A Life’s Music by Andrei Makine

This 2001 novella is set in the Soviet Union and tells the story of an old man the narrator meets whilst waiting for a delayed train (probably run by Southeastern ‘services’) to Moscow. I’m no detective but I know that any story set in Soviet Russia, waiting in the snow for a train that never…

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

This 2014 novel (I do occasionally venture back to the 21st century in order to keep things fresh) is both a riveting and a painful read. It is riveting as the plot is focused on two mysteries, seventy years apart – the whereabouts of elderly, present-day Maud’s great pal Elizabeth, and the fate of Maud’s…

Miss Nobody by Ethel Carnie

I wanted to read this 1913 novel as it is believed to be the first published novel written by a working class woman, and I do love a bit of sisterhood and class war. Ethel Carnie (1886 – 1962, and pictured on the book cover) worked in the Lancashire cotton mills from the age of…

Erotic Book Plates – an introduction

Yes, this book does exist and for some reason, about a decade ago, I decided to purchase it. I was fresh out of university, first proper job, bit of money in my back pocket, and this is what I bought. It was a confused time.

Telling Tales by Patience Agbabi

This is a 21st century retelling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, over 500 years after the latter’s first publication by William Caxton (some time after Chaucer’s death). Set in places along the original route undertaken by the pilgrims from the Tabard Inn in London Bridge to the shrine of Thomas Becket (poor bloke, done in by…

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

This book guides you through the journey of civilization from 2,000,000 BC until the present day, using objects from the British Museum. It describes how our first ancestors in Africa (which is the motherland for all of us, even Nigel Farage) dispersed across the continents and from small  farming communities developed the first cities and…

Mona Lisa – A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales

This is a fascinating book that recreates the life of the real Mona Lisa, Lisa Gherardini, through historical records set against what we know about the lives of young women in Renaissance Florence. It interweaves the journey of Lisa’s family through the ages and her early life, marriage and death with wider Florentine politics and…