Tinker Tailor Forger Spy

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The study of rare books may not appear an obvious source of mystery and excitement, but it can have its moments. The publication in 1934 of An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets sent shockwaves through the worlds of book collecting and bibliography. In it, two erudite book dealers, John Carter and […]

Dr Abduljalil al-Singace & Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

As the novel coronavirus outbreak has spread across the world, human rights groups have become increasingly concerned about the wellbeing of writers and journalists who remain in prison, many in appalling, life-threatening conditions. In Bahrain a number of such individuals, detained under the country’s poorly defined counterterrorism law, have been denied early release, in stark […]

Partners in Crime

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Everyone loves a feel-good story about a successful family business. Unfortunately for Juan Pablo, the protagonist of I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me, his cousin Lorenzo’s business ventures are not faring as well as they might. That much is clear when, invited to a meeting with Lorenzo’s associates, he finds his cousin tied up […]

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After the Fall

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Myths are elastic: this is simply my version, another way into the great store of stories that is Greek mythology,’ Philip Womack wrote in the preface to The Double Axe, his reworking of the Theseus myth for young adults. In this, his seventh and latest novel, The Arrow of Apollo, he again revisits the ancient […]

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From Russia with Lust

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In The Blessed Rita we meet Paul Krüzen, who is forty-nine, lives with his father (a retired history teacher) and sells memorabilia from Europe’s 20th-century wars out of the old farmhouse where he grew up. It’s over forty years now that father and son have lived together in the fictional Dutch border town of Mariënveen […]

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Hen Plight

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The manner in which the current pandemic began is now notorious. The coronavirus leapt from animal to man. As a result, when staring into the abyss of one’s tangled thoughts during the lockdown, it is easy for the mind to wander over to our fraught relationship with other creatures. This mental journey is even easier […]

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Life Ends at Fifty

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Being Irish, declares one character in Richard Ford’s Sorry for Your Trouble, shortly before she commits suicide, is ‘an underlying condition. A common and dismal accident of origin that foretold a mediocre end.’ Ford makes a great effort to prove this thesis in his new collection of nine stories, in which he charts the often […]

Love in the Time of Corbyn

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A well-known hypothesis states that if a million young novelists at a million typewriters were to write a million first novels about the disaffected female millennial experience, they would each in turn be proclaimed ‘the next Sally Rooney’. The debut novel of Naoise Dolan, currently the next Sally Rooney, even comes with an endorsement from the […]

School for Scandal

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘The extreme difficulties that many staff members had in coming to terms with this particular member of staff’s conviction … is testimony to the difficulty in admitting the possibility that the charming, empathic colleague might also abuse children.’ That comes from the serious case review published in January by the Richmond Safeguarding Children Board into […]

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The Bear Necessities

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich’s seventeenth novel, centres around the challenge made in 1953 by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa to a bill brought before the United States Congress to ‘emancipate’ Native Americans from federal supervision in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. ‘Emancipation’ meant terminating the contracts between government and […]

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Second Wind

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Reviewers of Garth Greenwell’s debut novel, What Belongs to You, compared the author to W G Sebald, James Baldwin, Proust and Thomas Mann. Even knowing that ours is an age given to hyperbole, readers of that book might have found themselves bemused: slim, sporadically rarefied, it is the tale of a fretful American in Bulgaria […]

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Running into Trouble

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Lionel Shriver had long been struggling to match the impact of her 2003 school-shooting hit, We Need to Talk About Kevin. Then, four years ago, she put on a sombrero while telling an audience at a Brisbane literary festival that novelists should be free to portray whomever they damn well please, and to hell with ‘cultural appropriation’ (hence her woke-goading choice of headgear). Amid

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Along the Red Corridor

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In Centralia, the writer and photographer Poulomi Basu gives us a panorama of Chhattisgarh, a little-known area of central India, through photographs, poetry, biographical portraits and snatches of dialogue. Chhattisgarh is one of the states that make up what is known as the Red Corridor, a region running up the east of India in which […]

What Ails?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick,’ wrote Susan Sontag in Illness as Metaphor. While each of us will visit the kingdom of the sick, some will unfortunately endure extended stays. Sarah Ramey, a musician who performs under the name of Wolf […]

She Wore It Best

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

How’s that for timing? Just when we’re trapped in the house with nothing to do except count the items in our wardrobes, Alexandra Shulman produces a book that is the best possible escape from dark times. It even begins with her counting the items in her wardrobe: the number is 556, which includes thirty-seven handbags, […]

Félix Faure, Man and Boat

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Il voulait être César, il ne fut que Pompée This year, 16 February (same procedure as every year, James), I acknowledge the death of the President of France, Félix Faure, in the year eighteen ninety-nine, of a stiff apoplexy, while receiving oral gratification from his mistress Marguerite Steinheil. An appropriate and alternative festival: orgasm/death, so […]

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Farming Tomorrow

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Professor Tim Lang, founder of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, winner of numerous academic accolades and a fluent performer on the media circuit, has probably spent more time thinking and writing about Britain’s food systems than anyone else. It certainly shows. Feeding Britain deserves to become essential reading for policymakers […]

A Rock of One’s Own

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Alastair Bonnett’s contention is that we are living in a period when islands have acquired greater significance than perhaps at any time in history – whether culturally, politically, economically, militarily or simply as slowly drowning canaries of climate change. His book guides us on a knowledgeable world tour of different types of islands, much enhanced […]

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Let’s Get This Show on the Road

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

As his long documentary about cinema’s past begins, Mark Cousins flatly asserts that ‘women have directed some of the best films ever made’; after that, he wastes no time lamenting blighted careers or episodes of patriarchal abuse. All the clips that Cousins has collaged or montaged into a sequence derive from films directed by women, […]

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