Love For Love by William Congreve (1695)

SIR SAMPSON LEGEND: You are hard to please, madam: to find a young fellow that is neither a wit in his own eye, nor a fool in the eye of the world, is a very hard task. The humour of a Restoration comedy often starts with the cast list – the names are always inventively […]

The Realist (1918) by Hermann Broch (1931)

Incapable of communicating himself to others, incapable of breaking out of his isolation, doomed to remain the mere actor of his life, the deputy of his own ego – all that any human being can know of another is a mere symbol, the symbol of an ego that remains beyond our grasp, possessing no more […]

The Day of Creation by J.G. Ballard (1987)

The sutures of my skull were opening, letting the cool wind into the chambers of my brain. I stared up at the cloudless, cyanide sky, like the domed roof of some deep psychosis. (p.275) This is a poor book. It is long, packed with detail, has an exotic setting, a reliably demented protagonist on a […]

Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard (1971)

All summer the cloud-sculptors would come from Vermilion Sands and sail their painted gliders above the coral towers that rose like white pagodas beside the highway to Lagoon West. The tallest of the towers was Coral D, and here the rising air above the sand-reefs was topped by swan-like clumps of fair-weather cumulus. Lifted on […]

A Brief History of Superheroes by Brian J. Robb (2014)

Robb has previously written biographies of Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt. This volume is one of a series titled ‘A brief guide to [or A history of] …’ which includes guides to Stephen King, ghost-hunting, the Roman Empire, Star Wars and any other topics they thought would sell. Written for a popular audience, […]

Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst (2000)

Furst’s sixth novel follows the adventures of Nicholas Morath, an aristocratic Hungarian who has secured a French passport and lives in Furst’s favourite city, Paris, where he has a half share in an advertising company, the Agence Courtmain. His uncle, Count Janos Polanyi de Nemeszvar, also lives a very comfortable life in Paris. In the […]

Absolute Friends John le Carré (2004)

‘Everyone in Berlin knows Sasha.’ (p.58) For three quarters of its length this is the best, the most compelling, gripping and psychologically rewarding le Carré novel for years: for excitement and plausibility I would recommend this one over all its predecessors as far back as A Perfect Spy. It is a return to the full-blown […]

Charity by Len Deighton (1996)

‘You don’t like any of your old friends these days, Bernie. What’s happened to you? Why are you so caustic? Why so suspicious of everything and everyone?’ ‘Am I? Well I’m not the only one afflicted with that,’ I said. ‘There is an epidemic of suspicion and distrust. It’s contagious. We are all in its […]

Hope by Len Deighton (1995)

‘There are more important things in life than money, Bernard,’ she said. ‘Prove it,’ I told her. (p.301) This is a cracking book: by turns complex, puzzling, full of pungent local colour, humorous and touching. Spying as soap opera / Espionage as sitcom From the previous seven novels about the 40-something MI6 agent, Bernard Samson, […]

Faith by Len Deighton (1994)

‘If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s being able to sort out complicated technical material so it can be understood by the layman.’ ‘Yes, you have a mechanical mind, Dicky, I said. ‘So why don’t you wind it up this week? Yes, I’ve heard that joke, Bernard. It’s time you got some new […]