The First Bad Man

Miranda July

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The central character is Cheryl Glickman, middle-aged, obsessive/compulsive, a put-upon worker in a charity that makes money selling safety videos for women in role-play format that double as workout routines. The charity’s founders pretend to philanthropy while living lives of unbounded exploitation and self-centred meanness. The receptionist at the medical practice Cheryl attends for her globus hystericus doubles as a therapist herself. The homeless man who plays the part of Cheryl’s landscaper is far from what he seems. And Cheryl herself, in her head at least, takes the parts of sexual partner and mother into realms which bear only the most vestigial relationship with reality [Read more...] in Reviews

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Emma Hooper

Reviewed by Alison Burns

In a tone reminiscent of Carol Shields’s much-loved novel The Stone Diaries – and, in one remarkable passage, of Ann Michaels’s searing Holocaust novel Fugitive Pieces – the young, Canadian-born but UK-resident author and musician Emma Hooper binds together the story of her characters’ childhood, wartime experiences and adulthood in a plaited narrative that makes everything simultaneously immediate. The effect is incredibly touching [Read more...] in Reviews

November Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Hannah knows how to keep up the pace of her narrative with an excellent mixture of action scenes and engaging characters. Even better, she creates a wholly believable police force, not so much by the inclusion of all the latest acronyms and jargon as by her psychological perception and her knowledge of the cock-ups and conspiracies that get in the way of quick and efficient detection. Best of all, she creates high drama without using psychopaths, paedophiles, or lost children [Read more...] in Reviews

Take Six Girls

Laura Thompson

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

Thompson insists that the sisters were iconic in their day, are still significant and that what they did was extraordinary, in that they were not just flirting with the extremist politics of their time, but kept their beliefs throughout life. ‘Something in these young women responded to the dark power of the times.’ Not, please note, that their written or quoted words ever showed it. An invincible levity was the Mitford mode; there is no way to be sure if anything was ever taken seriously [Read more...] in Reviews

My Mother is a River

Donatella Di Pietrantonio

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

To see and feel someone you love slipping away from you, shutting you out whilst retreating into their own narrowing parallel universe, must be heartbreaking beyond words. How to deal with it emotionally and psychologically is the matter with which My Mother is a River contends. Our narrator, whose name we never learn, also has another issue on her mind: lasting resentment of her mother Esperina for their early relationship [Read more...] in Reviews

John le Carré: The Biography

Adam Sisman

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Sisman traces the writer’s life, achievements, friends and enemies, always showing how he used them in the novels. Some people are reported to have been hurt to recognize themselves in his fictional versions of their characters. On the way to unpicking the links between life and work, Sisman offers some shocking stories. One particularly nasty one involves the late politician and diarist Alan Clark, whose behaviour caused le Carré to end their friendship. Another tells of an outrageous publishing indiscretion [Read more...] in Reviews

Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism

John Norris

Reviewed by Rachael Hanel

McGrory worked in newspapers from 1942 until 2003, when she suffered a stroke at the age of 84. Her output was astounding: she covered twelve US presidential campaigns and produced more than 8,000 columns. She spent the majority of her career as a columnist for the Washington Star and when the Star folded, she moved to the Washington Post. Her columns, marked by sharp observations, poetic language, and solid reporting, were syndicated throughout the United States [Read more...] in Reviews