Book review: Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, 1975

Heat and Dust continues the early Booker fascination with post-colonial Britain. ‘Losing’ the Empire must have been more traumatic than we now realise looking back from the perspective of the twenty-first century: the novels of the time suggest that there was a lot of processing to be done to come to terms with the traumaContinue reading “Book review: Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, 1975”

Book review: Last Orders, by Graham Swift, 1996

Four men take the ashes of a friend, Jack Dodds, to Margate, to scatter them off the end of the pier. Last Orders is the story of their journey. Along the way all four are given time to tell their stories as internal monologues and through their conversations, as are some of the women inContinue reading “Book review: Last Orders, by Graham Swift, 1996”

Book review: The Conservationist, by Nadine Gordimer, 1974

The Conservationist is set during the period in which the racist apartheid regime governed South Africa. This deceptively simple but immensely powerful novel is a devastating portrait of a South African businessman who is unable to ‘conserve’ his position in society, and which foreshadows the eventual demise of the apartheid regime. Not for nothing wasContinue reading “Book review: The Conservationist, by Nadine Gordimer, 1974”

Book review: Holiday by Stanley Middleton, 1974

Recent reviews of Stanley Middleton’s novel Holiday all mention the same handful of things – his prodigious output of work (over 40 novels published in his life), the journalistic stunt when the first few chapters of the novel were sent to publishers and comprehensively rejected, and of course the joint award of the 1974 BookerContinue reading “Book review: Holiday by Stanley Middleton, 1974”

Book review: Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood, 1996

Alias Grace is a fictionalised account of the mid-nineteenth century murder of Thomas Kinnear, a Canadian farmer, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. Two servants, Grace Marks and James McDermott, were convicted of the murder of Kinnear, and while McDermott was executed, Marks was sentenced to life in prison. This is Grace’s story. The novel opens several yearsContinue reading “Book review: Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood, 1996”

Book review: The Constant Rabbit, by Jasper Fforde, 2020

Jasper Fforde is one of our most consistently inventive writers. In The Constant Rabbit he has once again shown this with a surreal allegory which at its heart is about difference. What could so easily have been a heavy-handed satire on Brexit and racism becomes a thoughtful discussion of how people cope with discrimination, bothContinue reading “Book review: The Constant Rabbit, by Jasper Fforde, 2020”

Book review: In a Free State by V S Naipaul, 1971

The version of In a Free State which won the 1971 Booker prize consists of a framing narrative and three short stories – “One out of Many,” “Tell Me Who to Kill,” and the title story, “In a Free State.” In his introduction to the edition of the novel that I have just read, NaipaulContinue reading “Book review: In a Free State by V S Naipaul, 1971”

Book review: Troubles, by J G Farrell, 1970

It’s really nice to now be able to give an early Booker prize-winning novel a positive review, after having severely panned John Berger’s G., followed by the indifferent Something to Answer for. Because Troubles was wonderful. (OK, strictly speaking Troubles isn’t an ‘early’ Booker prize winner. It won the Lost Booker Prize in 2010, when the absenceContinue reading “Book review: Troubles, by J G Farrell, 1970”

Book review: Something to Answer For, by P H Newby, 1969

Let’s be honest – this novel would be out of print and gathering dust if it wasn’t for it being the winner of the inaugural Booker prize in 1969. That’s really its only point of interest. Otherwise the plot is banal to the extent that it exists at all, the characterisation outside the handful ofContinue reading “Book review: Something to Answer For, by P H Newby, 1969”

Review: Bartleby the Scrivener, by Herman Melville, 1853

Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby the Scrivener, A Story of Wall Street‘ tells the curious story of a scrivener – a copyist – who gives up on work and life, responding to all requests for him to do anything with the simple “I would prefer not to“. The narrator, his employer, knows almost nothing about Bartleby –Continue reading “Review: Bartleby the Scrivener, by Herman Melville, 1853”