heart gets that sinking feeling. There must by now be almost as many as on Napoleon, probably the most biographised of all historical figures. They range in size from Martin Gilbert’s multi–volume magnum opus to a pocket biography by the author of this review. But there is no need for […]

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