The Margot Affair

Sanaë Lemoine

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Like Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, which is acknowledged in the text, this is an evocative and compelling story of young emotions explored and exploited, set in a beguiling, class- and money-conscious French landscape. There are trips beyond Paris – to Normandy, to Provence; there are café tables galore; there are meals which, whether hasty or indulgent, are reliably palate-stimulating. All this feeds into a focus on the flesh, and in particular female bodies – restricted, commented on, flowering into youthful maturity, aging into something more solid and stolid [Read more...] in Reviews

Blasted Things

Lesley Glaister

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

Blasted Things is a clever title. It references explosions on the battlefield, relevant to the field hospital setting and personnel, but the phrase is also a slang expression of dismissal which one might use referring to any object or possession or garment which is in the way or a nuisance or unfit for purpose. In her PTSD distress, Clementine herself feels detached, dislocated and unfit for the life to which she has returned, a life in which it is men who ostensibly call the shots and shape the narrative [Read more...] in Reviews

The Natural Health Service

Isabel Hardman

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

To most of us, especially during the COVID crisis, the thesis of this book is a no-brainer: that at its simplest, fresh air and exercise is a life-enhancing, boredom-busting pleasure that encourages good mental health, being at the same time both relaxing and energizing, and able to reach parts that other activities cannot reach. And recently, it seems, the medical establishment has been taking the great outdoors very seriously indeed not only as an aid to mental health but also in treatments for mental illness [Read more...] in Reviews

Negative Capability

Michèle Roberts

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Undaunted by setbacks in her writing life, Roberts celebrates friendship, food, colour, clothes; considers modernism, feminism, religious faith; remembers love affairs; reads, daydreams; reaches insights about her need for approval. Like a contemporary female Pepys, she gives us her gusto and her shameful moments in equal measure, while thinking, thinking, thinking and watching, and writing it all down [Read more...] in Reviews

Man of My Time

Dalia Sofer

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The gift of Hamid’s father’s ashes in a peppermint tin, which the son must carry around in his pocket – Hamid has been tasked with taking them back to Iran for burial – is but one of the bitter notes of humour and lingering symbols to be found in this melancholy but fully-fleshed portrait of inescapable taint. Hamid’s account of becoming the man he is offers no exculpation. Instead his ashy vision wraps all the characters in a cloak of greater or lesser complicity, misfortune and corruption [Read more...] in Reviews

The Lost Lights of St Kilda

Elisabeth Gifford

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Gifford’s writing is lyrical, drawing the reader into the extraordinary world of St Kilda, with its exceptional beauty and close-knit community. She does not shy away from the many hardships of island life, nor the inherent dangers: high winds can blow sheep (and people) over the giant cliffs to certain death. The relationships are finely wrought, the love triangle between Chrissie, Archie and Fred especially [Read more...] in Reviews

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

Deepa Anappara

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