A Book of Secrets

Kate Morrison

Reviewed by Rachel Hore

The author claims in her acknowledgements that her purpose in writing about Black Tudors is to give the lie to those myth-makers who use a fantasy all-white English past to feed into far-right white supremacist narratives. Fortunately the fiction does not feel too freighted by this worthy aim. The portrait of Susan as a Black Englishwoman of the period feels to me both individualized and subtly wrought. She has the bearing of a gentlewoman and is largely treated as such. Her respectable marriage also protects her from any who might belittle her. She’s a masterly and believable fictional creation [Read more...] in Reviews

Table Two and Peace, Perfect Peace

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Wilenski draws on her own working experiences to produce an environment that anyone who has worked in an office will recognize. There are the curious routines, petty jealousies, long-running feuds, and power struggles. As the bombing reaches London, these varied women find their own way to cope with life in wartime. This novel provides a prosaic picture of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, leavened by Wilenski’s eye for a telling detail and dry wit [Read more...] in Reviews

Feminism and the Servant Problem

Laura Schwartz

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

[Schwartz] challenges traditional theories of class and the nature of productive and reproductive labour. Her source materials include memoirs from factory workers and titled ladies, as well as domestic financial records, timetables of household duties, and diaries. There is also correspondence printed in suffrage journals about ‘the servant problem’, with brisk ripostes from servants pointing out the problems they had with some employers [Read more...] in Reviews

The Dutch House

Ann Patchett

Reviewed by Alison Burns

[Patchett] writes of family ties coming undone, of the lifelong impact of childhood experience, of the power of place – and of love – in our lives. She asks a question about maternal responsibility that remains, in the end, unresolved. Not for nothing does Patchett have a reputation for painful as well as compelling storytelling [Read more...] in Reviews

One Part Woman

Perumal Murugan

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

The novel has won various awards and even the translation was nominated for a National Book Award. Murugan himself is from a family of farmers in Kongunadu and is now an established author and academic: he has written ten novels as well as short stories, poetry and non-fiction, and is a professor of Tamil. One Part Woman is written in deceptively gentle, flowing prose, but this ‘quiet’ novel by a respectable writer became the focus of violent protest by caste-based and religious Hindu groups [Read more...] in Reviews

The Man Who Saw Everything

Deborah Levy

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

It all begins at that famous zebra crossing in Abbey Road, London, in 1988, when a young man named Saul Adler bends to his girlfriend Jennifer Moreau’s will and allows himself to be photographed on the crossing, dressed up like John Lennon. The event does not pass without incident. Firstly, Saul is knocked down by a car. His injuries are only glancing, allowing the couple to go back to her place and make love. But then Saul proposes to Jennifer, and not only does she reject him but she ends the relationship too [Read more...] in Reviews

Ask Again, Yes

Mary Beth Keane

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Keane’s quiet capability embraces a three-generational plot, multiple character perspectives and some complicated topics, notably mental health and addiction. Her empathy extends easily to Anne who, after reaching a shattering crisis, is incarcerated in a secure facility. Anne’s struggle to regain control of herself and a degree of normalcy in her interactions with her family are one facet of the story. Another is Kate’s response to this challenge and how it feeds into to the amelioration of another threat [Read more...] in Reviews