REVIEW: THE ASSEMBLY OF THE SEVERED HEAD, BY HUGH LUPTON (2018)

The year is 1211. Severed heads wash up on the shoreline near the small monastic outpost at Clynnog Fawr, in Wales. The heads have had their hair shaved off at the top and in front, which suggests they're bards. The monks quickly figure out that there must have been a massacre at the Bardic School … Continue reading REVIEW: THE ASSEMBLY OF THE SEVERED HEAD, BY HUGH LUPTON (2018)

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REVIEW: FLIGHTS, BY OLGA TOKARCZUK, TRANSLATED BY JENNIFER CROFT (2017)

When I finished reading Olga Tokarczuk's Flights, I immediately found a spot for it on my shelves, between Season of Migration to the North and Naondel. And suddenly I was truck by how small an object it is. It spans so many topics and countries and centuries that it should be Atlas-sized, or several volumes … Continue reading REVIEW: FLIGHTS, BY OLGA TOKARCZUK, TRANSLATED BY JENNIFER CROFT (2017)

REVIEW: THINGS A BRIGHT GIRL CAN DO, BY SALLY NICHOLLS (2017)

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave British women the right vote—though only women who were relatively wealthy and/or educated. (It was only in 1928, with the Equal Suffrage Act, that women were given exactly the same voting rights as men.) As my own small way … Continue reading REVIEW: THINGS A BRIGHT GIRL CAN DO, BY SALLY NICHOLLS (2017)

REVIEW: BLOOD CRIME, BY SEBASTIÀ ALZAMORA, TRANSLATED BY MARTHA TENNENT & MARUXA RELLAÑO (2016)

It's the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War is raging in Barcelona, and a vampire is loose. The bodies of two of his victims are found, an old man and a child, and the detective in charge, superintendent Muñoz, discovers that the old man was a priest--one of several stuck in Catalonia, forced into hiding and … Continue reading REVIEW: BLOOD CRIME, BY SEBASTIÀ ALZAMORA, TRANSLATED BY MARTHA TENNENT & MARUXA RELLAÑO (2016)

REVIEW: MANDELBROT THE MAGNIFICENT, BY LIZ ZIEMSKA (2017)

I've read plenty of alternate histories, but I think this is the first alternate biography I've ever come across. Benoit Mandelbrot was a real person--a brilliant mathematician who, as the NYT review for his posthumous memoir put it, "coined the term 'fractal' to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes that uncannily mimic the … Continue reading REVIEW: MANDELBROT THE MAGNIFICENT, BY LIZ ZIEMSKA (2017)

REVIEW: A SKINFUL OF SHADOWS, BY FRANCES HARDINGE (2017)

Makepeace's nightmares are not like other people's. She dreams of spectral figures trying to claw their way through the window, inside her bedroom, inside her head. For Makepeace (who is twelve) has a strange gift: she has "extra space" inside her that can be inhabited by extra souls, and the souls of the dead--who want … Continue reading REVIEW: A SKINFUL OF SHADOWS, BY FRANCES HARDINGE (2017)

REVIEW: MCGLUE, BY OTTESSA MOSHFEGH (2014)

Ottessa Moshfegh does not seem to have a very high opinion of human beings. And she's also very much interested in bodily functions. Her stories are peopled with horrible people doing disgusting things. And McGlue is no exception. The titular character is a sailor who may or may not have murdered his best friend, another sailor … Continue reading REVIEW: MCGLUE, BY OTTESSA MOSHFEGH (2014)

REVIEW: THE HISTORY OF BEES, BY MAJA LUNDE, TRANSLATED BY DIANE OATLEY (2015)

Sichuan, 2098. Hundreds of silent workers, clad in beige, balance on the fragile branches of pear trees. They hold a plastic container in one hand, a brush in the other. The plastic container contains pollen, carefully weighed out. The brush is made out of the feathers of hens bred specifically for this purpose. Each worker … Continue reading REVIEW: THE HISTORY OF BEES, BY MAJA LUNDE, TRANSLATED BY DIANE OATLEY (2015)

BOOK REVIEW: THE SILENT COMPANIONS, BY LAURA PURCELL (2017)

It's 1866. Elsie Bainbridge is a patient at St Joseph's Hospital for the Insane. She's barely survived the fire that destroyed her home of the last several months. The home that the inhabitants of the nearest village keep well away from. And where, before the fire, four people died under mysterious circumstances. Could Elsie have … Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: THE SILENT COMPANIONS, BY LAURA PURCELL (2017)