Hanging out on Hydra with Leonard Cohen – Polly Samson’s ‘A Theatre for Dreamers’

  I read ‘A Theatre for Dreamers’ in a couple of sittings, becoming so immersed in its sense of place and time that I almost forgot about the current state of the world. It may have helped that the novel is set in Hydra, a place to which I feel a strong emotional connection, and … Read more

Nick Hornby’s ‘State of The Union’ and The Guardian Crossword

Having read Lucy Mangan’s five star review in The Guardian – https://bit.ly/2lDUV58  I went into my viewing of Nick Hornby’s State of the Union determined to follow her advice not to binge it all in one sitting. I failed. Ten ten-minute dramas. I wolfed the whole lot down. Short-form comedy, I’m sure, is not meant to … Read more

Q and A about ’10 Things To Do Before You Leave School’

    Where did the idea for 10 Things To Do Before You Leave School come from? I’m fascinated by lists. We all make them – from shopping lists and mundane daily to-do lists to more ambitious ones to do with hopes and aspirations. One of the Lists people like to make is ‘The Bucket … Read more

What I don’t get about Sally Rooney’s Normal People

On the second page of Sally Rooney’s universally acclaimed, Booker- longlisted novel is the following paragraph: ‘He puts his hands in his pockets and suppresses an irritable sigh, but suppresses it with an audible intake of breath, so that it still sounds like a sigh.’ What? I get the hand in the pockets bit, but … Read more

Review of Roddy Doyle’s Smile

WARNING: contains spoilers As soon as you reach the end of Roddy Doyle’s extraordinary novel, ‘Smile’, you’re tempted to go back and read it straight through again to work out whether you should have anticipated the narrative trick  Doyle has just pulled and whether or not the whole thing actually works. I have done just … Read more

Teaching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Given the revived interest in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (sales of the novel have increased dramatically since Trump’s election and a USA TV adaptation is to be screened by Channel 4 in the UK),  I found it interesting to look back at something I wrote in 1993 about  teaching it. An Approach To The … Read more

Now I get it, Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante, I apologise. Last summer I read the first of your Neapolitan Novels, ‘My Brilliant Friend’ and I was underwhelmed. I wrote about it in a round-up of my summer reading. I am not usually worried by being out of sync with majority opinion but In your case something was nagging at me, so … Read more

‘A’ for Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell

  Well, Ian, what can I say? You’ve done it again – out smarted your clever class-mates and dazzled your teacher with a real tour-de-force. Your classmates chose a more predictable approach. Many wrote as Gertrude (the closet scene being a particular favourite). Some opted for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, despite my warning that this had … Read more