Women Talking

Miriam Toews

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The women’s analysis of what has happened to them, their treatment, their own futures and their children’s, and above all how to absorb these events into their own sense of faith, fills most of the book’s pages, and might seem at times dry. But its territory is so horrific, so stark, so outrageous and contemporary that it magnetizes the reader. Toew’s sensitivity, lucidity, lyricism and wit ensure it [Read more...] in Reviews

January Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

The Man With No Face, originally published in 1981, features a cynical Scottish journalist investigating the ‘corruption, fraud and political backstabbing’ of the EEC. His brief is complicated when the British minister for Europe is found murdered and the only witness is a child with autism, who cannot speak but who can draw brilliantly and may therefore be able to help identify the killer. Set in a freezing winter in Brussels, the novel offers an interesting account of the mores of the 1980s and shows how far social attitudes have moved – and how much of the political landscape remains the same [Read more...] in Reviews

Mrs Tim Carries On, Mrs Tim Gets a Job, Mrs Tim Flies Home

D.E. Stevenson

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Dorothy Emily Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, in 1892. Her father, David Alan Stevenson, was one of the famous Lighthouse Stevensons, and she was cousin to one of Scotland’s most celebrated writers, Robert Louis Stevenson. When she married Major James Reid Peploe in 1916, she also became related to the brilliant Scottish Colourist Samuel Peploe. In these new reissues, Alexander McCall Smith provides a charming introduction to Stevenson’s work which he rates highly for their simplicity and her ability to tell amiable tales well. All three books are written in the style of a diary which gives the reader a sense of intimacy, reading the private thoughts of Mrs Tim as she documents her life with her family, friends, and comments on major world events [Read more...] in Reviews

Dear Mona

Jonah Jones

Reviewed by Lesley Glaister

In his immaculately written introduction, Peter Jones, son of Jonah, addresses the question of whether he had any right to publish these personal letters in one of which Len has written: ‘I feel letters are between friends only and I want the lovely personal sacredness of those letters to remain unspoiled by others’ reading …’ Peter admits that this presented him with a dilemma, but explains that he decided to publish because ‘… the quality of the letters just seems too good, and their content too important, to leave them languishing in some archive. The story of Len and Mona should be read; let it be a tribute to two extraordinary people.’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Severance

Ling Ma

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Ma has referred to her book as ‘an apocalyptic office novel’ and its critique of capitalism, done slyly yet tellingly, is a central ingredient in her fusion of narrative themes. There’s suspense too in the gothic, survivalist scenes, complete with maggot-infested corpses. There’s contemplative analysis in Candace’s musing on the oddities of her world and her place in it. There’s a battle of wills, between our steely heroine and the autocratic leader of the survivalists. And there’s the sardonic take on routine, work, wage slavery and consumerism [Read more...] in Reviews

Happiness

Aminatta Forna

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

This is a story of wide and significant scope that spans continents and decades, even though it unspools itself mainly in the UK in the twenty-first century. And there’s more to it than mammals or birds, or wildlife or gardens. This is also a book about war and trauma, about refugees and immigrants, survival and the unexpected by-products of suffering. And last, but far from least, it’s a love story. [Read more...] in Reviews

Lullaby

Leïla Slimani

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Intimations of madness, of dangerous involvement and detachment, appear very early in the narrative, but the real Louise is invisible to her employers. The reader watches, aghast, as this hapless woman falls to pieces while in charge of someone else’s children. In calm, steady, devastating prose, Slimani tracks the daily life of this sample urban nanny, both at home in the Masses’ flat and out in the city. There are searing scenes in the park (where Louise moves trancelike among other nannies from all over the world), evoking the compromises required by poverty, the solidarity of the underdog and the bleak routines of the lonely and marginalized [Read more...] in Reviews