Burn Before Reading

Posted on by David Gelber

Even by the standards of my ten-year-old daughter, I thought that ripping up a book was a little outré. But on closer inspection, it turned out she was only fulfilling the instructions of its author. ‘Crack the spine’, ‘poke holes in this page using a pencil’ and ‘make a sudden, destructive, unpredictable movement with the […]

Galal El-Behairy & Wael Abbas

Posted on by David Gelber

The situation regarding freedom of expression and opinion in Egypt has deteriorated markedly since President al-Sisi came to power in 2014. There has been a sharp rise in the number of writers and journalists detained or imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and many writers and activists have […]

Fit-Up Most Foul

Posted on by David Gelber

The case of Oscar Slater, a German-Jewish immigrant convicted of murdering an elderly woman in Glasgow in 1908, has long been known as a famous miscarriage of justice, almost entirely because of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s involvement in the campaign to free him. Without the author of Sherlock Holmes adding his considerable weight to the […]

Searching for Silk

Posted on by David Gelber

When Eva Butler’s Holocaust survivor and artist grandfather, Joseph Silk, dies, she is left the heir and a trustee of his estate. The two enjoyed a close relationship: Eva is estranged from her father and Silk, as he was known, filled the paternal vacuum, playing the role of confidant, companion and guide. Yet when a […]

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Love in the Time of Colonies

Posted on by David Gelber

Louis de Bernières’s 2015 novel, The Dust that Falls from Dreams, introduced us to the McCosh sisters, Rosie, Christabel, Ottilie and Sophie, and their neighbours, Daniel and Archie Pitt. The novel charted their paths to adulthood before, during and after the First World War, and ended with Rosie and Daniel married and settling into life […]

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Running Scared

Posted on by David Gelber

This deceptively simple novel, set in Norway and told in exquisitely lean prose, is full of erotic exchanges between a married couple. At times painful to read, it is also compulsive. The narrator, still in love with his wife – he calls her Timmy after an upbeat cartoon character – tries to make sense of […]

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Through the Looking-Glass

Posted on by David Gelber

Lisa Halliday’s debut novel has a hall-of-mirrors quality to it. It begins conventionally: part one, ‘Folly’, is a love story involving a famous writer named Ezra Blazer – who pronouncedly resembles Philip Roth, with whom Halliday had an affair in real life – and a 25-year-old editorial assistant and quietly aspiring novelist, Alice. The love […]

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Strange Connections

Posted on by David Gelber

When it comes to family life and modern technology, the bizarre can run hand in hand with the mundane, especially if the family in question is rich. Take the Los Angeles house in ‘Hello Everybody’, one of the stories in A M Homes’s new collection. In a peculiar space called ‘the dent’ (I had to […]

Witching Hour

Posted on by David Gelber

Joyce Carol Oates has always drawn heavily on the gothic, finding truth in horror and horror in truth. Her best-known, much-anthologised short story, ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’, a fixture on college English syllabuses since its publication in 1966, is a deeply unnerving tale about a high school girl who is stalked, […]

Black Comedy

Posted on by David Gelber

Laughter in common, as Freud noted, demands a community of shared inhibitions. If black American humour has elicited a peculiar suite of discomforts, not only among white audiences but at times among black ones as well, this is undoubtedly due to the costs – not always merely psychological – of breaking the taboos that underlie […]

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The Big Sleep

Posted on by David Gelber

When life goes wrong – because of death or broken relationships or career failure – many of us just want to crawl into bed and never resurface. In Ottessa Moshfegh’s new novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, sleep becomes not just a last resort in a time of crisis but a credo for her […]

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Seizing the Moment

Posted on by David Gelber

Anne Tyler’s Clock Dance tells the story of Willa Drake and her last-ditch attempt to choose her own life. Willa’s history and personality are revealed in the first part of the novel through three incidents that occur during a thirty-year period. When she is eleven, her mother disappears for two days. When she is twenty-one, […]

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Sightseeing Scientist

Posted on by David Gelber

In the summer of 1922, Albert Einstein was getting ready to leave Berlin forever. The German foreign minister, Walther Rathenau, had just been shot in broad daylight, largely for being a Jew, and although many Germans were dismayed, some conservatives thought it was a wonderful thing. Einstein himself was in danger. Already nationalists had held rallies […]

No One is Immune

Posted on by David Gelber

Two propositions lie at the centre of this book. First, we should all give up medical screenings and get on with a jolly life, embracing the inevitability of death. Second, our immune systems abet the growth and spread of tumours. The beastly cells that do this are called macrophages. What can we learn about our […]

Court in the Headlights

Posted on by David Gelber

This compelling book tracks eleven cases through the criminal and family courts. Only, they’re not simply cases. They’re stories of flesh and blood, of people – tales of despair and hope that could be about you or me. Sarah Langford’s stated objective is to bring ‘to life ideas which otherwise so often appear in abstract: […]

Time to Let Go?

Posted on by David Gelber

As Meghan Markle made her way down the aisle of St George’s Chapel to marry Prince Harry, it was her painstakingly handcrafted silk tulle veil that most effectively captured Britain’s imperial past. The national flower of each of the fifty-three Commonwealth countries was embroidered into the 16½-foot veil. This, depending on your point of view, […]

A Bank of Wisdom

Posted on by David Gelber

In the run-up to the referendum of June 2016, Michael Gove was confronted by Faisal Islam of Sky News with a long list of organisations that had warned of dire consequences if the UK voted not to remain in the EU. The co-leader of the Vote Leave campaign retorted: ‘I think the people of this […]

On Her Majesty’s Shady Service

Posted on by David Gelber

This is a welcome and most timely book. Britain’s intelligence agencies are cooperating more than ever with the armed forces in covert operations. In particular, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) – or MI6 as it is commonly known – and GCHQ, the global eavesdropping and cybersecurity agency, are developing a close, even symbiotic relationship with Britain’s

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