Three Rooms

Jo Hamya

Reviewed by Alison Burns

We meet her first as she moves into a characterless rented room in a North Oxford house once occupied by the critic Walter Pater and his scholarly sister Clara. The nearest she gets to a normal social life is in encounters with a fellow occupant, a male philosophy graduate referred to as her ‘neighbour’. Through her time as a post-doctoral research assistant in the English Faculty, she never succeeds in feeling at home, despite her perfect right to be there [Read more...] in Reviews

The Penguin Book of Spanish Short Stories Edited

Margaret Jull Costa

Reviewed by Alison Burns

The collection is arranged chronologically according to the author’s date of birth. It starts with the tale of a man on a tram confusing fiction with fact and ends with a young mother confusing her baby with a vampire. In between are stories about miracles, murder, innocence, nostalgia; about work, sex and selfishness. The tones vary from the ominous to the comical, from the far-fetched to the utterly realistic. War, especially the Spanish Civil War, is ever present, but there is also mystery and joy [Read more...] in Reviews

The Premonition

Michael Lewis

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

What I take from it, apart from knowing more about viruses in general and Covid-19 in particular, and his extraordinary characters, is that our societies need to value real, evidence-based knowledge higher than anything else because it is beyond price. We need to listen to those mavericks and oddballs who are too modest and interested in their arcane subjects to thrust themselves on to public stages. We need to challenge group think and what Lewis unforgettably describes as ‘bureaucrats who suffer from malignant obedience’. We need to be less frightened of getting something wrong than doing nothing at all [Read more...] in Reviews

The Balkan Trilogy

Olivia Manning

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

The novels are autobiographical and thus offer us a riveting insider’s view of the confusion in Eastern Europe in the first year of the Second World War – and the insider, herself an outsider, is Harriet. Woven into the day-by-day unsettling upheavals of the politics and practicalities of war is the story of Harriet’s marriage, her growing understanding of the man she has so suddenly married and revelations about the unforseeable complexities of love [Read more...] in Reviews

How Beautiful We Were

Imbolo Mbue

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Mbue switches viewpoints between genders and generations, allowing the restrained eloquence of her characters – whether children or grandparents, male or female, single or in a group – to express the beliefs and ways of the Kosawans. For all their pain, theirs is a world of immense grace and natural order, grounded in meaning derived from a spiritual, social, familial and healing credo. This culture and morality stands in blazing contrast to the rapaciousness and self-interest of the oil company, and the government that protects it [Read more...] in Reviews

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

Deepa Anappara

* A 2020 Notable Book

Reviewed by Rachel Hore

As a one-time journalist in Delhi, Deepa Anappara knows of what she writes, and her prose, richly punctuated by local idiom, is exceptionally vivid. She evokes the variety, individuality and vitality of the characters in Jai’s community with skill and humour, whilst underlining the appalling conditions in which they live. There’s little sanitation and they must join long queues for toilets or simply use the rubbish dump or the street [Read more...] in Reviews

Not at Home

Doris Langley Moore

* A 2020 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

Doris Langley Moore found time to write six novels between 1932 and 1959, of which Not At Home was published in 1948 and is now reissued alongside her others by Dean Street Press with an introduction by Sir Roy Strong…The story introduces Elinor MacFarren, a botanical artist living alone in a large London house full of beautiful things who, to defray costs, takes a lodger. To summarize the plot briefly, this is a disaster [Read more...] in Reviews