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Week 43: Atonement

Who of us are so perfect that we've never wished we could go back and do something differently? Or simply not do it at all? Atonement, published in 2001 and filmed six years later, is generally believed to be one of Ian McEwan's best novels. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and made TIME [...]

By | 2018-04-10T15:12:39+00:00 April 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 42: The “other” Decline and Fall

This time last year BBC 2 brought to the screen a "ghastly gaggle of braying Oxford toffs", as one reviewer put it, in a delightfully-cast three-part adaptation of Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh's 1928 satire on the great and the good of England, between the wars. If you missed it, your public library will have [...]

By | 2018-04-03T15:27:11+00:00 April 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 41: 10 Reasons NOT to read Infinite Jest

It’s never a good sign, it seems to me, when you’d rather unload the dishwasher than continue reading a particular book. Or make that dentist appointment you’ve been putting off. Or cut your toenails. Which, by the way, happens a lot in Infinite Jest, the 1996 novel by the American writer David Foster Wallace. It [...]

By | 2018-03-27T15:36:52+00:00 March 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|5 Comments

Week 40: The Children’s Book

It has been said of A S Byatt that she does not wear her learning lightly. I'd go further: she has a tendency to club you over the head with it. The Children's Story (2009) is a bulging, behemoth of a book which frequently reads like an encyclopedia. There were times as I worked my [...]

By | 2018-03-20T17:07:08+00:00 March 20th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 39: The Gathering

Good writers don't let you off easy. They provide no pat answers - there's no riding off together into the sunset as the orchestral music swells in the background. Good writers unsettle you. They leave you with questions. They disturb your assumptions, shake you out of your comfort zone. They can be savage in their [...]

By | 2018-03-13T15:29:23+00:00 March 13th, 2018|Uncategorized|6 Comments

Week 38: A Bend in the River

"The town in the interior, at the bend in the great river, had almost ceased to exist". The name of the town is never mentioned. We are told it is located in the heart of Africa, at the end of the navigable river, just below the cataracts. The President, too, is unnamed, and usually referred [...]

By | 2018-03-07T05:37:24+00:00 March 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 37: Iris Murdoch’s Severed Head

Martin Lynch-Gibbon is a lucky man. He has it all - a comfortable, tastefully decorated home; a gracious, loving wife whose beauty is only just beginning to fade, and a mistress practically young enough to be his daughter. There is no question of him leaving his wife, and his mistress appears to accept that. He [...]

By | 2018-02-27T20:36:25+00:00 February 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 36: Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon

In 1934, four years after The Maltese Falcon was published, Dashiell Hammett wrote this of his anti-heroic, hard-boiled detective, Sam Spade: "He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would liked to have been and quite a few of them in their cockier [...]

By | 2018-02-20T14:46:32+00:00 February 20th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 35: The 39 Steps

“I returned from the City about three o’clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life." This, I think, is a perfect first line. Why is he - if it is a he - disgusted with life? What's happened up to now? And what is about to happen on that May afternoon that will [...]

By | 2018-02-25T02:13:12+00:00 February 13th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments