How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee is at least partly responsible for the funniest sketch I have ever seen. I know it is the funniest because I laughed without stopping for about 20 minutes – or about 14 minutes after the sketch had finished. Actually, there was only one bit of it really – the bit where everyone starts saying…

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Hotel du Lac has sat meekly on my shelf since being appropriated from my parents a few years after it won the Booker Prize in 1984. Edith Hope, a thirtysomething writer of romantic fiction arrives at a faded hotel near a Swiss lake. She interacts with the few other out-of-season guests, reflects on her life, receives an…

Ashes to Ashes by Marcus Berkmann

‘The aim of English Test cricket is, in fact, mainly to beat Australia.’ So said Jim Laker, the great English off-spinner and leaver-off of end consonants (in commentaries, batting was always battin’ to Jim, bowling was bowlin’, and so on). This accurate quote opens chapter four of Marcus Berkmann’s Ashes to Ashes. The book’s subtitle – ’35 Years of…

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

If Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn were any more understated, you would not be able to see it sitting on the bookshelf. Your eyes would slip past, drawn to something louder. But what a pleasure it is to read such a quiet book, constructed with care. The style suits the 1950s setting: Eilis Lacey cannot find suitable work in…