Few pieces of writing merit the word Kafkaesque, but the opening of Tom Lee’s first novel, The Alarming Palsy of James Orr, might be one of them: ‘When James Orr woke up, a little later than usual, he had the sense that there was something not quite right, some indefinable shift in the normal order of things.’ The protagonist experiences a sudden onset of Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis. The condition is uncommon and its duration indefinite, but his doctor is nonetheless light-hearted. ‘In the long run,’ James is told, ‘only a small percentage do not return to more or less normal.’
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'Only in Britain, perhaps, could spy chiefs – conventionally viewed as masters of subterfuge – be so highly regarded as ethical guides.'
In this month's Bookends, @AdamCSDouglas looks at the curious life of Henry Labouchere: a friend of Bram Stoker, 'loose cannon', and architect of the law that outlawed homosexual activity in Britain.
'We have all twenty-nine of her Barsetshire novels, and whenever a certain longing reaches critical mass we read all twenty-nine again, straight through.'
Patricia T O'Conner on her love for Angela Thirkell. (£)