LITERARY BENT – Writing at its best

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood ( and has been much in the news for her latest book ‘The Testaments’, the joint winner of The Man Booker Prize 2019. If you are new to this top rank author, I’d recommend  Atwood at the height of her powers in her 1996 novel ‘Alias Grace’. There’s nothing like the spectacle of female […]

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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Long on the ‘to do’ list for reading fiction, I’m delighted to have completed Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides ( over the Easter break 2018. An American novelist and short story writer, Eugenides received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this novel in 2003. Not many multi-generational American novels are narrated by an omniscient hermaphrodite. Cal Stephanides

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John Berger (5 November 1926 – 2 January 2017, was an English art critic, novelist, painter and poet. His essay on art criticism, Ways of Seeing (1972), was written as an accompaniment to a BBC series intended as a response to the broadcast of ‘Civilisation’ by Kenneth Clark. It has been highly influential, and often prescribed

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Essayism by Brian Dillon

Debates about whether the digital world is shortening attention spans rumble on. School teachers now report that pupils can’t concentrate for long, and the likely cause is the constant distraction of digital gadgets and social media. University teachers report that year one is remedial work, an exercise in basic education. ( No doubt there is

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Some books grow in repute over years as if by gestation. This novel by Michael Chabon ( has quietly become something of a cult classic, readers smiling to themselves about its genius. I wonder if you’ll agree that it’s an astoundingly good read. The summary is as follows. Josef Kavalier smuggles himself out of occupied Prague

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His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Subtitled ‘Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae’, His Bloody Project contains the memoir of a 17-year-old crofter, written while awaiting trial in Inverness in 1869 for three brutal murders, and ‘discovered’ by the author while researching his own Highland roots. This manuscript, we are informed, divided the Edinburgh literati of the time, who feared

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The Penguin Book of the British Short Story, edited by Philip Hensher

In the dappled late May sunshine of South Lanarkshire, it may just be possible to detect the live murmur of a summer’s day. Your day will not be out of the ordinary. In the background the servants are busy with their morning tasks, and the clatter of pots and pans drifts over the policies to

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In a Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca Mackenzie

Rebecca Mackenzie ( is the daughter of missionaries, growing up in 1980s Bangkok, the Malaysian jungle and the tea hills of southern India. Returning to Scotland she completed her education, and at seventeen moved to London to study Religion, History and Thai at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In a Land of Paper Gods is her debut novel. The summary

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Mischief by Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson ( is the author of several novels, including – Gallimauf’s Gospel, Baa, Blueglass, Mischief, Fou, The Wurd, The Ballad of Lee Cotton, and Nookie. His work has been translated into several languages, adapted for the stage, and  twice shortlisted for the Whitbread  Fiction Prize. Wilson completed a published Ph.D. on the psychology of humour at The

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