Book Review – The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor)

NThe Perfect Nanny by the Morrocan-French writer Leïla Slimani is a taught, beautifully crafted suspense story that won France's prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2016 and was the country's top-selling novel. It has been a bestseller across Europe and has just been released in an English translation. (In Britain the book is released with the title Lullaby, …

Book Review – Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years by Clinton Heylin

I'm too young to remember when Dylan went electric in 1965, but I am old enough to remember the shock and dismay many of us fans felt when Dylan "found Jesus" at the tail end of the 1970s. I was in university then and had followed Dylan's career path both in real time (buying and …

Book Review – Improvement by Joan Silber

Interconnections abound in Improvement, Joan Silber's deft new novel. Silber uses a recurring motif of Turkish carpets -- which several of the book's characters collect, sell or trade -- and lets their intricate and subtly woven patterns mimic the intricacies of the novel's plot. Decisions that characters make are shown to  have effects not just …

Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

It was announced today that Scottish writer Gail Honeyman's darkly comic debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, has won the Costa Book Prize in the "Best First Novel of 2017" category. I read it when it came out last spring, and despite a shaky start I really enjoyed it. After reading the first few …

Book Review – My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs: The Nobel Lecture by Kazuo Ishiguro – The Nobel Lecture by Bob Dylan

Kazuo Ishiguro, the winner of this year's Nobel Prize for literature, and Bob Dylan, last year's winner, have both just published the texts of their Nobel Lectures in slim volumes. Ishiguro delivered his lecture on December 7, 2017 at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, as is customary. Dylan wasn't so accommodating. He submitted an audio …

Book Review – Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

Mary Beard, the Cambridge Classics professor and author of 2015's massive history of Rome, SPQR, has just published a slim illustrated volume based on two lectures she gave under the auspices of The British Museum and The London Review of Books, one in 2014, the other in 2017. Her subject is the continued silencing of …

Book Review – Christopher Hitchens: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Melville House has been publishing a popular series of books called The Last Interview and Other Conversations which bundles the final interviews of various writers along with selected earlier interviews. The series includes books on David Foster Wallace, James Baldwin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Hannah Arendt, Philip K. Dick, and Kurt Vonnegut among …

Book Review – Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner

  Matthew Weiner has gone from the sprawling multiple-character longform world of the television series Mad Men, which he created, wrote, produced and directed over seven seasons to a minimalist and tightly focused character study in his first novel (at 144 pages, more a novella really) Heather, the Totality. There is almost no dialogue in …

Book Review – Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Craig Brown, a British satirist and humorist who has written for The Spectator, Private Eye and nearly every London daily newspaper at one time or another, has produce a very witty and catty book about Queen Elizabeth's wayward younger sister, called Ma'am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret. In her lifetime Margaret was famous for …

Book Review – Blood Brothers by Deanne Stillman

There are some public figures who become iconic over time (think Lincoln, Churchill, Queen Victoria or Charlie Chaplin). Instantly recognizable in their unchanging images, forever locked into their easily remembered narratives, to the general public they are known but unknown. William "Buffalo Bill" Cody certainly fits this category as does the Lakota Chief Sitting Bull. …

Book Review – Snare by Lilja Sigurðardóttir

For a remote island with a small population (340,000 people) and a miniscule crime rate, Iceland punches above its weight when it comes to crime fiction. Ragnar Jónasson, Arnaldur Indriðason, Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir have all done very well with mystery novels translated into English. A new addition to their ranks is Lilja Sigurðardóttir, …

Book Review – The Misfit’s Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch

I have read Lidia Yuknavitch's memoir The Chronology of Water which is ostensibly about her career as a competitive swimmer but is even more about the physical and sexual abuse she suffered from her father. I haven't read her three highly acclaimed novels (which are often described as "transgressive") although they have long been on …

Book Review – She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

Jordan Harper's heart-pounding debut novel, She Rides Shotgun, opens with a chilling introduction to "Crazy Craig" Hollington, a lifer in solitary confinement in California's Supermax Pelican State Prison, where he is held in a specially built cell “where the lights were on for twenty-four hours a day (and) he couldn’t own anything firmer than a …