The Premonition

Michael Lewis

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

The Balkan Trilogy

Olivia Manning

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

Boys Don’t Cry

Fiona Scarlett

Reviewed by Alison Burns

The great strength of this novel is Scarlett’s understanding of both the bleakness and the love in the world of these young people. Finn’s chapters show a child seeking to protect his family while also trying to grasp what is happening to his body. Joe’s show the courage, loyalty and rage of a young man who experiences directly the collateral damage of gang activity [Read more...] in Reviews

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

Deepa Anappara

* A 2020 Notable Book

Reviewed by Rachel Hore

As a one-time journalist in Delhi, Deepa Anappara knows of what she writes, and her prose, richly punctuated by local idiom, is exceptionally vivid. She evokes the variety, individuality and vitality of the characters in Jai’s community with skill and humour, whilst underlining the appalling conditions in which they live. There’s little sanitation and they must join long queues for toilets or simply use the rubbish dump or the street [Read more...] in Reviews

Not at Home

Doris Langley Moore

* A 2020 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

Doris Langley Moore found time to write six novels between 1932 and 1959, of which Not At Home was published in 1948 and is now reissued alongside her others by Dean Street Press with an introduction by Sir Roy Strong…The story introduces Elinor MacFarren, a botanical artist living alone in a large London house full of beautiful things who, to defray costs, takes a lodger. To summarize the plot briefly, this is a disaster [Read more...] in Reviews

Tom Stoppard: A Life

Hermione Lee

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Hermione Lee gives detailed synopses of all Stoppard’s plays, even the least significant, setting each one in the context of his life and ideas, as well as other work being produced at the time, some of which inspired him or gave him ideas. She shows how hard he worked to create the opportunities that came his way. Anyone hoping for a career in the theatre (or as any kind of writer) would do well to read each page of this long life to understand what he or she is undertaking [Read more...] in Reviews

Modern Times

Cathy Sweeney

Reviewed by Alison Burns

In ‘Flowers in Water’, Sweeney makes a whole story out of a man’s devotion to making invisible films. When he watches these with his estranged daughter, you believe that they are seeing the same things. In ‘The Woman Whose Child Was A Very Old Man’, a revolutionary and perfectly effective solution to childcare is suggested. The married couple in ‘The Chair’ develop a routine that helps them to deal with their anger (Doris Lessing would have loved this one) [Read more...] in Reviews