Reviews & features: Books

457 reviews

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Suhayl Saadi

12 Aug 2009

Spanning the Scottish Highlands and the wilds of Pakistan, his new novel is a weighty affair

‘Epic’ and ‘ambitious’ are adjectives often bandied about in the description of novels that in fact display very little of either. That’s not an accusation you could level at Joseph’s Box, the sprawling, expansive, strange and moving new novel by…

Sharon Olds - American Literary Legend

12 Aug 2009

It’s time to assess the sins of the father – and the mother. And there’s no one better to do so than one of America’s most influential poets, Sharon Olds, as famous for her tough stylistic swagger as her unflinching mind. Olds was born in 1942 and is…

James Lovelock - The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning

12 Aug 2009

He has been likened to ‘an Old Testament prophet’ by John Carey, identified as the creator of an ‘evil religion’ by biologist John Maynard Smith, and labelled a writer of ‘pop-ecology literature’ by Richard Dawkins. James Lovelock, veteran scientist and…

John Aberdein - Strip the Willow

12 Aug 2009

Think you can handle pressure? Try following an award-winning debut. John Aberdein kept a cool head when it came to writing Strip the Willow however, despite the huge anticipation for the novel as a result of excellent first offering Amande’s Bed. ‘Some…

Rebecca Gowers

12 Aug 2009

‘How you write about a woman somewhere in her 20s without being labeled chick-lit, I don’t know,’ says Rebecca Gowers, frustrated by the fact that her novels are so often lumped into the genre of pastel-covered books all about modern ladies cooing over…

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James Lasdun - The Art of the Short Story

12 Aug 2009

Over the years James Lasdun has turned his pen to novels, screenplays, travel writing, journalism and poetry, but short stories are his current medium of choice, having recently published his third collection, It’s Beginning to Hurt. Lasdun suggests…

Chika Unigwe

12 Aug 2009

Learning how much shame there is in luxury

The depiction of prostitutes in fiction can be a one-dimensional affair, but not in Chika Unigwe’s poignant and moving novel On Black Sisters’ Street. Unigwe was raised in Nigeria, but has spent the last decade in Belgium, and it was a culture shock…

James Kelman

12 Aug 2009

Striking deep into the Scottish soul

There can be few Scottish writers as lauded as James Kelman, and rightly so. The Glasgow-born author has spent a career carving out a place as the authentic voice of his generation, his use of stream-of-consciousness prose and vernacular Scots…

Top 20 Festival Shows

12 Aug 2009

Emmanuel Jal There are few people who could even imagine the terrors of being a child made to fight in a war-torn homeland. This guy has lived it and come through the other side. Jen Hadfield In a year of poetry shocks, this Shetlands-based…

Maria Tecce – Viva!

12 Aug 2009

You could probably throw a Liza Minnelli biography down the High Street and you’d hit someone who’s starred in a Broadway show – such are the numbers of Yank showtune belters here, fighting for an audience to bellow at in August. Thankfully the cream…

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Book Festival day planner

10 Aug 2009

Our guide on the festival's must-see events

As with most of the festivals, the Book Festival is a scary prospect at first glance. Here, Lizzie Mitchell maps out a plan which should make the minefield a little easier to negotiate. All events are based in Charlotte Square Gardens.

Mio Matsumoto

10 Aug 2009

Sketching a spiky ode to recovery

Never before has cancer looked so cute. But then, it’s the gift of artists to transform the brute chaos and fear of everyday life into objects of delight. This is what Japanese graphic artist Mio Matsumoto does with My Diary. On the surface it’s a…

Garrison Keillor

10 Aug 2009

For a man so hometown America he bleeds apple pie, Keillor is cited less often as an incisive wit and social commentator. His treacly, mid-western baritone might not be the acerbic voice of political dissent but in his books and his celebrated…

Book Festival Hitlist

9 Aug 2009

Janice Galloway, Emmanuel Jal, Jen Hadfield, Dave Gorman, Mio Matsumoto, David Aaronovitch, Denise Mina

Top 5 food events at the Edinburgh Book Festival

9 Aug 2009

There’s nothing like a book event to get your tummy rumbling

Tom Kitchin The Michelin-starred, all-too aptly-named chef must feel like the cat who nabbed the cream as he launches his first cookbook From Nature to Plate. 17 Aug, 2.30pm, £9 (£7) Sue Lawrence The 1991 victor of Masterchef has produced a…

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Tariq Ali

7 Aug 2009

Merging a passion for politics with love of literature

Protocols of the Elders of Sodom was published recently, and reads like a ‘best of’ of Tariq Ali’s musings on a few giants of world literature. Taken from articles and essays written over the past 30 years for Time Out and The Guardian among others, the…

Neil Gaiman

7 Aug 2009

Weaver of dreams on the collaborative process

Neil Gaiman has firsthand experience of the writing game at all levels. First he made his name in underground comics before graduating to the huge success of Sandman, then moving to novels, alongside children’s literature, TV and now film: he co-wrote…

Ben Moor

7 Aug 2009

Magical realist storytelling from Festival veteran

‘It’s good to do it again after four years, in front of a live audience,’ says writer/comedian Ben Moor, as he prepares to perform from More Trees to Climb, his recent collection of short stories. Adapted from three of his one-man shows, Moor emphasises…

Ian McMillan

7 Aug 2009

Home truths from Yorkshire poet

‘Times are good,’ says Ian McMillan on the poet’s lot, with the articulate and enthusiastic Yorkshireman saying it in a voice that’s gently encouraging. ‘It’s easier than it used to be when I started. There are magazines, you can self-publish or publish…

Kate Summerscale

7 Aug 2009

Hunting for clues and endings

It can be a bit of a hunt to find The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. Some bookshops call it history, others true crime, while author Kate Summerscale has consciously used some of the techniques of detective novels to hook in her readers. The book looks at a…

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Denise Mina

7 Aug 2009

How real events inspired crime fiction

Denise Mina has been busy. In the last couple of years she has shown real versatility by branching out into drama, with her plays Ida Tamson and A Drunk Woman Looks at the Thistle being successfully produced at Glasgow’s Oran Mor. She has also braved…

David Aaronovitch

7 Aug 2009

How paranoid ideas shaped modern history

It’s easy to assume that conspiracy theorists are odd, simple, lonely blokes who still live with their parents and spend far too much time on the internet. But in truth, they’re usually otherwise normal, intelligent and rational people. Author…

David Bainbridge

7 Aug 2009

Debunking the myths surrounding teenagers

Vilified, hated, dismissed, feared and ridiculed, with a reputation blackened beyond damage limitation by even the deftest of spin doctors. Teenagers may be the least fashionable or genial of causes to champion, but that is exactly what David Bainbridge…

Daniel Depp

7 Aug 2009

Noir author related to you-know-who

California author and bookstore owner Daniel Depp’s first professional writing credit was shared with his famous step-brother Johnny on the latter’s 1997 directing debut, The Brave, which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Twelve years later…

Eleanor Catton

7 Aug 2009

Exploring the personality-shaping notions of adolescence

Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal is a study of and search for reality. Following a group of teenage girls as they attempt to navigate adolescence with its attendant agonies and anxieties, it delves into the labyrinthine and precarious relationship between…