Author Archives: David Gelber

A House But Not a Home

Posted on by David Gelber

It is a strange feeling to gaze at a familiar house, a one-time home, knowing that someone else now has the keys. In Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, the siblings Danny and Maeve are consumed by this sense of dispossessed longing. Losing their parents at a young age, and exiled from the house by their […]

Posted in 481 | Tagged | Comments Off on A House But Not a Home

Marian Evans, the Radical

Posted on by David Gelber

A wise reader once remarked to me that reading George Eliot is like having a conversation with one’s cleverest, most clear-eyed friend. In which case, In Love with George Eliot is like peeking into their diary and learning their secrets. Kathy O’Shaughnessy’s novel follows Marian Evans (Eliot’s real name) from her first steps into London […]

Posted in 481 | Tagged | Comments Off on Marian Evans, the Radical

Out on a Limb

Posted on by David Gelber

By the time the islanders notice the ‘disappearance’ of their left legs, they have become accustomed to the process. Many things have been lost in the same manner on their island ‘full of holes’: hats, emeralds, birds, photographs, the ferry on which they had, in years past, travelled to and from the now-inaccessible mainland. What […]

Posted in 481 | Tagged | Comments Off on Out on a Limb

A Sorry State

Posted on by David Gelber

In April 1917, as conflict raged across Europe, the British government reached a crucial decision. Lord Devonport, a grocery magnate taken on by Whitehall as minister of food control, imposed a ban on the manufacture of ‘fancy cakes’, a move designed to maintain supplies of vital necessities. The fact that a minister had such power […]

Swags & Sofas

Posted on by David Gelber

Phaidon made its reputation with big books. Back in the 1990s, titles such as The Art Book and The Fashion Book were so arresting that you had to have them on your coffee table and so wittily put together that they never became wholly embarrassing. These surveys of entire genres followed a simple formula: one […]

Net Losses

Posted on by David Gelber

The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was supposed to herald a fresh dawn for African football. When winger Siphiwe Tshabalala scored for the hosts against Mexico in the opening match, the commentator Peter Drury encapsulated the moment for a UK audience: ‘Goal Bafana Bafana! Goal for South Africa! Goal for all of Africa!’ […]

Still Standing

Posted on by David Gelber

The greatest line in the film Beaches comes from Bette Midler, playing the narcissistic Broadway performer C C Bloom: ‘But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?’ Both Elton John’s and Debbie Harry’s long-awaited memoirs deliver in spades stories of the kind of self-regard, solipsism and opportunism that run […]

One Man in a Boat

Posted on by David Gelber

Philip Marsden’s new book is subtitled ‘A Voyage of the Imagination’. During the course of his voyage, he incorporates some intriguing thoughts about Celtic mythology and the splits it reveals in the ‘fabric of the world’. But this is really just literary window-dressing. At heart, this is a tale of good old-fashioned adventure, and all […]

Objects in the Rear-View Mirror

Posted on by David Gelber

The Pulse Glass opens with Gillian Tindall’s account of sprinkling the ashes of her younger brother beside a defunct railway line near where they had lived as children, and closes with an account of his death – which is much more uplifting than it might sound, being elegiac rather than depressing. It’s a family memoir […]

All By Myself

Posted on by David Gelber

In January 2018 the government set up a ‘Ministry of Loneliness’ to cope with what was described as a spreading ‘epidemic’ – an unfortunate metaphor, since the contagious, unlike the lonely, need to be ‘isolated’ or quarantined. To call loneliness an emotion can be misleading, too, if emotions are considered, as they usually are, to […]

Ring Road Nation

Posted on by David Gelber

The only thing wrong with Otto Saumarez Smith’s book is its title. Far from booming, at the start of the 1960s the towns and cities of the Midlands and the north of England, and their Welsh, Scottish and Irish counterparts, were dirty, despoiled monuments to a bygone age, from which the young and talented fled […]

Man About City

Posted on by David Gelber

The publication of a new book by Simon Jenkins is always an event, and one about London doubly so. No one knows more about modern London and few have written about the city so winningly. His Landlords to London (1975) is a classic, indispensable to anyone who wants to understand the mechanics of London’s development […]

The £569 Pineapple

Posted on by David Gelber

According to An Economic History of the English Garden, between 1820 and the present day, 15,652 gardening books have been published in the UK alone. That’s not the most astonishing number in this book, but it does make you wonder whether there is really room for another one. Roderick Floud thinks so, and succeeds in […]

Tears of a Wombat Owner

Posted on by David Gelber

There is a well-worn ‘bloke joke’ about pets. Who loves you more, your wife or your dog? Obviously your dog, because if you lock both your wife and your dog in the boot of your car, when you return it is not your wife that is glad to see you. Why should animals love us, […]

Not a Chicken Wing in Sight

Posted on by David Gelber

Wondering what would be the very last bite you take in this life may well be a chilling exercise. A final meal is more often than not the last thing on the mind of someone in full knowledge of their imminent death. For Jay Rayner, it’s an adventure into which he can sink his well-practised […]

Posted in 481 | Tagged | Comments Off on Not a Chicken Wing in Sight

They Shall Not Pass

Posted on by David Gelber

There is a great deal more to this book than an account of the longest siege of the Great War, one that stalled the Russian advance and saved the Central Powers from defeat in 1914. It reveals, in microcosm, everything that was mad, bad and dangerous about the Austro-Hungarian Empire in its final stages, and […]

Feeding the Eight Million

Posted on by David Gelber

The Russian Job tells the story of the American Relief Administration (ARA) and its work in Russia during the country’s famine of 1921–2. Less celebrated at the time than a far smaller European effort headed by the polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, and subsequently shaded out by the Cold War, it has been undeservedly forgotten. In […]

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Posted on by David Gelber

I’ve not got much time to write this. It’s the kids’ half term, my deadline is tomorrow and we’re staying in a National Trust place in Yorkshire without broadband or 4G. At lunch the plan is to walk over hill and dale to the nearest pub, which has wifi. They stop serving at half two. […]

Posted in 481 | Tagged | Comments Off on When I Paint My Masterpiece

Sweet Tale of Love in a Somerset Village

Posted on by David Gelber

What a treat, after encountering Julie Burchill’s grubby novel, to turn to Teresa Waugh. What a relief, what a solace to be reminded that in England in 1989, in literature as in life, ambitious hackettes may hoist their designer skirts to facilitate intercourse across the dustbins of Soho, but somewhere in the West Country a […]

First Lessons in Crowd Control

Posted on by David Gelber

Robert Reid follows his acclaimed Land of Lost Content, about the Luddite revolt of 1812, with this fascinating account of Peterloo – a cavalry charge into a crowd in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, in 1819. This was an act of ‘the most repressive regime in modern British history’. Peterloo was followed by the notorious Six […]

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter