The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes

  Heavens to Betsy. They gave him the Booker Prize for this? Julian Barnes once wrote A History Of The World In Ten And A Half Chapters, which had scale and ambition. Brash, clever and show-offy, it did not even make the Booker shortlist. But by some extraordinary measure, The Sense Of An Ending was deemed ‘the best…

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt

 We follow three families – the Wellwoods, the Cains and the Fludds – who are all living in, or drawn to, the Kent marshes, from the latter decades of the nineteenth century to the early part of the twentieth. The stories of children’s author Olive Wellwood (loosely based on E. Nesbit) provide the early spur of the…

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,…

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…