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”