The Hive by Gill Hornby

In 1714’s The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope wrote about a small (albeit creepy) incident – the appropriation of a piece of someone’s hair without permission – which caused a rift between two families. In his mock-heroic poem, this disagreement becomes a battle worthy of the gods: ‘Then cease, Bright Nymph! to mourn thy…

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The house in Amsterdam is full of secrets. It is 1686 and 18-year old Nella Oortman has arrived from the country on the doorstep of the imposing building on Herengracht. Armed only with a caged parakeet and some naive ideas about what it will mean to be a wife, she is beginning her new life…

Ian Botham: The Power And The Glory by Simon Wilde

‘Well, he’s better looking than Tom Selleck.’ So said 1980s schlock movie producer Menachem Golan about Ian Botham, after looking him up and down. Golan was, among things, the man behind Superman IV. There was little he could teach Botham, who had already lived parts I-III in real life. By the time Golan paid his left-handed…

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

‘Only connect…’ Those two words are the point from which all flows in E.M. Forster’s masterly Howard’s End but they apply equally to Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain, the first novel by an annoyingly talented pup and playwright called Barney Norris. Set (rather refreshingly, way away from the usual boundaries of literary land)…

Ammonites & Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively

Subtitled ‘A Life in Time’, Penelope Lively’s Ammonites & Leaping Fish was published in 2013, when she was 80. She looks back on what she has done and seen over the decades, from her earliest days in wartime Alexandria to her old age in Islington, examining personal experiences (motherhood, friendships) and wider trends and events…

Why The Dutch Are Different by Ben Coates

When Englishman Ben Coates moved to Holland* he began making a list of ‘Crazy Dutch Liberal Policies’. He soon gave up because there were just too many of them to count: ready availability of cannabis and euthanasia, prostitutes given sick pay, moped riders without helmets, lots of nudist beaches, and so on…Why The Dutch Are…

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

Twentysomething River Cartwright has a promising career in MI5 until a catastrophic error allows a terrorist attack to take place at King’s Cross. He is sent to Slough House (‘slow horse’), a nondescript office in east London where spy rejects end up. There it is made clear to them that they are out of the…