Paul Newman The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man. A Memoir

Paul Newman – The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is not a straight memoir as the title suggests, focusing principally on the man rather than the movie actor, whose star shone for many a decade over Hollywood till his death in 2008. Though his career was long, to some, his most enigmatic and most interesting…

“sensitive, intelligent and vivid writing” – The Ghost Variations by Damian Lanigan

Few writers can truly capture the physical and emotional experience of playing and engaging with music, especially complex repertoire like the Hammerklavier sonata. Not since An Equal Music by Vikram Seth have I encountered such sensitive, intelligent and vivid writing about music as Damian Lanigan achieves here. Added to that, a well-paced, entertaining storyline makes this book a thoroughly good read.

Every Good Boy Does Fine – A Love Story, in Music Lessons

Every Good Boy Does Fine, the title of pianist Jeremy Denk’s recently-published memoir, will be familiar to anyone who had piano lessons as a child. It’s a mnemonic of the notes e, g, b, d and f which sit on the lines of the treble clef – other variants include Every Good Boy Deserves Favour…

‘Distant Fathers’ Marina Jarre’s Classic Memoir

Having just put down Marina Jarre’s page-turning memoir ‘Distant Fathers’, I am amazed that I have never heard of her before. I am an avid reader of European authors but it seems that even in Italy where she lived, she has been forgotten about. All this will soon change if her autofiction is anything to go…

The American Art Tapes. Voices of Twentieth-Century Art

In 1965 English artist John Jones set off to the US, his objective, to spend a year interviewing America’s greatest artists.  The resulting taped interviews provide the material for The American Art Tapes. It’s been a while since I’ve been so gripped by an art book. All of America’s key artists feature, and through them it…

Alpha tale: Pete Paphides, ‘Broken Greek’

I am extremely late to this party, as ‘Broken Greek’ has now been in paperback for a couple of months. Back in 2020, its initial appearance was greeted by a chorus of rave reviews and widespread, well-deserved appreciation. It not only won the Royal Society of Literature’s 2021 Christopher Bland Prize, it was also my…

Himalayers: revisiting and revising ‘Black Narcissus’

‘Black Narcissus’ has, like the mountain palace of Mopu itself, been haunting me for some days now, after watching both the new TV adaptation and going back to the 1947 Powell & Pressburger (‘P&P’) film. What is the allure of this strange story, and why does Rumer Godden’s original novel somehow elude both versions? *…

From Novichok to Neophyte

The horrendous poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury city centre on the 4th March 2018 was the inspiration for Sergei Lebedev’s latest novel Untraceable. Set in the opaque world of Russian Intelligence, it covers a particularly sticky period in Russian history, from the 1930s right up to the 1990s.  Three people power the story: Professor…