The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton

55%
14.05.17

There were plenty of houses but there wasn't much mirth. The style itself is hardgoing these days, and the self-sabotaging heroine so much the product of another time that is was hard to sympathise with her plight. Still, it's one of those classics that I can now drop into conversation when I next find myself discussing the commodification of women in early 20th century America.

Strange Weather in Tokyo - Hiromi Kawakami

63%
14.05.17

Popular on Netflix at the moment are various gentle Japanese dramas focusing on bar and restaurant culture. This fits in very well with that genre - two lonely people gradually become closer as they drink sake and enjoy various dishes together. A little spice is added by protaganist making no excuse for being rather contrary and difficult, and the plot unfolding through a series of slightly disjointed vignettes - the story rings a little truer as a result.

Death of Anton - Alan Melville

63%
01.05.17

A rather delightful lost classic, set during a very specific period of time. Interesting protagonists and some striking turns of phrase make its obscurity rather unjust.

Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn Thomas

64%
19.04.17

Although there are too many characters and confusing political and cultural backstories, at heart this is an exciting adventure story with a(nother) strong female protagonist. I do wish that books setting themselves up for a sequel finished properly, though.

My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout

52%
17.04.17

People rave about Elizabeth Strout's writing so maybe I missed the point. A self-consciously clever and self-referential book, with a lot left unsaid but (as Billy Joel put it much more effectively) I don't want to work that hard.

The Muse - Jessie Burton

54%
13.04.17

Attentive readers may remember that I wasn't too keen on Burton's previous book but this was slightly better. So the two historical periods didn't gel too well, the 'twist', such as it was, predictable, and the ending yet again tailed off to nothing, but at least I didn't fall asleep this time.

The Magicians - Lev Grossman

66%
10.04.17

Poorly structured and full of plot holes it might be, but entertaining it definitely is.

Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh

65%
02.04.17

I read this because it was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and the acclaim seems well-deserved. Oddly sinister, piling up the squalid yet mundane details, it ratchets the suspense with its intriguing unreliable (or maybe extremely honest) narrator. Very clever, if not exactly entertaining.

Dead Man's Ransom - Ellis Peters

51%
27.03.17

Who shot the sheriff? Well, no-one because it's 1141. But who suffocated him? Who cares? Cadfael will find out and the lovers will be together. Utterly forgettable, unfortunately.

The Woman in Blue - Elly Griffiths

53%
20.03.17

I know I said this series is underwhelming but how could I resist one about a village 5 miles from me? Or an alternative-reality version of that village, anyway. As it happens, this one was a bit better than the previous couple, even if still more soap opera than thriller, and even if the murderer seems to have been picked at random (Christie-like) from the cast of characters.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson

64%
14.03.17

The idea of reading this was shamelessly stolen from Becks but I'm grateful to her as it would otherwise have passed me by. This grotesque, tragic yet also strangely upbeat novel is a little, twisted treasure that makes me wonder what was really going on within its smug counterpart, 'I Capture the Castle'.

Skellig - David Almond

65%
05.03.17

I read this tight little fable to test whether my daughter would like it. I don't think she would, but I think I did. It covered a lot of ground for a YA novella, and I'm not sure I understood it all but I can understand why it's become a classic. A less obvious feature were the subtle hints at a Tyneside setting, cleverly entwined into the story.

The Portable Veblen - Elizabeth McKenzie

51%
04.03.17

This was billed as funny. It wasn't, particularly, unless you're into unrealistically eccentric characters with tedious hangups and dysfunctional families navigating shoehorned social commentary.

Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

53%
22.02.17

A quick, easy, predictable read that doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you think about it too carefully.

Golden Hill - Francis Spufford

72%
13.02.17

I wait ages for a decent novel and then two come along together, although I imagine this tour de force provokes strong reactions either way. Personally, I enjoyed the nods to 17th-century picaresque farce, the Henry Fielding references and the unusual, intriguing setting. The air of mystery around the central character was well sustained, and there is probably much to consider if you fancy writing an essay about it. But I don't.