Anything Is Possible

Elizabeth Strout

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The reader is invited into a quiet landscape of contained people whose secrets, compromises and awakenings are both everyday and universal. Women predominate. One or two who are urged to get away do just that, Lucy [Barton] being foremost among them. Those who stay sink, swim or find their own means of survival [Read more...] in Reviews

The Valentine House

Emma Henderson

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Inspired by the six years Henderson spent in a remote valley in the French Alps, The Valentine House takes its vantage point from a chalet she came across high in the mountains – built in 1858 by Sir Alfred Wills, British mountaineer and judge – and draws on the owner’s writings. The first of Henderson’s main characters – Anthony Valentine, scholarly patriarch of the family’s adored chalet, Arete – grew from these experiences and discoveries. The second, his servant Mathilde, is entirely Henderson’s creation, and into her the author seems to have poured everything she knows and feels about this magical region and its real-life occupants [Read more...] in Reviews

Towards Mellbreak

Marie-Elsa Bragg

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Towards Mellbreak is suffused with love for these people and their place. You see and feel the rain ‘lathered onto the fells, clinging to the clouds like froth’, the snowdrops ‘spread across the lawn, as if a stream had come through’, the mourners crammed into the farm kitchen ‘like a bucket of coals’. It is such an intimate portrait that you don’t want to leave them [Read more...]

Grief Works

Julia Samuel

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

If Julia Samuel’s book has one central message, it is that grieving takes a long, long time. Having spent twenty-five years as a bereavement counsellor, she is so empathetic that she suffers and weeps along with her patients or clients, men, women and children of every class and kind. But she is a consummate professional, and despite its sad subject, this book is so well written that it is a pleasure to read [Read more...] in Reviews

The Daughter of Lady Macbeth

Ajay Close

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Lilias, a jobbing actress, is the Lady Macbeth of the title in Ajay Close’s fifth novel. Now in her later years, Lilias was a reluctant mother to Freya, who spent her childhood being dumped on friends while Lilias was working, or helping out the landladies in countless theatrical digs. Freya has never known who her father is as Lilias refuses point blank to reveal his identity. It is hard not to be amused by Lilias even as she displays her innate selfishness. She is a narcissist and has a casual relationship with the truth, especially when it comes to her career. The world revolves around Lilias, or it should, and Freya is a bit-player in her mother’s life [Read more...] in Revieews

March Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

For any reader who wants refreshment from the miseries of damaged children and brutal psychological distress, Philip Gwynne Jones’s The Venetian Game will be ideal. Featuring the British Honorary Consul in Venice, Nathan Sutherland, it explores that most sinister and beautiful city through the activities of a pair of rich, art-collecting brothers and the delightful Dottoressa Federica Ravagnan, an expert in restoration. This is a civilized, knowledgeable, charming antidote to the darker reaches of the genre [Read more...] in Reviews

Here Comes the Sun

Nicole Dennis-Benn

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Dennis-Benn roots the story firmly in Jamaica by using local patois in speech which has a musicality and poetry all of its own. Through Thandi she shows the discrimination against girls with dark skins and the lengths some will go to in order to have the light brown skin that is considered beautiful. It is another desperately sad example of healthy young women being told they are not enough in themselves [Read more...]in Reviews