Posts tagged ‘fiction’

A Man Called Ove

by Catherine Hume

I have really enjoyed this novel! Although my book club, generally, didn’t enjoy it. One woman said that her reason for not enjoying the novel was that she found the book “too masculine”. I don’t know what that means so I can’t comment.

A Man Called Ove is Fredrik Backman‘s sixth novel, and has recently been made into a film. Ove is a man who was retired from his job against his will. He lives in a small Swedish town and simply cannot function in the modern world. Orphaned at a young age, Ove learned to be self-sufficient. He fixes things. He is someone who does instead of someone who talks. Ove’s world is turned upside down when a racially mixed family move in next door. These neighbours provide an annoyance each day that disturbs Ove’s daily attempts to commit suicide. The family gradually weave themselves into Ove’s life in a way that is both heart-warming and inspiring. (more…)

February 27, 2018 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

Angels and Demons

Review by Catherine Hume

I came to Angels and Demons already a fan of Dan Brown. Sure, he’s not going to win any prizes for a blindingly outstanding literary style, but that’s part of what I love about reading Dan Brown. Dan Brown writes as though he already has a blockbuster film in mind – which is how a lot of writing tutors encourage novel writers to think these days – and he writes in an immediate and pacy way. This means we keep turning the pages. He is also clever in that most of the time, his novels have three or more storylines and these are interspersed throughout the novel, and so if you want to find out what happens next, it sounds silly, but you have to keep reading – reading for another three chapters beyond the other storylines. (more…)

May 5, 2017 at 4:54 pm Leave a comment

The Sleeper

Review by Steve Savage

The Sleeper is a Cold War thriller. We are in the 1950s. The premise of Holly Roth‘s novel is that the US military have court-martialled and imprisoned a spy they uncovered in the Army, a “sleeper”. Public unease apparently induces them to give a journalist – Robert Kendall – unique access to Lt. Hollister, and he has written a whole book about the man and his case. But after Buddy Hollister kills himself in his cell, (more…)

May 5, 2017 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Sicilian Uncles

Review by Steve Savage

There are four longish stories in Sicilian Uncles, by Leonardo Sciascia. Until a few days ago, had you asked me what they were about, I would have said that they were all set in Sicily and were all about uncles in one way or another. Admittedly, one of the uncles was Uncle Joe, as Stalin used to be known, but there were four uncles. However, when I came to read the book a second time, I discovered that my memory was quite false. (more…)

January 8, 2015 at 10:34 am Leave a comment


Review by Max Scratchmann

Having particularly enjoyed Rosie Garland‘s gothic Palace of Curiosities I formed an eager queue at Waterstones for her latest opus, Vixen, but found a completely different bill of fare on offer.

One of the things I loved most about Palace of Curiosities was its sense of Victorian claustrophobia and dark urban settings, as if all the scenes took place by the light of whale-oil lamps in the dank chambers of tottering rooming-houses; but Vixen, in its early chapters at least, appears to be a bright and sunny romp through the forests and hamlets of medieval England (more…)

October 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

Review by Steve Savage

This short novel was written by Heinrich Böll in the early 1970s, at a time when the West German authorities were confronted by the Baader-Meinhof gang, whose leaders had been arrested in 1972.

The book starts with an item of information, that one Katharina Blum has telephoned a Crime Commissioner to tell him that she has shot and killed a newspaper reporter. The narrator then investigates, in an apparently aimless and hesitant fashion, the events leading up to this dramatic turn of events. (more…)

October 2, 2014 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

The Palace of Curiosities

Much as I want to like all of these books, there are, I’m afraid, a lot of fairly dull bodice-rippers and penny-dreadfuls lurking beneath the stunning cover art on the slew of mock-Victorian novels currently on the market, so it was with great joy that I discovered Rosie Garland‘s noir tale of life in a nineteenth-century freak show – The Palace of Curiosities.

Enticed by the gothic delicacy of cover art and then seduced by the Angela Carter comparison from Jenny Murray on the flyleaf, I delved into this novel with a mixture of anticipation and cautious scepticism – (more…)

April 16, 2014 at 9:20 am 2 comments

The White Guard

Review by Steve Savage

We are in Kiev, towards the end of 1918, following the fortunes of members of the Turbin family as their world crashes down about them. Outside, there is muffled cannon fire in the howling snow storm. In Russia, the Bolsheviks are holding on to power. In Germany, the Kaiser has abdicated. Here in the Ukraine, the doomed German-sponsored regime of the ‘Hetman’ is besieged by the adventurer Petlyura’s forces. But who, really, is Petlyura? And, anyway, after Petlyura, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks are coming…

In this novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, 17-year-old Nikolka Turbin is an officer cadet.  (more…)

January 30, 2014 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

An Officer and a Spy

Review by Robin Hull

I suppose I first became aware of the Dreyfus affair some seventy years ago. I clearly remember a conversation with my mother in the sitting room of our then home in Hertfordshire; my mother spoke with such animation that the occasion became engrained on my memory.

Dreyfus, an Alsatian Jew, was tried for espionage in 1895 before a French military court, convicted and sentenced to inhumane, solitary confinement on Devil’s Island. (more…)

November 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Under Western Eyes

Review by Steve Savage

A 19th-century Russian is said to have described his country’s constitution as ‘absolutism tempered by assassination’, and this 1911 novel by Joseph Conrad explores the twisting struggle between Russian autocracy and those working for its downfall – assassins, extremists, idealists, all sorts. An assassination is carried out in St Petersburg, and the tale of what follows is told by an English onlooker, ‘an old teacher of languages’ living in Geneva. (more…)

November 22, 2013 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

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