After Birth

Elisa Albert

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Ari’s self-loathing and despair are lifted for a while through her friendship with Mina, the tenant who temporarily moves in next door, a heavily pregnant cool girl (ex-pop singer) who gives birth naturally, thereby allowing Ari to confirm her own medicized experience was a form of rape. When Ari steps in to help Mina breastfeed, she can also impart some of the wisdom and confidence she has painfully gained herself. The two women bond and breastfeed each other babies. Things are looking up [Read more...] in Reviews

We That Are Left

Clare Clark

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The novel begins in familiar territory and, despite the quality of its prose, never shakes off a sense of predictability or Downtown-esque familiarity. The Melvilles’ tenure of Ellinghurst is shaky, the estate’s future after the Great War endangered by financial problems, an absence of male heirs and a murky line of inheritance. Eleanor, the matriarch of the house, spends her time consulting mediums, trying to contact her beloved Theo in the spirit world. The two remaining children, Phyllis – a nurse during the war – and prettier, more reckless and more spoilt Jessica, must make their life choices in an England stripped of eligible males as well, of course, as servants [Read more...] in Reviews

Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes

Virginia Nicholson

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

This book gives many instances of women who who deferred in every way to their husbands, or indeed, just to men. Several examples describe women who gave up all their own hobbies, interests and friends on getting married; with the husband at once father, lover, boss and jailer, perhaps one should not be surprised or disgusted by the man who punished his wife for swearing by confiscating her pearls for seven years [Read more...] in Reviews

The Girl in the Red Coat

Kate Hamer

Reviewed by Alison Burns

A mother’s worst nightmare: you lose your young daughter at a storytelling festival. She has gone missing before, lapsing into what sounds like the epileptic’s petit mal. Always, before, you have found her – fast asleep under a hedge, or curled up in a corner. What you don’t know is that she has a special power, the laying on of hands to heal. She doesn’t know it either, though she recognizes the sensation when it happens. But, the world being what it is, someone has noticed this power, and wants it for his own ends [Read more...] in Reviews

To Explain the World

Steven Weinberg

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Weinberg introduces us to the quest to explain the world by describing the observations and speculations of the ancient Greeks, showing how they arrived at their ideas and where (and why) they got them right or wrong. From them he moves on to the Hellenstic thinkers of Alexandria two centuries before Christ, then the Arab scientists of the Caliphate of the Abbasids, through the Dark Ages when so much learning was forgotten, and eventually to the great flowering of scientific thought and experiment in the seventeenth century, and so to the modern world [Read more...] in Reviews

The Sellout

Paul Beatty

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Is there a town like Dickens? A contemporary, rundown black suburb of Los Angeles, it still supports an improbable slice of agricultural land worked by the novel’s central character and narrator (last name Me) who keeps livestock there, grows ambrosial fruit and vegetables, and stables a horse that he rides around the neighbourhood [Read more...] in Reviews

February Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

In the care home, Cat comes to know Rose, whose mind swithers between her current life and the trauma she suffered seventy years ago, at the age of ten. Their interaction displays the difficulties of paying proper attention to anyone suffering from dementia. Rose is often confused, sometimes aggressive and even dangerous, yet quite capable of accurate perception of shocking behaviour. Slowly Cat comes to understand what Rose has seen, just as her relationship with her mother is put under new and dreadful strain. What Cat learns so disturbed me that I had to stop reading for a while. Charmingly and wittily written, this novel has a more shocking effect than any number of psychotic serial-killer gore-fests [Read more...] in Reviews