‘Property,’ by Valerie Martin

Novel, 2003 A compelling, well-written book, taking an interesting view of the slave trade and its effects on individuals. This is a book about the experiences of a sugar plantation’s mistress, trapped in a loveless marriage, and the relationship she has with the slaves, and particularly with Sarah, with whom her husband has an illegitimate child. This book is bold in taking this perspective, particularly … Continue reading ‘Property,’ by Valerie Martin

“The Reader,” by Bernhard Schlink

Novel, 1995 A straightforward, first-person narrative of a young man who has an affair with an older woman with something of a history she’s not keen to share. Ultimately, this is a book about reactions to the Holocaust and feelings of desire, guilt and attempts to come to terms with and rationalise what happened and how people can deal with the aftermath and after effects. … Continue reading “The Reader,” by Bernhard Schlink

‘The Seige,’ by Helen Dunmore

Novel, 2001 A novel which starts out as a love story in war-threatened Russia, which then plays out as a long, savage struggle for survival as the Nazis besiege Leningrad. For the most part, the writing remains compelling and shows the very worst of humanity, but also the huge grasp and grip on family and society. The historical references and research occasionally get a little … Continue reading ‘The Seige,’ by Helen Dunmore

‘The Stone Diaries,” by Carol Shields

Novel, 1993 Beautifully told story of Daisy Goodwill Flett, whose seemingly ordinary life is told through a narrative which moves around between different members of her family and uses other devices and points of view to build a picture, not only of Daisy, but also of the relationships with her family members and friends. There’s a real depth and warmth in this book, right from … Continue reading ‘The Stone Diaries,” by Carol Shields

‘The People on Privilege Hill,’ by Jane Gardam

Fiction, 2007 Short story collection, in which a number of situations, often domestic and reflective in nature, are played out with well sketched, believable characters. There’s quite a variety in this collection, and while the stories often drift into the realms of the daft and the surreal, there is, nonetheless, a good deal of feeling and emotion within the pages. Some tricks, some ideas and … Continue reading ‘The People on Privilege Hill,’ by Jane Gardam

‘Attrib. and other stories,’ by Eley Williams

Fiction, 2017 Series of stories which examine and play with the way language works, is used and how meaning and intention can slip in the gaps. Streams of consciousness, digressions and other traits feature heavily and dominate over more traditional aspects such as plot and setting, giving moments of joy and exhilaration, but also a feeling – at times – of irritation, as narratives spin … Continue reading ‘Attrib. and other stories,’ by Eley Williams

‘Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper,’ by Donald Henderson

Novel, 1943 Part charming, part disarming and quite chilling character study of a serial killer, whose modus operandi seems to be brute strength and the desire to be caught and brought to justice. The charm of the book is largely driven through the domestic feel and a London in the throes of the Second World War, and while the boarding houses and social clubs should … Continue reading ‘Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper,’ by Donald Henderson

‘The Mist in the Mirror,’ by Susan Hill

Novel, 1992 Old-fashioned, but very effective ghost story, written in an almost ‘period tense,’ with a passed-on text from a mysterious protagonist and an array of phantom children, spooky characters, snowfall, spectres and some quite wonderful suspense. A book which may demand that its reader get in the mood and give themselves over to the generic thrills on show. Those who enjoy ghost stories should … Continue reading ‘The Mist in the Mirror,’ by Susan Hill

‘Pompeii,’ by Robert Harris

Novel, 2003 Historical fiction recounting the struggle of its central character, Attilus, as he attempts to repair the Augusta aqueduct, in the shadow of the corrupt officials in and around the Bay of Naples and the rumbling Mount Vesuvius. There’s a good deal going on besides, with a love story, murder plot and a cast of characters drawn from real life, although as the action … Continue reading ‘Pompeii,’ by Robert Harris