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

Afterlife

Julia Alvarez

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Antonia’s afterlife is a journey full of questions and quandaries, good choices and bad, dilemmas of the moral and personal kind which connect at multiple levels with America’s essential issues of the moment. For what, and whom, are citizens, employers, law-enforcement officers and family members responsible? How far should any one person go, to help another, related or not? Alvarez juggles all this with humor and restraint, drawing forth a portrait of a female sensibility addressing some of the most fundamental questions of social engagement [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

What We Did in the Dark

Ajay Close

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

The Jackson family seem more relieved than happy that Herbert is marrying, and the couple takes off for an extended honeymoon in Europe. Herbert seems agitated on the journey and explains that he is being watched by persons unknown. At first Cathie is sceptical but wants to believe her new husband. Soon it becomes clear that Herbert is paranoid, and Cathie feels caught in a trap of her own making. A nightmarish journey through Italy commences, with Herbert becoming more and more unhinged [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