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Category Archives: review

Bookselling: my part in its downfall

Some thoughts on my brief time at Waterstone’s, along with a review of Shaun Bythell’s Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops. – For The Critic

Faux Amis? Or, the art of the nonvel

Inside Story: a novel / How to Write By Martin Amis Jonathan Cape £20 . It is traditionally ‘not done’ to review books in terms of what they’re not. And yet: this book is not a novel. It says it is on the front cover; but it isn’t. And Martin Amis makes it clear it’s [...]

A season in ‘Hell’

Review of Jonathan C Slaght’s compelling Owls of the Eastern Ice: The Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl. – For Geographical

‘Cheese sandwich optional’

Review of Lev Parikian’s cheerful and entertaining Into the Tangled Bank: In which our author ventures outside to consider the British in nature. – For Geographical

State of the nation

Review of Andrew Fidel Fernando’s debut book Upon a Sleepless Isle, which has just won Sri Lanka’s Gratiaen Prize (2019) for English-language literature. – For The Critic

‘It is the living we should fear’

DISCLAIMER: Ten years ago, I reviewed Shehan Karunatilaka’s debut novel, Chinaman, for this newspaper. It was brilliant, I said, and everyone should buy it. I noted, though, for form’s sake, that I’d done some light proofreading of the manuscript, and hoped that this would not be taken either as cause or symptom of inoperable bias. [...]

Selassie come home

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste Canongate, £16.99, pp. 428 . In 1935 the troops of Benito Mussolini’s sinister-clownish Roman Empire II invaded Ethiopia, in large part out of spite for Italy’s embarrassing defeat there 40 years before. Initially largely uncontested – thanks both to emperor Haile Selassie’s desperate faith in international brotherhood and to [...]

You want appease of me?!

The Hitler Years: Triumph 1933-1939 by Frank McDonough Head of Zeus £30 . In the early- to mid-1930s my grandmother (Irish, South African, later Australian) lived for a few years in the east of Germany, as a language assistant/housemistress in a boarding school. Her one recorded comment about Hitler’s accession to power was that he [...]

Islamic cities

Review of Justin Marozzi’s Islamic Empires: Fifteen Cities that Define a Civilization. – For Geographical

Applause for thought?

Midori Goto’s violin recital in Colombo, reviewed. (Along with half the audience.) – For the Sunday Times (SL)