Tag Archives: Book Reviews

The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet

The Accident on the A35 Graeme Macrae Burnet‘The Accident on the A35’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet sees the return of Inspector Georges Gorski who featured in The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau. His latest case in the sleepy French town of Saint-Louis in Alsace involves the circumstances surrounding a car accident which fatally injures prominent local solicitor Bertrand Barthelme. Although there is no evidence to suggest a crime has been committed, it is soon discovered that Barthelme had repeatedly lied about his whereabouts to his wife Lucette and teenage son Raymond so Gorski agrees to Lucette’s request to look into the circumstances further. Meanwhile Raymond discovers the address of a house in the rue Saint-Fiacre in Mulhouse on a piece of paper in his father’s desk and sets out to conduct his own investigation.

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Larry’s Party by Carol Shields

Larry’s Party Carol Shields

Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 1998, ‘Larry’s Party’ is the third book I have read by Carol Shields. I read ‘Unless’ a couple of years ago but didn’t love it, didn’t review it and now can’t really remember anything about it. However, I really enjoyed The Stone Diaries back in 2013 and ‘Larry’s Party’ is very similar in many ways – both novels are fictional biographies of “ordinary” people who live quiet yet complex lives. While ‘The Stone Diaries’ spans nearly the whole 20th century, ‘Larry’s Party’ is slightly more focused in scope covering a mere two decades of the life of Laurence “Larry” J. Weller, born in 1950 in Winnipeg to English immigrant parents. Continue reading

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Cold Earth by Sarah Moss

Cold Earth Sarah MossI have really enjoyed all of the books by Sarah Moss I have read to date and I recently read her 2009 debut novel ‘Cold Earth’. It follows a team of six archaeologists and academics who travel to western Greenland for a three week dig excavating the remains of a Viking settlement. They leave behind their homes in the United States and Europe just as a deadly flu-like virus has started to spread rapidly across the world. Archaeologists Catriona, Ben, Jim and Ruth are joined by team leader Yianni and his friend Nina, the only non-archaeologist in the group whose academic research is vaguely linked to Norse literature. However, Nina experiences night terrors and becomes convinced that the supernatural events are the result of ghosts disturbed by the group’s dig at their resting place. Continue reading

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Feel Free by Zadie Smith

Feel Free Zadie Smith‘Feel Free’ is a new collection of over thirty essays, reviews and interviews by Zadie Smith divided into five sections. The first and last of these, ‘In the World’ and ‘Feel Free’, cover current events and some autobiographical “life writing”, while ‘In the Audience’, ‘In the Gallery’ and ‘On the Bookshelf’ concern her musings on film, art and writing respectively.

Covering a vast array of topics, the collection opens with an impassioned defence of libraries (“the only thing left on the high street that doesn’t want either your soul or your wallet”) while a new security fence constructed around her daughter’s primary school is the springboard for a nuanced and insightful piece on Brexit. As to be expected, some of the more in-depth reviews may only be of real interest for those who already know about the subject matter. I am familiar with some of the films and authors discussed here (‘The Social Network’, ‘Get Out’ and Karl Ove Knausgaard are all featured), but it has to be said that the more academic essays about art were less appealing to me and I skimmed most of these. As well as subject matter, the essays were originally written for very different audiences across different publications and while many pieces first appeared in the New York Review of Books and Harper’s magazine, some were delivered as lectures. Continue reading

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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock Imogen Hermes GowarSet in eighteenth century Britain, ‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock’ by Imogen Hermes Gowar tells the story of Jonah Hancock, a middle-aged widower and respectable Deptford merchant who discovers that the captain of one of his ships has sold his vessel in exchange for a stuffed “mermaid”. Although initially horrified by this transaction, Mr Hancock is later persuaded to profit from the rare curiosity he has acquired and loans the mermaid to Mrs Chappell for display at her infamous high society parties and Soho brothel. Celebrated courtesan Angelica Neal is tasked with entertaining Mr Hancock which she sees as an irritating distraction at first. However, as the display becomes the talk of London, Angelica decides she wants a mermaid of her own and Mr Hancock does whatever it takes to find another one.  Continue reading

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Winter by Ali Smith

Winter Ali Smith‘Winter’ is the second volume in the seasons cycle of novels by Ali Smith. It is loosely set at a family gathering in which twenty-something Art (Arthur) visits his mother Sophia Cleves in Cornwall over Christmas. Art has recently been dumped by Charlotte and hires a Croatian-Canadian immigrant, Lux, to pretend to be his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Sophia has a frosty relationship with her subversive sister Iris who has a long history of political activism. Continue reading

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Three Non-Fiction Books About Medicine

Pale Rider Laura SpinneyPale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed The World by Laura Spinney probably isn’t what most people consider to be cosy festive reading over Christmas but it is somewhat seasonal. Much of what has been written about the Spanish flu tends to focus on the impact it had on Western countries in the aftermath of the First World War but Spinney’s book is a refreshingly global account of how the virus reached all corners of the earth from Alaska to Rio de Janeiro to Samoa to China. Estimates remain vague but the Spanish flu is believed to have killed at least 50 million people worldwide, possibly as many as 100 million, and its rapid spread is likely to have been partly exacerbated by soldiers returning home at the end of the First World War. Continue reading

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