Cleopatra and Frankenstein

Coco Mellors

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Mellors has an eye for fashion, and brittle connections, although her characters – see a grim lunch at the Grand Central Station Oyster Bar – can tend toward the one-dimensional. But this is easily-consumable contemporary fare, the couple at its core is compelling, and there are plenty of other beautiful people in their circle, like Frank’s sexually insatiable Scandinavian friend Anders; Frank’s black stepsister Zoe, an actress wannabe who takes too many risks; and Cleo’s gay best friend Quentin who the reader just knows is destined for worse things [Read more...] in Reviews

Metaphysical Animals

Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Iris Murdoch, Mary Midgley, Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe were philosophy students at Oxford during the Second World War, when most male undergraduates, and many tutors, were conscripted, leaving teaching in the hands of refugee scholars, women and conscientious objectors. They began their philosophical studies shortly after Hitler’s troops entered Austria and fought to rescue metaphysics (e.g. what is a good and what is evil?) from nit-picking logic and hair-splitting linguistic analysis [Read more...] in Reviews

The Swimmers

Julie Otsuka

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Otsuka’s intention and Alice’s destination are never hidden, the novel’s prose is never excessive, yet this narrative delivers immense power, in both its specificity and wider relevance. As the pool was a place of community and togetherness, so the Belavista is a site of separate trajectories, each patient traversing a path of lesser connection and loss, into isolation and silence [Read more...] in Reviews

Marzahn, Mon Amour

Katja Oskamp

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Oskamp relays the histories of her clients with non-judgmental amusement and celebratory warmth, prizing their quiet heroism. By the end, we find that she has restored the balance in her own life, enjoying a daily routine which includes early-morning hours at her writing desk and twice-daily walks through the cemetery, either side of immersion in the slapstick, ordinariness and tragedy of a neighbourhood she admires [Read more...] in Reviews

The Sentence

Louise Erdrich

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Erdrich’s ease, wit and literary experience are on fine display in her generous, multi-layered tale, threaded with injustice and passion. The larger issues will not be resolved, but the personal dramas experienced by Tookie – with Flora, with Pollux, and with her complicated stepdaughter – reach solid and rightful conclusions. And then there’s a bonus final section to the book, in the form of Tookie’s literary recommendations [Read more...] in Reviews

The Balkan Trilogy

Olivia Manning

* A 2021 Notable Book

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

The Premonition

Michael Lewis

* A 2021 Notable Book

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