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Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Sarah Miles is a saint. She’s also an adulterer who labels herself “a bitch and a fake.” Graham Greene’s 1951 novel The End of the Affair, narrated in the first-person, tells the story of how Sarah’s embittered and fanatically envious ex-lover pursues her following the end of their romance. That plot provides the opening for Greene to explore the themes…

Book Review: The Relaxists by Alton Spencer

Oregon-based author Alton Spencer sent me a copy of his ruminative novel The Relaxists¬†in exchange for a book review on this site. I recall a time in the nineties, in my teenage years, when I was enlivened by the breadth of knowledge in the world — particularly the overwhelming richness of human civilization’s cultural and literary history. There was so…

Book Review: Loser Takes All by Graham Greene

Graham Greene referred to his 1955 novella Loser Takes All as a “frivolity.” Yet that shouldn’t lead any reader to think that this book is throwaway pulp fiction. The story of a couple vacationing in Monte Carlo may be light-hearted fare, but the writing includes Greene’s celebrated, signature style: sharp dialogue, economical and precise language that paints a vivid picture,…

Book Review: Making a Psychopath — My Journey into 7 Dangerous Minds by Mark Freestone

It might seem counterintuitive to describe Dr. Mark Freestone’s book exploring psychopathy as a breezy read, yet that’s exactly what it was. That’s also why I found it this summer amongst the modest selection of books for purchase at London’s overcrowded Stansted Airport, catering to travellers seeking something comfortable enough to read while crammed into the narrow, hard seats of…

Book Review: Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan

Father David Anderton is the new parish priest of the economically depressed Scottish coastal town of Dalgarnock. He’s thoughtful and book-smart. But he’s also naive and demonstrates poor judgment. When he ignores the principle of maintaining boundaries in pastoral ministry and befriends two troubled teens, he hurtles towards disaster. Page by page, the reader sees with growing clarity that Father…

Book Review: In Other Words by Anna Porter

When I’m struck by the work of an author, I’m inclined to learn more about their life. My interest is only heightened by the sense of mystery that surrounds the generations of authors writing before social media — when there wasn’t the same pressure to disclose everything, to opine on all subjects and to talk as much about the author,…

Book Review: The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

At first glance it’s tough to like Hagar Shipley — the narrator of Margaret Laurence’s 1964 novel, The Stone Angel. This harsh, aloof woman is quick to judge and slow to forgive and understand. Yet she’s also self-aware; it’s her sense of quiet remorse that makes her likeable. And in Hagar’s twilight years, her fragility and vulnerability — her desperate…

Book Review: Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

A chance encounter can change the course of a life. That’s what happens to Ida Arnold in Graham Greene’s 1938 novel Brighton Rock. On a Whitsun holiday weekend, she has a fling with a frightened stranger on the cusp of death. Sun-drenched Brighton, with throngs of visitors from London enjoying a long weekend by the sea, is the seemingly innocuous…

Book Review: A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark’s 1988 novel — a drama, a mystery and a comedy in approximately equal measure — is in some ways a nostalgic, yet unsanitised reflection on the London publishing industry of the fifties. We travel back to postwar London, still pockmarked by the Second World War. Our guide on this journey is Mrs. Hawkins — an ageing insomniac in…

Book Review: Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

What happens when something that you don’t understand and want to escape ends up pulling you in and throws your whole world off balance? That’s the question at the heart of Flannery O’Connor’s darkly comic novel Wise Blood. We meet Hazel Motes, a World War II veteran. He’s pursued by Christ, and he is desperate to evade him. Then there’s…