Breakfast at Tiffany’s: how Hollywood retold a gritty story

Published in BBC Culture on May 9, 2016

The little black dress. The pearls; the oversized sunglasses and the absurdly long cigarette holder. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – the 1961 film based on Truman Capote’s 1958 novella – has become more famous for its visual shorthands, its signifiers of New York chic and fashionable femininity, than its actual story or characters. Continue reading “Breakfast at Tiffany’s: how Hollywood retold a gritty story”

Review: I Call Myself a Feminist, Letter to a Young Generation

Published in The Independent on Sunday on November 21, 2015

In 2013, Fifty Shades of Feminism provided a platform for a multitude of feminist voices. I Call Myself a Feminist halves the number – and slashes the age range, to offer “the view from twenty-five women under thirty” (alongside lots of inspirational quotes from feminists from Mary Wollstonecraft to Tina Fey). It’s a sound endeavour: fourth-wave feminism has galvanised an internet-savvy, internationally-interacting, next-generation of young women. That they deserve a platform is irrefutable. Continue reading “Review: I Call Myself a Feminist, Letter to a Young Generation”

Review: The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson

Published in The Independent on sunday on October 4, 2015

Ahead of next year’s 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, Hogarth Press is releasing a series of novels based on his plays. Gillian Flynn tackles Hamlet, Howard Jacobson does The Merchant of Venice, but first comes Jeanette Winterson’s “cover version” of The Winter’s Tale. Continue reading “Review: The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson”

Review: I Saw a Man, Owen Sheers

Published in The Independent on Sunday on July 5, 2015

“The event that changed all their lives happened on a Saturday afternoon in June.” That’s the opening line of Owen Sheers’s new novel; what exactly that event was, you’ll have to read 170 pages to discover. The Welsh writer’s second novel, I Saw a Man is billed as a thriller, a new departure for him. Continue reading “Review: I Saw a Man, Owen Sheers”

Virginia Woolf should live on, but not because of her death

Published in The Guardian on May 27, 2015

Virginia Woolf may be famous for her death – she drowned herself in 1941 – but she is enjoying an uncommonly busy afterlife. A seemingly unending stream of novels, plays and films seek to re-animate her, fictionalising Woolf’s life – and death. And it ripples out: her wider circle, the Bloomsbury group, are also regularly brought back to life for our entertainment. Continue reading “Virginia Woolf should live on, but not because of her death”

Review: The Lost Child, Caryl Phillips

Published in The Independent on Sunday on May 3, 2015

The Bronte sisters wrote fiction with an exceptionally vibrant afterlife: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and their characters still loom large, thanks to endless adaptations from prestige films to pop songs, and umpteen fictional re-writes, updatings, prequels and sequels. Continue reading “Review: The Lost Child, Caryl Phillips”

Review: At Hawthorn Time, Melissa Harrison

Published in Independent on Sunday on April 19, 2015

Beginning at the end is Melissa Harrison’s tactic: the reader is witness to an accident, two cars “spent and ravished”, three bodies. This casts some suspense over the story that follows, but the novel is as much a hymn to the ancient life-force of nature as it is a reminder of the underlying fragility of our busy modern world.

At Hawthorn Time is rooted in the English countryside, cataloguing it as April turns to May, and Harrison writes with impressive detail about our hedgerows, fields, and woodlands. Meanwhile, the human perspective on the changing seasons is three-fold. There’s Jack, a wandering visionary, often locked up for vagrancy, but who has a deep connection with the land. Continue reading “Review: At Hawthorn Time, Melissa Harrison”

Review: Adeline – a Novel of Virginia Woolf, Norah Vincent

Published in The Independent on Sunday on April 5, 2015

In the life of Virginia Woolf – and her friends, lovers and rivals – Norah Vincent has rich, if frequently plundered, source material. Bloomsbury’s tangled, talented lives provoke as much interest as their art, and this is at least the third novel about Woolf in the past year.

Written elegantly in rather Woolfian free indirect style, and with spiky, erudite dialogue, Vincent’s portraits are grounded in thick historical research. In truth, Adeline groans with it – would these people really spell out the importance of friends’ (now-famous) books or enumerate their (now-infamous) sexual histories in conversation? Vincent is, however, assured enough to do a rare thing: to really ventriloquise Woolf on the topic of her work and creative imagination. Continue reading “Review: Adeline – a Novel of Virginia Woolf, Norah Vincent”

Graeme Simsion on writing the sequel to The Rosie Project

Published in The Independent on Sunday on September 21, 2014

“When I sign books for men, I often put ‘there’s a little bit of Don Tillman in all of us’,” says Graeme Simsion.

We’ve met to talk about Don – his hugely successful comic character, an on-the-spectrum Australian genetics professor. Don burst on to the fiction charts in The Rosie Project last year, wielding questionnaires and schedules in his quest to find love. Inevitably, meeting a spirited young woman named Rosie soon derailed his methodical plans. Continue reading “Graeme Simsion on writing the sequel to The Rosie Project”