‘L’allée du Roi’ by Françoise Chandernagor (Book Review)

When looking back on the lives and impact of Louis XIV’s many mistresses, it is difficult to ignore the fact that Madame de Maintenon rarely makes the top of the list. In spite of her considerable political power, her sincere interest in the relief of the poor and her belief in the importance of educating…

‘The House with the Stained Glass Window’ by Żanna Słoniowska (tr. Antonia Lloyd Jones): Book review.

History, pain and identity pile up like strata across four generations of Russian-speaking, ethnic Polish women in Żanna Słoniowska’s stunning novel of Soviet Ukraine, The House with the Stained Glass Window. The young, unnamed female narrator of The House with the Stained Glass Window (Polish title : Dom z witrażem) lives with her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother in the Ukrainian city…

‘History of Wolves’ by Emily Fridlund (review)

I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Critics have seen much in Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves. It was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, an incredible achievement for a first novel. It has been described as ‘a beautiful literary work’ (BBC Radio 4) and ‘one of the most intelligent and poetic novels…

‘The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography’ by Angela Carter (review)

The Marquis de Sade, canon of cruelty and archdeacon of disgust, could hardly be described as a poster boy for the empowerment of women. Nonetheless, it is this outlandish idea that is put forward by Angela Carter in her brutally uncompromising and upsettingly lucid treatise The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography (1979).

‘The Penelopiad’ by Margaret Atwood (review).

In a much-forgotten episode at the end of Homer’s Odyssey, twelve maids are mercilessly hanged for doing what women must in order to survive. Penelope, unraveller of shrouds and refuser of suitors, who patiently waits twenty years for her husband Odysseus to finish fighting and shagging his way around the Aegean, tells their story, and hers, in this radical feminist reinterpretation of The Odyssey.

‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders (review).

This is a difficult novel, full of pain and agony. If you have lost a loved one, you probably shouldn’t read it, and yet probably should. In President Lincoln, you will see yourself, and Willie will become for you the spitting image of the loved one you lost.

‘The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock’ by Imogen Hermes Gowar (review).

In recent years, authors of historical fiction have become more and more innovative, from Suzanna Clark’s re-writing of English history (with magic) in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to Hilary Mantel’s vision of Tudor England in minimalistic, modern English in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Imogen Hermes Gowar continues this tradition by coaxing us down into…

‘The Weight of Ink’ is not ‘Possession”s Doppelgänger.

Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink, a novel of supreme beauty and intelligence, is accused of subjecting A.S. Byatt’s Possession to carbon copying, 3D printing and creepy stalking in the manner of Frankenstein’s monster. Her Ladyship sips some tea and raises her pinkie to the critics. Warning: Spoilers for The Weight of Ink and Possession….