The Very Model of a Man by Howard Jacobson (1992)

There is something to be said for inhabiting the gloomy corners of yourself; there are surprises to be gleaned there, jewels of the soul that only those willing to mine underground will ever find. (p.153) This is an extraordinarily imaginative, powerful and original novel – quite a stunning bravura performance and mind-blowing conception. Its dense […]

Redback by Howard Jacobson (1986)

I walked back the way I’d come at a furious pace. I needed to exercise off my exasperation. No good comes of talking to old people, especially in Australia where they strike themselves as characters. Their opinions invariably lack truth and wisdom. And when they have finished listening you are denied all the usual methods […]

Peeping Tom by Howard Jacobson (1984)

Review one If being in love isn’t being terrified I don’t know what is. (p.185) Barney Fugelman, anxious, guilty, literary Jewish layabout, aged 27 in 1967, is married to heavy-breasted numerologist Sharon, who runs a bookshop specialising in spirituality (Zazie’s dans le Metro), in Finchley. When they invite hypnotist Harry Vilbert to come and do an […]

Coming From Behind by Howard Jacobson (1982)

[Sefton] had a highly developed respect for authority and even the slightest telling off made him feel queasy. He didn’t at all like this submissive quality in himself and he tried to disguise it by barking at menials whenever he could and by bullying and frightening students, but in the still reaches of the night, […]

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (1928)

‘Besides, you see, I’m a public school man. That means everything. There’s a blessed equity in the English social system,’ said Grimes, ‘that ensures the public school man against starvation. One goes through four or five years of perfect hell at an age when life is bound to be hell anyway, and after that the […]

The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett (1997)

Everything since independence has been a sick joke. (p.206) The Catastrophist slowly builds into a gripping novel on the strength of Bennett’s powerful evocation of its historical setting, the Belgian Congo in the fraught months leading up to and following its independence on 30 June 1960, and in particular what David van Reybrouck calls the […]

A Man of Parts by David Lodge (2011)

At forty-five she [Violet Hunt] had already lost the beauty for which she had been admired in her younger years, and painted heavily to disguise a poor complexion, but her body was still slim and limber, able to adopt any attitude in bed he suggested, and to demonstrate a few that were new to him. […]

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge (2008)

An autobiographical author Lodge’s novels are strongly autobiographical and, laid end to end, build up to the portrait of a certain type of life and its possibilities – in a quiet way, he has recorded the experience of a generation. Out of the Shelter describes the boyhood and teenage years of the son of suburban […]

You Can’t Do Both by Kingsley Amis (1994)

‘This makes all the difference. Well, quite a lot of difference.’ (p.142) Robin tried to make it clear, but not too clear… (p.128) Amis was born in 1922, so he started secondary school just as Herr Hitler took power in Germany (1933) and reached manhood during the Battle of Britain (1940). He grew up in […]

If This Is A Man by Primo Levi (1947)

They crowd my memory with their faceless presences, and if I could enclose all the evil of our time in one image, I would choose this image which is familiar to me: an emaciated man, with head dropped and shoulders curved, on whose face and in whose eyes not a trace of a thought is […]