“Rules of Civility”

There’s an interesting debate about cross-sex writing, isn’t there? It seems to me the popular wisdom is that a man can’t write as a woman, but a woman can write as a man. No. That’s too simplistic. Perhaps is should be qualified: it’s easier for a woman to write as a first-person male narrator than… Read More “Rules of Civility”

“The Journalist”

In many ways, Harry Matthews “The Journalist” is a remarkable achievement. Having said that, I suspect three-quarters of people who start to read the book may not make it all the way through to the end… “The Journalist” is not about someone who writes for newspapers or appears on television, but rather a man who… Read More “The Journalist”

“Tenth of December”

Perhaps to start with a caution. Even though “Tenth of December” is a collection of short stories, you are going to have to work at them. This is partly because of their gritty realism, and partly because of remarkably fluid style George Saunders chooses to write them in. Often you find a mixture of real… Read More “Tenth of December”


I can’t quite decide whether or not I should recommend this small Vintage ‘mini’ as a suitable introduction to the work of Haruki Murakami. The stories in “Desire” are more or less typical of his style and – interestingly – they give each of his major into-English translators a run-out too. (Through experience, I’ve found… Read More “Desire”

“The Porpoise”

If you’re expecting ‘weird’ right off the bat because “The Porpoise” is written by Mark Haddon (the legacy, perhaps, of “The Curious Incident…”) then the beginning lulls you into something of a false sense of security. Okay, the subject matter is undeniably dark, but the beginning feels like a straightforward narrative. But when the story… Read More “The Porpoise”

“Machines Like Me”

I confess to being slightly confused and ambivalent about Ian McEwan’s “Machines Like Me”. It seemed to vary between being good, and not so; between generating empathy for its characters, and then nothing at all. The only constant perhaps was my distaste for the android / synthetic human, Adam. But perhaps that was the point.… Read More “Machines Like Me”


Normally I would argue that a Booker Prize winning novel (or even finalist) would be a pretty decent yardstick for the oeuvre of an author, a good place to start. But having read “On Chesil Beach” and “Black Dogs”, I have to say Ian McEwan’s “Amsterdam” is far from that. Indeed, had I read “Amsterdam”… Read More “Amsterdam”

“Black Dogs”

Whether some elements of the central post-war event re-told at the end of Ian McEwan’s “Black Dogs” have any basis in reality is potentially irrelevant – and if you’ve read the book, you’ll probably have a good idea of the specific element I’m talking about! True or false, it doesn’t diminish the power of the… Read More “Black Dogs”

“Here We Are”

Ever since I read Graham Swift’s wonderful “Waterland” I’ve been completely hooked; his writing is something I can always reliably turn to. There are a few authors in that bracket for me – Murakami certainly, Julian Barnes, Donna Tartt, Swift himself – with a few others ‘coming up on the rails’: Ishiguro, Ali Smith, McEwan.… Read More “Here We Are”