Whatever you do, don’t start reading Olga Tokarczuk’s “Flights” expecting to encounter a conventional novel – because you won’t. It is a fragmented, meandering creation with dozens of vignette’s nestling against each other, sometimes in a logical progression – but mostly not. Some of these are as long as twelve or more pages, the majority… Read More “Flights”

“A Month in Siena”

Part-travelogue, part-art history, part-personal reflection, Hisham Matar’s “A Month in Siena” could easily be seen as something of an antidote if you have been reading too much fiction and are seeking something different just to break things up. Indeed, in a way that is how Matar sees his trip to Italy; an opportunity to fill-in… Read More “A Month in Siena”


There is something about Bellow’s first person narrator / observer which draws you into “Ravelstein”; it seems to me that you are both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ simultaneously. This elongated pen-picture of Ravelstein, laid out by his close friend Chick, is undoubtedly all sorts of things: colourful, expansive, amusing, ironic, submissive… Indeed, the list of adjectives… Read More “Ravelstein”

“Seize the Day”

On one level it’s really difficult to ‘like’ Saul Bellow’s “Seize the Day”. This isn’t because the book is badly written – quite the opposite! – but rather because of Tommy Wilhelm, its main character. Bellow has succeeded in drawing for us a remarkable picture of a serial loser, one with whom it is difficult… Read More “Seize the Day”

“Portnoy’s Complaint”

Usually I really like Philip Roth’s work, but I’m afraid “Portnoy’s Complaint” didn’t quite hit the spot. Written as one huge monologue, the language used – relaxed, conversational – certainly fits the bill; and having been promised something explosively funny, there were undeniably ‘laugh out loud’ moments. Having said that, however, the book poses a… Read More “Portnoy’s Complaint”

Why you shouldn’t believe everything an Amazon page says about a book…

As a writer and Indie Publisher I am always grateful that my distributor and the Nielsen book registration service have direct feeds into major on-line retailers. This facility means that, as soon as a book is published, it usually appears on global websites within 24-48 hours. However, what appears is only as good as the… Read More Why you shouldn’t believe everything an Amazon page says about a book…

“About Grace”

I hesitated before deciding to read Anthony Doerr’s “About Grace”; the blurb on the back cover suggested a novel that explored some dark and difficult emotional territory. And it did. I expected pain, helplessness, a sense of loss – all of which the novel delivered. And some of it was beautifully rendered: Winkler’s panic early… Read More “About Grace”

“in the event”

John Birtwhistle’s latest collection of poetry, “in the event”, is an intriguing and eclectic mix; a real pic’n’mix of the traditional and modern, the poetic and the prosaic. It is a ‘something for everyone’ kind of book. Which, in a way, is both a strength and a weakness. There are ‘statement’ pieces – the more… Read More “in the event”

“Sag Harbor”

[Spoiler alert, from the start.] There’s a famous quote from Alfred Hitchcock which goes something like: “if you show the audience a gun in Act 1, it has to be fired in Act 3”. Nothing should be superfluous. So when, about mid-way through “Sag Harbor”, Colson Whitehead’s main character references that one day he’ll be… Read More “Sag Harbor”

“Paper Aeroplane”

As my first real foray into the work of Simon Armitage, our Poet Laureate, I had expected fireworks from “Paper Aeroplane”… Unfortunately I found it more ‘Sparkler’ than giant ‘Roman Candle’. Several things struck me about this volume, a collection culled from twenty-one of Armitage’s other books: There didn’t seem to be any consistent ‘voice’… Read More “Paper Aeroplane”


It seems to me that Philip Roth sits squarely within a tradition of great story-telling. I can imagine being in a quiet room with him and then he leans over and says “Let me tell you about this guy I know…” His work is conversational, relaxed; it is unfussy, unpretentious. Yet none of this stops… Read More “Everyman”

“Men Without Women”

I have, in the not too distant past, been less than complimentary about Ernest Hemingway (To Have and Have Not). Undaunted, I decided to try “Men Without Women”, and I confess to be really pleased to have done so. The stories are lean and enigmatic. The medium seems to suit Hemingway’s somewhat ‘punchy’ style, and… Read More “Men Without Women”

“The Gallows Pole”

It’s my own fault. The cover was plain enough: ‘Winner of the Walter Scott Prize’; ‘Historical fiction at its best’. And I never read historical fiction. So what was I doing with a copy of Benjamin Myers’ “The Gallows Pole”? I mean, really? And early doors my initial fears appeared to be justified. Some the… Read More “The Gallows Pole”