Book Review: Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene, 1938

“People change,’ she said ‘Oh, no they don’t. Look at me. I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock: bite it all the way down, you’ll still read Brighton. That’s human nature.” Greene’s 1938 novel of gang warfare in Brighton pulls off a rare achievement – it is at once both an adventure storyContinue reading “Book Review: Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene, 1938”

Book review: Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, 1877

It is often an instructive experience to revisit ‘children’s’ stories occasionally. Rereading them as an adult can reveal layers of meaning not obvious to a younger reader. As a child I wasn’t initially aware of the Christian allegory in the Narnia stories, for example (until being beaten round the head with the idea in TheContinue reading “Book review: Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, 1877”

Book review: Harold Wilson, by Ben Pimlott, 1992

Harold Wilson was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1964 to 1970, and again from 1974 until his retirement in 1976. In that time he won four general elections, making him the most successful ever leader of the Labour Party. His Governments were characterised by a series of progressive social reforms set against aContinue reading “Book review: Harold Wilson, by Ben Pimlott, 1992”

Book Review: Life & Times of Michael K, by J M Coetzee, 1983

I am having a really poor run at the moment – this was the latest of a series of disappointing novels, in many ways the worst of the lot! It was Coetzee’s first Booker Prize winner, the other being Disgrace in 1999. Life & Times of Michael K is set in a dystopian South AfricaContinue reading “Book Review: Life & Times of Michael K, by J M Coetzee, 1983”

Book review: How Late it Was, How Late, by James Kelman, 1994

Notorious for being described by one of the 1994 panel of Booker judges* as “crap”, How Late is Was, How Late is a stream of consciousness novel written in ‘Glaswegian demotic’. It spans a week in the life of Sammy, a shoplifter and ex-convict, who gets drunk, fights with the police, and is beaten byContinue reading “Book review: How Late it Was, How Late, by James Kelman, 1994”

Book review: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh, 1948

This was an umpteenth re-read – I revisit The Loved One (subtitled An Anglo-American Tragedy) for a chuckle every now and again. It’s not a novel (Waugh called it a novelette) that takes itself very seriously, but it is all the better for that. It also has a lot of fun at the expense of both AmericansContinue reading “Book review: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh, 1948”

Book review: Hotel du Lac, by Anita Brookner, 1984

I am sure there are exceptions, but most great novels have great opening lines. “It was the best of times”, “All happy families”, “It was a bright cold morning” and so on. Anita Brookner by contrast chose to open Hotel du Lac with the following: “From the window all that could be seen was aContinue reading “Book review: Hotel du Lac, by Anita Brookner, 1984”

Book Review: Dark Tales, by Shirley Jackson, 2017

Shirley Jackson established a reputation as a horror writer with the publication of her haunting short story ‘The Lottery‘ in the New Yorker in 1948. This anthology of stories drawn from across her writing career includes a wide variety of gothic tales. The publishers describe them as “deliciously dark stories” which I think both doesn’tContinue reading “Book Review: Dark Tales, by Shirley Jackson, 2017”

Book Review: The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham, 1955

KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT. What did novelists do for their plots and settings before the Cold War and the possibility of a post-apocalyptic primitive society? Although writers have always speculated about the end of the world, it was only really once the apocalypse became a practical, foreseeableContinue reading “Book Review: The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham, 1955”

Book review: Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, 1987

Penelope Lively won the 1987 Booker Prize for this interesting, eminently readable but ultimately unsatisfying novel. It tells the story of Claudia Hampton, a 76-year-old historian. As Claudia lays dying in hospital she narrates the story of her life in an internal monologue. The narrative is complex, with the point of view changing constantly, andContinue reading “Book review: Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, 1987”