Read on for review roundups of the latest books from Emma Donoghue, Sebastian Barry and Val McDermid. On the Literary Calendar, Owen Jones and Kamila Shamsie. The Omnivore Pin-up talks Virginia Woolf, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Nicholas Evans. And our Author Pitch this week is out of Africa.
Win Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

In her debut novel, Viper Wine, journalist and former croupier, Hermione Eyre plunges us into the heady atmosphere of the court of Charles I. Celebrated beauty Venetia Digby is worried: the ladies of the court are all taking Viper Wine. They are beginning to look similarly youthful while her own looks are starting to fade. What’s worse, her husband, Kenelm Digby, philosopher, alchemist and time traveller, won’t help. In a self-obsessed world where people are willing to risk everything for youth and beauty, what’s a woman to do?

Sound familiar? This audacious historical fiction peppers the life of Venetia Digby, real-life muse to Ben Jonson and Van Dyck, with delightfully anachronistic references to Jeremy Paxman, Jonathan Ross and JavaScript. And the critics loved it. In the Evening Standard, Frances Wilson called it “Bold and wildly original... an exuberantly witty play on the vanity and ghoulishness of the beauty industry.” Equally complimentary, The Sunday Times’ Nick Rennison said it was “an exceptionally clever and exhilarating excursion through Caroline high society, filled with echoes and anticipations of our own times.” Read all the reviews.

In the portrait commissioned by Venetia's husband to dispel rumours of her affair with the third Earl of Dorset, Van Dyck represented her as one of the four Cardinal virtues. For your chance to win one of five copies tell us which virtue was it? (
clue here). 

Entries to by Friday 11 April. With many thanks to Vintage Books.
All The Rage by AL Kennedy
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"[It] will have many readers weeping with suppressed laughter ... these stories are laugh-out-loud sad." Katy Guest, The Independent VS "The prose never misses an opportunity to let you know all the thinking it’s been doing, or show you all the lugubrious bits of cliché it has sifted from the soil of common usage." Tim Martin, The Telegraph
Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life by John Campbell
Reviews | Buy Comment |
"The highest praise I can give to John Campbell’s biography is that Roy Jenkins would have been proud to have been its author." Alan Johnson, The Guardian VS "There is no lightness of touch... Campbell — unintentionally, I suspect — succeeds in making the case that Jenkins was a not entirely serious figure" Simon Heffer, Literary Review

General Francisco Franco may have died nearly 40 years ago, but the legacy of the Spanish Civil War is still a sensitive subject, and one which writers should approach with caution. Helen Graham's Guardian review of Jeremy Treglown's book on Spanish culture under Franco won't make you ROFL like some of our other Hatchet Jobs of the Week, but it is a masterclass in the academic demolition job:

"It is two books – though neither, disappointingly, has much to say about how Francoism shaped "Spanish culture", diverse as it is, beyond the elite. The first book is the compendium of synopses topped and tailed by brief political and literary travelogue. But the second, a subliminal and indeed cryptic subtext to the book, is in fact more dark than disappointing. It is a rather antiquarian refurbishment of Francoism, done in patrician British style. What are we to make of this, in an age where populist conservative nationalisms are on the rise, including in Spain, where the political establishment, looking to the dictatorship for serviceable nationalist myths, still clings to its hierarchy of the dead?"

Read all reviews for Franco's Crypt


Front Row: Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut
Book at Bedtime: Unexploded by Alison Macleod
Book of the Week: The Unexpected Professor by Peter Carey

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"Frog Music keeps us captivated because Donoghue has filled the foreground and background of this wild tale with irresistibly vivid characters." Ron Charles, The Washington Post VS "The first quarter of Frog Music is as ‘frail’ – ‘a namby-pamby euphemism for selling it ’ – as the women ‘of no character’ who people its pages. The drama of the post-murder strand is laboured… The novel does gather strength, however." Laura Gallagher, Literary Review
The Temporary Gentleman  by Sebastian Barry
Reviews Buy | Comment |
"A novel of dissolution ... But the poetry of it all is so strong-pulsed that we find ourselves lost in language." Sheena Joughin, The Telegraph VS "Barry’s pumped-up prose seems designed to inflate the importance of his themes." David Grylls, The Sunday Times
Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
“McDermid has made a brilliant job of the mission she’s been given.” John Sutherland, The Financial Times VS "These modern characters go through timeless Austen emotions — love, grief, loss — but there is infinitely less at stake." Lucy Atkins, The Sunday Times
Best of the rest
Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li, Troilus and Criseyde by Lavinia Greenlaw, Treachery by SJ Parris, Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre.
Pick of the paperbacks
Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, The Son by Philipp Meyer
Thrive by Arianna Huffington
Reviews | Buy Comment |
"...full of fascinating research, much fire and passion… I wish she would choose me to be her new best friend" Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The Independent VS "Pointless... Huffington didn’t need the money and I can’t see this book enhancing her reputation. I don’t know why she did it." Jenni Russell, The Sunday Times
B is for Bauhaus by Deyan Sudjic
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"A collection of thoughtful, absorbing essays about many aspects of modern design, a subject nobody writes better about than Sudjic — essays that have, alas, been presented in an irritating A to Z format" David Sexton, Evening Standard VS "There may be some strange people out there who long to go to Islington dinner parties but fret about what to talk about if invited. If so, this is the book for them." Richard Morrison, The Times
The Gardens of the British Working Class by Margaret Willes
Reviews | Buy | Comment |

"Marvellous... Her book is a virtually inexhaustible source of pleasure. Just like a garden, in fact." John Carey, Sunday Times VS "...there is too much of the musty smell of the library here, and not enough of the rich savour of newly turned earth." Tom Fort, Telegraph


Which author do you have a crush on?
Virginia Woolf. And she liked the ladies, so I reckon I would have been in with a shot…

What’s the sexiest thing you’ve ever read?
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. In my defence, I was thirteen and found pretty much everything I read sexy.

Which book would you give someone you’re trying to impress? 
The Brothers Karamazov is pretty impressive, but it’s too heavy to carry on a date. My Dad’s latest collection of poetry, I reckon. It’s a nice slim volume – and it’s boasting but in a ‘proud daughter’ kind of way which makes it ok. 

Katie, 28, Bethnal Green

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Milele Safari: An Eternal Journey by Jan Hawke

What do you want readers to take away from the book?
A sense of ‘being there’ I think. A recent reviewer said they thought I’d poured heart and soul into the writing and the reason for that was because I wanted to get across the ambiguous, frustrating enthralment Africa casts over outsiders. Also the human aspects of having to live in such extremes of wealth and poverty, beauty and travesty — in most respects the book is about what it means to be human and all that entails, even though I’ve never held a gun or physically harmed another person or animal. Life is a journey. The passion is forever. It’s all in the title.

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