Category: Book Reviews

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood, Canada, 2019

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood, Canada, 2019

The sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale after a 35-year gap, The Testaments is both absorbing and well researched. I would imagine that it is possible to read The Testaments without having read The Handmaid’s Tale, but as The Handmaid’s Tale provides the essential background to the story it probably makes sense to read it first. …

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Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan, Ireland, 2021

Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan, Ireland, 2021

Bill Furlong sells logs, turf, coal and anthracite. He lives somewhere near Waterford, is married and has five daughters. His mother was a single mother, taken in by a kindly Protestant woman without whom both she and the baby would doubtlessly have ended up in a workhouse, or worse. Now in his forties he is …

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Requiem for the East, Andreï Makine, UK, 2001

Requiem for the East, Andreï Makine, UK, 2001

A beautiful but completely devastating book where the first few chapters are similar to entering some rambling old mansion by a side door. After losing oneself in endless corridors and a variety of rooms, both large and small, one finally reaches the main staircase, and suddenly everything slots into place. Covering the period from the …

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Prophet Song, Paul Lynch, Ireland, 2023

Prophet Song, Paul Lynch, Ireland, 2023

Winner of the 2023 Booker Prize, this is an amazingly beautiful, yet completely devastating, book; a book that latches on to you and cannot be put down until the last page. It will remain with you, altering the way you look at conflict and tragedy, forcing you to step into those war-torn places that previously …

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Levels of Life, Julian Barnes, UK, 2013

Levels of Life, Julian Barnes, UK, 2013

From heights close to the moon to the darkness of the Underworld, this is a beautiful book about love, life and death, Barnes writes at the very beginning: ‘You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed. People may not notice at the time, but that doesn’t …

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Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr, USA, 2021

Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr, USA, 2021

This is a beautiful, if very unusual, book about life and the importance of stories and love. At its centre is an old, mouldy, ancient text supposed to have been written by Antonius Diogenes. The text came into being when Diogenes discovered, hidden in a chest in a tomb in Tyre, a strange anecdote about …

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A Keeper, Graham Norton, Ireland, 2018

A Keeper, Graham Norton, Ireland, 2018

An easy-to-read page-turner, split between the past and the present, A Keeper fulfils many of the requirements of light, non-confronting literature. It does not have a deep message, and none of the characters are particularly well developed. It took me a few chapters to ‘get into’ this book. The introduction is interesting but not overly …

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Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus, USA 2022

Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus, USA 2022

  Elizabeth Zott is a scientist, unique (definitely ‘on the spectrum’) and driven. She resents the unequal world of the 1950s and the fact that her academic ambitions are thwarted by lecherous men in power who feel that a woman’s place is in the home, tending to the wants and needs of a husband. But …

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117 Days Adrift, Maurice and Maralyn Bailey, UK, 1974

117 Days Adrift, Maurice and Maralyn Bailey, UK, 1974

This is the Bailey’s daunting account of their survival at sea after their yacht was sunk by a whale. With a raft and a dinghy and the few bits and pieces they were able to hastily gather together before their beloved Auralyn sank below the waves, Maurice and Maralyn drifted from somewhere north-east of the …

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The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes, UK, 2011

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes, UK, 2011

How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer the life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to …

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