Reviews for new novels by Margaret Drabble, David Leavitt, Ian Rankin. Books about Twitter, Michelangelo, Elizabeth of York and being a nanny in 1980s literary London. Professor AC Grayling and Carlos Acosta on the Literary Calendar. From Brixton to Everest: a super-human effort for the Omnivore Pin-up. And Damned if you do and Doomed if you don't: a hellish Hatchet Job of the week.
Win A Story Lately Told by Anjelica Huston 

When Anjelica Huston was a little girl, she overheard her parents saying she would never be a beauty and could see what they meant: “My eyebrows were high and rounded, my nose was the largest feature on my face, I had a weak chin, I walked with an ­apologetic hump. I swear it was by force of will that I was able to transform in any measure.”

Transform she did, becoming the striking star of The Addams Family and The Witches and the woman who almost managed to tame Jack Nicholson. In A Story Lately Told, the first instalment of her memoirs, Huston talks us through her glamorous but lonely childhood, the ups and downs of her love life, and her first brushes with Hollywood.

Jane Shilling said in the Daily Mail: "Her dry wit, eloquent understatement and her vivid memory for the places, people and feelings of her childhood and early adulthood make this one of those very rare celebrity memoirs that you’ll want to read and re-read for the sheer beauty of its writing." In The Sunday Times, Lynn Barber wrote that Huston's book, like her sister Allegra's Love Child (read the reviews at The Omnivore Archive), had "the superficial appeal of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, combined with a psychological mystery worthy of ­Patricia Highsmith."

Thanks to Simon & Schuster, five Omnivore Digest readers can win their own copy of A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York. To enter the competition, tell us: Anjelica Huston recently revealed her ambition to star in which ITV series? Email by Friday 29 November.

The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
| Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"In Margaret Drabble’s superb new novel, a richly complex narrative voice achieves a choric magnificence hardly equalled in her earlier work." Stevie Davies, The Independent VS "Anna is only lightly sketched, and Eleanor’s first-person narration doesn’t excuse the clichés: we are told three times, for instance, that Anna is the apple of Jess’s eye. " Claire Lowdon, The Sunday Times
Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton
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" adventure story, written like a crime novel... One of the book’s great qualities is that it shines light not just on conflicting personalities, but how those personalities influenced what Twitter is, and what it was and what it might have been." Mat Honan, Wired VS "Bilton's mannered writing and his colour writer's obsession with what people are wearing makes it read like a bad novel in parts." Arifa Akbar, The Independent


Chuck Palahniuk has often been Damned by the critics but Tim Martin in The Telegraph gave Doomed a roasting:

"The impression is of a writer phoning in his stuff with cynical abandon. It’s genuinely dispiriting to see Palahniuk reduced to the Garbage Pail Kid of contemporary literature, prodding gently in book after book at the disgust reflexes of bored teens. Whether or not his writing exorcises his own sufferings – he has claimed he wrote Damned to help him deal with his mother’s death – these glib compendiums of adolescent humour read like the opposite of dangerous writing, unless you count the danger to your reputation when you tell your friends you’ve bought a copy."

Read all the reviews for Doomed on The Omnivore.


My Education by Susan Choi
The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood
House of Earth by Woody Guthrie
Motherland by William Nicholson
The Victoria System by Eric Reinhardt
The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds
The City of Devi by Manil Suri
Secrecy by Rupert Thomson.

Read all the saucy extracts from this year's shortlist.
Rustication by Charles Palliser
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"Palliser’s fifth outing straightaway returns us to the world of creaking lawsuits, high-grade subterfuge and lickerish kitchen-maids ... [his] hold on his narrative is enough to turn it into an exercise in pure form." DJ Taylor, The Spectator VS "Richard’s habit of leaping unfailingly to the wrong conclusion begins to wear thin after a while, as does all the Gothic hokum. " Stephanie Cross, The Daily Mail
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
“Just as Violet is a complex character beyond her Asian and white ethnic roots, Tan’s large-hearted, florid and ragged tale goes beyond casual stereotypes. " Krys Lee, The Financial Times VS "Shanghai rockets into the future, spoiling the elegant courtesan business with crude Western expectations of wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am ... One section reads like a Chinese version of Cold Comfort Farm with bad sex. " Ron Charles, The Washington Post

The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"... a highly accomplished, urbane and satisfying novel ... Leavitt has always been more concerned to explore the interstices between the heterosexual and homosexual worlds than to anatomise the latter in semen-soaked prose.." Michael Arditti, Literary Review VS " Too much backstory, too many last- minute revelations ... too little real development of any of the characters. " Rebecca Abrams, The Financial Times
Best of the rest
Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin, Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk, Dolly. by Susan Hill, S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst

Pick of the paperbacks
The Silent Wife by Asa Harrison, Motherland by William Nicholson
Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen by Alison Weir
Reviews | Buy Comment |
"She has long deserved a thorough biography and Alison Weir has done her proud" Linda Porter, Literary Review VS "She has a good eye for period detail ... When it comes to really interrogating her subject, however, Weir is on thin ground." Dan Jones, The Sunday Times
Love Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe
Reviews | Buy | Comment |

" No 55, in the rapid fire of wit, she makes herself at home. Her letters, and her book, with its direct, almost forceful, intimacy, invite the reader to do the same. Whether you do feel at home, however, may depend on how far you share Nina’s robust temperament and capacity for acceptance. If you’re the sort of person to worry, for example, that yours might be the kind of lace curtains that everyone laughs at; or that your salad dressings are lower-class; or that your kids can’t carry off basin haircuts; or if you are simply tempted to ask how much everything cost, the houses and the “helpers”, and where does it come from, that sort of money, then you might find it hard to settle in any of the very nice chairs at No 55, even the one with a foot-rest." Kate Clanchy, The Guardian
Michelangelo: His Epic Life by Martin Gayford
Reviews | Buy | Comment |

"It is a measure of his magnitude, and of Gayford’s skill in capturing it, that you finish this book wishing that Michelangelo had lived longer and created more" Rachel Spence, Financial Times VS "One regrets the general lack of verve, vision and incisiveness ... Gayford’s work could easily be subtitled ‘Ninety Interminable Years in Italy’." James Hall, Literary Review
Best of the rest
Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop by Bob Stanley, Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagan, JFK's Last Hundred Days by Thurston Clarke

Pick of the paperbacks
Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum, The Missing Ink by Philip Hensher, War Memorial by Clive Aslet

What are you reading at the moment?
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng.

What have you just finished reading?
Everest – The First Ascent: The untold story of Griffith Pugh, the man who made it possible by Harriet Tuckey.

Which author do you have a crush on?
The late Iain Banks.

Laura, 30, Brixton 

What are you reading at the moment?
The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura. (I haven’t started it yet. I wanted to read a thriller and the book man in the shop recommended it. I didn’t trust him actually, but I still bought the book.)

What have you just finished reading?
Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud. (Finished this ten minutes ago. It’s hyped as the next big YA adventure series, about three children who run a ghost investigation agency. Because Britain’s being haunted a lot for a reason no one can tell.)

Which book would you give someone you’re trying to impress?
To impress them? Obviously it depends on the person, but if I wanted to surprise them with something wonderful they hadn’t read, maybe it’d be Dominic by William Steig – all about a plucky little dog going on an adventure, with lots of very moving episodes.

Glenn, 27, Twickenham

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