What can you tell from the title of a book, its cover, the blurb that goes with it? Too often these prove insufficient clues as to what might be hidden inside – good or bad. Sometimes when we’re buying a new book we’ll take a punt; but more often than not, we probably settle for… Read More Openings

“Jesus’ Son”

It was mere coincidence that saw me reading Denis Johnson’s short story collection “Jesus’ Son” immediately after Kevin Barry’s “That Old Country Music” – but it was a coincidence which served to throw the two into sharp contrast. Where Barry’s stories are softer, somewhat gentle, filled with ‘Irishness’, Johnson’s are raw, hard, uncompromising, and paint… Read More “Jesus’ Son”

“Anxious People”

There is something of the fairy story about Fredrik Backman’s “Anxious People” – which probably shouldn’t be a surprise from the man who have us “A Man Called Ove”. You might also argue that “Anxious People” is a rare novel these days: one which, in the flurry of positivity towards the end, manages to resolve… Read More “Anxious People”

“Hot Stew”

Having loved Fiona Mozley’s Booker-nominated debut “Elmet”, I simply wasn’t prepared for “Hot Stew”. To my mind the two books are so ‘chalk and cheese’ that they could have been written by different people. Not that “Hot Stew” is a ‘bad’ book. It isn’t. But it is remarkably different in subject matter, style and tone.… Read More “Hot Stew”

“The Unconsoled”

When a new novel is published rarely does it polarise opinion as much as Kasuo Ishiguro’s “The Unconsoled”. For many it was a masterpiece, unlike anything else ever written – for others it was simply not very good and roundly vilified. There seemed to be no middle ground. My own reaction when I started to… Read More “The Unconsoled”

“Galatea 2.2”

It was partly because I liked Richard Powers’ “The Overstory” so much that I tried as hard as I could to get through “Galatea 2.2” – but I simply couldn’t finish it, and gave up about a third of the way through. It has been a while since I last had to admit defeat like… Read More “Galatea 2.2”