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Book Reviews

The Blue Guitar: a profound exploration of the loss of dear things in one man's life - innocence, brief happiness, fleeting love.

John Banville The Blue Guitar

In The Blue Guitar, John Banville continues the elegaic, tender note that informed his last novel, Ancient Light as the Wexford-born novelist continues to delve through his season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

  • Sait Faik's stories have a curious sparkle despite the often hard-pressed, dissolute lives of his characters.

    Faik Abasiyanik A Useless Man Sait

    Sait Faik Abasiyanik (1906-1954) is one of Turkey's most revered writers who wrote 12 books of short stories. The tales collected in A Useless Man are vivid, colourful slices of life drawn straight off Istanbul's streets like water fresh from a well.

  • The Long, Hot Summer

    Kathleen MacMahon The Long, Hot Summer

    Kathleen MacMahon's much-anticipated second novel is an intriguing character study and a charming summer read.

  • Simenon - master of suspense and motive

    Georges Simenon Inspector Maigret

    Crime writer Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote 75 Maigret novels and 28 Maigret short stories. Penguin Classics are reissuing them all in translation and they are well worth checking out.

  • Danilo Kiš - a marvellous story-teller, newly translated in Penguin

    Danilo Kiš The Encyclopedia of the Dead

    Set in different historical periods, Danilo Kiš's collection of stories, The Encyclopedia of The Dead opens up obscure lives from the past with highly imaginative flair and delicacy. Much more than mere period pieces, Kis's stories are unique marvels.

  • Edith Hall's account helps us understand where the Greeks are coming from, in terns of national characteristics that still abide, many centuries after the country's birth.

    Edith Hall Introducing The Ancient Greeks

    To help us understand the Greeks - both the ancient race and by extension the modern for there is obvious continuity - Edith Hall has written a fascinating book which is erudite, witty and accessible.

  • In the Night of Time: engaging story of a torrid affair between a Spanish architect and an an American woman

    Antonio Muñoz Molina In the Night of Time

    This highly compelling novel vividly recalls the Spanish Civil War but its main focus is the love affair between a Spanish architect and an American woman.

  • The Trigger: Forensic yet deeply compelling account of the Balkan origins of the First World War

    Tim Butcher The Trigger

    Gavrilo Princip is still infamous in school history texts as the radicalised teenager saddled with responsibility for starting the First World War. Tim Butcher's magisterial work teases out the complex truth about his role in the conflict.

  • The celebrated author of the Maigret stories also wrote a series of striking novels which did not feature his intrepid Inspector. The Blue Room is one of the best.

    Georges Simenon: The Blue Room

    Tony is married to Gisele and they have a young daughter, while childless Andrée is the wife of sickly Nicolas. Tony and Andrée's illicit affair will lead to certain tragedy, in Georges Simenon's beguiling crime thriller.

  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer

    David Shafer: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

    Paranoid, sarcastic and revolving around an internet conglomerate's attempts to steal the data of every person in the world and sell it back to them; Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a novel that is firmly rooted in the 21st century.

  • Krasznahorkai: human stories told in long, beguiling sentrences

    László Krasznahorkai Seiobo There Below

    László Krasznahorkai, the winner of this year's Man Booker International Prize is a boldly experimental writer of fiction, who pushes the boundaries, but tells compelling, human stories from across the centuries.

  • Barnes on art: benignly perceptive as in the best of his (mostly) wonderful work to date

    Julian Barnes Keeping an Eye Open

    This new collection from the amiable Francophile gathers his various writings through the years on art. It's chatty, benignly perceptive and has well-presented reproductions of the paintings under consideration.

  • Poems and photographs of Bull Island in all its stark beauty.

    Pat Boran: Waveforms Bull Island Haiku

    This 120-page, pocket-size excursion around Bull Island is Pat Boran's homage in Haiku and photographs to the airy, aqueous spirit of that special place.

  • The Girl Missing From the Window: brave confrontation with contemporary Irish realities

    Paul O'Reilly The Girl Missing From the Window

    The Girl Missing From The Window is often topical in its small town scenarios, yet the collection transcends topicality with style and mastery, as it delves deep into utterly convincing human stories.

  • A neglected gem whose essential sentiment could apply to many wars and many a soldier home on leave

    Daniel Anselme On Leave

    First published in French as La Permission, On Leave appeared at the height of the Franco-Algerian war in 1957. The story concerns three soldiers back in Paris on leave. It's like Hemingway with the gaps filled in and it is a masterpiece.