"A Trick I Learned from Dead Men," by Kitty Aldridge

Novel, 2012 Readable first person account of how a young funeral parlour employee tries to grow up in the face of hugely challenging domestic and personal circumstances. A quick read in which Lee, the main character, has a strong voice which is very occasionally undermined by being perhaps a little too ‘shouty’ and vernacular. Still, the first person narrative and deadpan delivery are effective in … Continue reading "A Trick I Learned from Dead Men," by Kitty Aldridge

"White is for Witching", by Helen Oyeyemi

Novel, 2009 A novel which pulls on a load of shapes and guises, from coming of age, to a twins’ psychodrama, to haunted house thriller. This is a book in which too much goes on without much seeming to actually happen. The result is a confusing hodge-podge, which may be an intentional device reflecting the struggles of Miranda, the main protagonist. There’s some really outstanding … Continue reading "White is for Witching", by Helen Oyeyemi

"Doctor Sally", by PG Wodehouse

Novel, 1932 Slight, even for Wodehouse, making this unusually non-diverging story feel more like a television drama or a short story. As a result, there’s not quite the levels of intrigue and incident, though despite this, and despite the writing feeling a little restrained, this is still glorious, whimsical satire of the highest order. A precious thing indeed for the Wodehouse devotee, though those new … Continue reading "Doctor Sally", by PG Wodehouse

"Going into a Dark House", by Jane Gardam

Fiction, 1994 Short story collection in which poignancy, sadness and frequently strange and strained family relationships are, usually, written with some flair and delicacy. These are stories with often fairly slight incidents and narratives, but pretty significant descriptive and emotional impact. As a result, some of the stories can feel a little unfulfilling and the writing can overshadow what’s being written about. However, the descriptions … Continue reading "Going into a Dark House", by Jane Gardam

"The Nice and the Good", by Iris Murdoch

Novel, 1968 A real lesson in engaging the reader with a hefty cast of characters, including more than a few conflicts and clashes. This is a book which really grips from the off and drives the reader through ever an more chaotic and unlikely plot, which keeps the pages turning even as more and more incredulity sets in. Shades and echoes of all sorts here, … Continue reading "The Nice and the Good", by Iris Murdoch

"The Comforters," by Muriel Spark

Novel, 1957 A novel it’s difficult to describe without making it sound much better than it actually is. This is a tale of polite post-war society getting snagged up in witchcraft, insanity, affairs, diamond smuggling and all sorts besides. The trouble is that addressing all these themes and incidents with a cast of what feels like dozens of characters is tricky, especially when there’s a … Continue reading "The Comforters," by Muriel Spark

"A Damsel in Distress", by PG Wodehouse

Novel, 1919 A typical Wodehouse tale with all the stock characters and many set piece situations which appear all over the great man’s work mean a thoroughly enjoyable, funny and reassuring read. This is a book relying a little more on chance than some of the others and one which also has a feel of a well-planned three act play, though in truth, little is … Continue reading "A Damsel in Distress", by PG Wodehouse

"Several Perceptions", by Angela Carter

Novel, 1968 Pithy, unsentimental and wonderfully charged romance of sorts in a very down at heel late 1960s England. A book in which Carter presents psychologically spoiled tramps, prostitutes and other folk struggling but firing off an undeniably vitality, even when they’re at their most lonely and vulnerable. The opening is superbly wordy-evocative and the book maintains a tension and intrigue throughout. A possible case … Continue reading "Several Perceptions", by Angela Carter

"Mr Holmes," directed Bill Condon

Movie, 2015A retired, infirm and fake-nosed Sherlock Holmes finds his truculent housekeeper, her plucky son and his apiary giving him plenty to think about while he’s trying to get on with the business of retiring. A film in which plenty of flashbacks, narratives and themes swirl without fully knitting together. An enjoyable watch but one ultimately stifled by its central character and certain well-meaning but … Continue reading "Mr Holmes," directed Bill Condon