Protest: Stories of Resistance

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

While this is an easy book to dip in and out of, reading it from page one onwards rewards the reader with an overview of the history of British protests, and a sinking feeling as the same issues come up again and again. The poor and dispossessed often protest to their lords and masters about their harsh living conditions; kings and the nobility burden their serfs with extortionate taxes; a legal system is skewed towards the rich and powerful; and men and boys are forced to go to wars they did not start or understand [Read more...] in Reviews

June Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

The crime is credible and the methods of detection convincing but it is in the private lives of her characters that Steiner really shines. Her take on family dynamics and the almost unbearably difficult balancing acts involved is both involving and illuminating. She writes well, too, and she has created a highly unusual – and heroic – character in obese shop-owner Birdie, who adores Tony Blair so much she keeps a poster of him on her wall. Birdie brings some lightening humour to the narrative and an important change in point of view. This is a warm and impressive novel [Read more...] in Reviews

Small Hours

Jennifer Kitses

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Tom and Helen’s relationship is already founded on a number of poor choices and secrets. Tom still hasn’t managed to find the right moment to share with Helen the fact that he has a love child with an ex-mistress. And Helen hasn’t totally forgiven herself for arm-twisting Tom into having two daughters when he didn’t want children, as well as pushing him to move out of New York City, to a small town in the Hudson Valley with a commute time of 90 minutes [Read more...] in Reviews

A Secret Sisterhood

Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

The authors chose these examples from a long list of author friends, such as Winifred Holtby and Vera Brittain, Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. These examples of ‘hidden friendships’ are interesting and well described – and they all have an undercurrent of subversion or naughtiness about them. As Margaret Atwood says in her foreword, ‘It was a received opinion throughout the last two millennia, up to and including much of the twentieth century, that… to write seriously was immodest for a woman’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Anything Is Possible

Elizabeth Strout

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The reader is invited into a quiet landscape of contained people whose secrets, compromises and awakenings are both everyday and universal. Women predominate. One or two who are urged to get away do just that, Lucy [Barton] being foremost among them. Those who stay sink, swim or find their own means of survival [Read more...] in Reviews

The Valentine House

Emma Henderson

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Inspired by the six years Henderson spent in a remote valley in the French Alps, The Valentine House takes its vantage point from a chalet she came across high in the mountains – built in 1858 by Sir Alfred Wills, British mountaineer and judge – and draws on the owner’s writings. The first of Henderson’s main characters – Anthony Valentine, scholarly patriarch of the family’s adored chalet, Arete – grew from these experiences and discoveries. The second, his servant Mathilde, is entirely Henderson’s creation, and into her the author seems to have poured everything she knows and feels about this magical region and its real-life occupants [Read more...] in Reviews

Towards Mellbreak

Marie-Elsa Bragg

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Towards Mellbreak is suffused with love for these people and their place. You see and feel the rain ‘lathered onto the fells, clinging to the clouds like froth’, the snowdrops ‘spread across the lawn, as if a stream had come through’, the mourners crammed into the farm kitchen ‘like a bucket of coals’. It is such an intimate portrait that you don’t want to leave them [Read more...]