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Category Archives: review

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)

Ducks and cover

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann Galley Beggar Press, £14.99, pp1020 . Why, I asked some months back, in these pages, do the protagonists in American fiction these days seem so lost? What is it they’re all so het up about? Well… everything. At least according to the narrator of Ducks, Newburyport. Lucy Ellmann’s monster novel [...]