Review: The Death of the Heart

5 STARS Elizabeth Bowen, 1938   “How can you know what she’s like when she’s alone?” This short quotation encapsulates the novel. How can we know what any other person is really like – when they are alone, inside the privacy of their own mind and heart? It is the story of characters struggling to…

Review: Bring Up the Bodies

4 STARS Hilary Mantel, 2012 I loved Wolf Hall, and its successor Bring Up the Bodies was just as wonderful. The story flows on beautifully from the previous book. Settle down for a literary treat, back in the world of Thomas Cromwell… Soon Calais was in an uproar. Letters flitting across the Narrow Sea. Master…

Gift Guide: 10 Types of Readers and Books They’ll Love

There’s (almost) no problem that a book can’t solve, and that includes the quandary of what to buy for the difficult person on your Christmas list who can come up with no ideas except Amazon vouchers. But fear not, because I have put together a gift guide, matchmaking 10 types of reader with personal book…

Review: Number 11

4 STARS 2015, Jonathan Coe   Another masterpiece from the writer whom Nick Hornby called ‘probably the best English novelist of his generation’. Just like What a Carve Up! and The Rotters’ Club, Number 11’s plot is wide-ranging, covering a variety of characters who are all ingeniously interlinked, their links becoming obvious as the novel…

Review: Little Fires Everywhere

2 STARS 2017, Celeste Ng   But the problem with rules, he reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right. One of the biggest books of the last couple…

Review: Call Me By Your Name

2 STARS André Aciman, 2007   Most of us can’t help but live as though we’ve got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. But there’s only one, and before you know it, your heart is worn out. The award-winning…

Ravenna’s Byzantine Mosaics// photo diary

This small local town on Italy’s east coast is home to the most eye-watering collection of Byzantine mosaics, set in several sites across the town – eight of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The colours, detail and sheer size of these artworks will take your breath away, especially considering their age. You can get…

Florence: is it worth it?//photo diary

Florence has got to be one of Italy’s busiest cities in the summer. It is swarming with tourists, the narrow cobbled streets packed with people from all over the world – but all for good reason. The ‘birthplace of the Renaissance’, the city is a hotbed of history and art, one of the most unmissable…

Abetone and the Mountains of Pistoia//photo diary

Abetone is a small ski town in the mountains on the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. We visited on 1 August 2018, and like all ski towns in the summer, it seemed surreal – the chalets, built for snow, transformed by the green all around them and the colourful flowers in their window boxes, everything…