Treasures of Time by Penelope Lively

 Penelope Lively’s short 1979 novel isn’t as good as her own Moon Tiger, published eight years later, but then virtually no-one else has written anything better than Moon Tiger either. The set-up of Treasures Of Time has a comfortably familiar curl-up-by-the-fireside ring: the BBC is going to make a documentary about the late Hugh Paxton,…

The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis

 A quarter of a century. That is how long this one had been on the shelf, shaming me for a whole 25 years. ‘So…you can watch the film but you can’t be bothered to read the book,’ it seemed to sneer. Well, yes, that’s about the size of it: a 500-page translation of a Greek…

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

 Why do you pick up some books instantly and imprison others in plain sight on their shelves for a decade? In the case of Disgrace, the answer is simple: the title and the cover. No-one could pretend that the simple, austere ‘disgrace’ is a word crying out to please. Similarly, the picture of a mangy…

Gould’s Book Of Fish by Richard Flanagan

 Tasmania. The present day. A petty forger finds an 1820s convict journal in a junkshop, then loses it (in a bar, he drinks a lot) and then, because it has captivated him so much – too much, perhaps – he decides to rewrite it from memory. So what we have is an original manuscript –…