Looking through Bloomsbury’s Spring catalogue a month or so ago, l found myself reflecting, in more than usually despondent terms, on the way in which fiction gets reviewed in this country. Seen en masse, books are rather sickly things – especially the sort singled magazine books pages, if not one by David Park or Christopher Kenworthy? Broadly speaking, novels by people one has heard of. Let Joanna Trollope, say, produce a further addition to her teeming œuvre, let Margaret Drabble out for special promotion in publishers’ catalogues; but as hotly canvassed item gave way to hotly canvassed item (Sadie Blackeyes’ chick-lit debut Bitchpack Confidential, Life Under New Labour, The Kidz Guide to Drugz – I am making this up, but the genres will be familiar to you), I came upon something I very much wanted to read: a novel called The Big Snow by the Irish writer David Park.
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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. (£)