Marina Lewycka: Various pets alive and dead. Penguin, 2012.

Joannah Caborn One of the best things about this book are the dedications. The first one: “To quietly flowing Don”. The second is a Gogol quote, from Dead Souls (1842): “We live in new times – the age of the hero is past – now is the time of the non-virtuous man.” Unfortunately, it goes …

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“The Black Sheep” Honore de Balzac

Honore de Balzac The Black Sheep  (La Rabouilleuse)  Tr. Donald Adamson  More than forty-five years have passed between my first acquaintance with Balzac and this renewal.  Of that first work I read (Pere Goriot) I carry a strong impression, mainly of the atmosphere. Had I not read Balzac then, I guess I would never got …

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Charles Dickens – A Life by Claire Tomalin

Abbas Hassan This is a very readable and sweeping account of Charles Dickens' life. What I found striking about the book was that it presented a very lucid, chatty narrative with trivia about all the books he wrote, the friends he kept (and did not), his habits, his weaknesses, his motivations, his marriage and more …

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Nickle and Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage USA—Barbara Ehrenreich

The America of mimimum wage workers is not one that gets a lot of attention in the media. To quote Polly Toynbee’s introduction to this book, it is “a secret continent”. “The barely reported truth about the American dream is that it exists in a country of widespread, growing and inescapable poverty, where the essential …

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Snake Ropes: Jess Richards

This is a strange and beautifully written tale told by two young women, Mary and Morgan. Mary lives in a community on an island where the islanders trade with the “tall men” who come from the mainland. Boys on the island start to disappear, and Mary suspects the tall men. One day, when the tall …

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We Have Never Been Well-Read: Franco Moretti’s Pact with the Devil

This is a useful excerpt from the article you can access via the link below. New ground is better than common ground: not “I haven’t read that yet—let’s discuss something else” but rather “I may never read that, so tell me about it, it sounds interesting.” http://quarterlyconversation.com/we-have-never-been-well-read-franco-morettis-pact-with-the-devil Having now read Andrew Seal's (high-brow and apt to …

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Ultimatum: Matthew Glass

This is in response to Lulu’s review of The Twelfth Imam, which she said was her first political thriller and seems to have been quite disappointing. Try this one. The book is set in the near future. Because global warming has made sea levels rise, several countries are having to relocate populations in threatened areas …

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