His Blody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Graeme Macrae Burnet brings multiple voices to life in his historical crime thriller His Bloody Project. Give credit where it is due. I was very impressed by how well he evokes various types of writing and by how well they work together. The novel opens with a first person account, written by the accused, a 17-year-old farmer, or crofter, accused of multiple homicide.  Just how did young … Continue reading His Blody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

A young man’s wife dies, killed in an accident, leaving him alone with two very young sons and their grief which takes the form of a giant black crow. Max Porter’s new novel, Grief is the Thing with Feathers is hard to pin down.  I liked it.  I admired it. I found it has much to say about grief, judging from my own experience with it. … Continue reading Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

This was at least the third time I’ve read The Mayor of Casterbridge. Could be the fourth.  I was a big Thomas Hardy fan back in college.  For years I’ve been haunted by that final image of the dead songbird in the cage sitting on the back door steps of the newlywed’s home.  Forgotten and forsaken, like the bride’s father. Not quite how it happened, it … Continue reading The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan and The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

It’s just happenstance.  Pure random phenomena that led me to read Karan Mahajan’s highly praised novel The Association of Small Bombs right after reading Rudyard Kipling’s classic novella The Man Who Would Be King.  I didn’t mean to do it.  I didn’t even know Mr. Mahajan’s novel took place in India. I did know about Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King from the very entertaining John Huston film … Continue reading The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan and The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

Was it okay for Bernadine Evaristo to write this book? I ask this question in light of the ongoing controversy over cultural appropriation, specifically who has the right to write about whom. If you haven’t been following this issue lately you might want to check out Lionel Shriver’s keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival and Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s essay explaining why she walked out on … Continue reading Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

Children are evil.  Not evil, but so amoral in their innocence that their actions are sometimes difficult to distinguish from evil. Richard Hughes examines this supposition in his comic novel A High Wind in Jamaica.  Set at the end of the 19th century, when steam ships were beginning to replace schooners, something that worries the novel’s pirates, A High Wind in Jamaica is the story … Continue reading A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

Several years ago, I embarked on what I hoped would be a six month project–reading Laurence Sterne’s wonderful 18th century novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.  One of the first novels written in English, Tristram Shandy is a great shambling mound of a mess.  Sterne’s stated intent is to tell the entire life and all of the views held by one man, … Continue reading Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

A Week at the Airport

In the summer of 2009, the people in charge of London’s Heathrow Airport hired writer Alain de Botton to spend a week observing life at the airport for the purpose of writing a book based on his impressions. The results are disappointing. I do think it was an interesting idea.  Mr. de Botton was required to spend the entire week on the airport grounds.  He … Continue reading A Week at the Airport

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

I can confidently state that Bertie Wooster is the most beloved unreliable narrator in English literature.  I am unanimous in that.  Bertie narrated novels and short stories from his first appearance in 1917 to his final bow in 1974.  He never did figure out what was really going on.  It was always up to Jeeves to save the day. But Bertie charms none-the-less.  Take his … Continue reading Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

If, while driving through the English countryside, you spot two girls running across a field pursued by a pack of hunting dogs and a crotchety old man, don’t be afraid. It’s simply the Mitford sisters and their father, out for a bit of fun. Hunting tomorrow, girls. I’ve no idea if the hunting scene in the opening chapters of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love … Continue reading The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

“Jack” and “Ursula” by Francis Wyndham

How someone who is not really part of your life can be such a large part of your life. Francis Wyndham won the latest round in my little tournament of short stories, defeating two stories from African Writing Today.  It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get around to writing this post–I’ve forgotten the African stories completely.  I do remember that I liked them, … Continue reading “Jack” and “Ursula” by Francis Wyndham

School for Love by Olivia Manning

Olivia Manning never made it big.  A workhorse of a writer she had 22 titles under her belt when she died in 1980.  While she made a living as a writer, somehow, both critical and popular success eluded her.  Now, most of her work is out of print.  That she remains in print at all is due in large part to the television adaptation of her … Continue reading School for Love by Olivia Manning