Read reviews for the latest books by Dave Eggers, Hillary Clinton, Nicholson Baker and Sigrid Rausing. Owen Jones, Hadley Freeman, Geoff Dyer on the Omnivore Calendar as well as a particularly timely Author Pitch for all you Sassanachs. And forget Germany VS France, this is the match of the century: Liz Jones VS Caitlin Moran. Many thanks to Red Squirrel Wine for sponsoring this issue of the Digest.
Win The Emperor Waltz by Philip Hensher

A waltz maybe, but also Saturnalian shaking, the two-step shimmy and disco: Philip Hensher’s latest doorstopper whisks readers through 1922 to 1972 via 1989, AD203, 1933 and the present day. We meet a young woman on the fringes of the Roman Empire, an artist studying at the Bauhaus, a young man trying to set up the country’s first gay bookshop and a diabetic novelist called Phil. To save us having to summarise The Emperor's Waltz, here’s what DJ Taylor in the Literary Review had to say about it:

“My heart went out to whichever harassed employee of Fourth Estate came up with ‘a magnificent story of eccentricity, its struggle, its triumph, its influence’. It is not that this description isn’t broadly accurate – in the same way that Tono-Bungay is a novel about patent medicines or A Question of Upbringing a book about going to Eton – merely that no twenty-word summary can quite do justice to the spectacle of Hensher in full, uninhibited flight: preening himself, indulging himself, patting himself on the back, meandering all over the place and yet, against very considerable odds, managing to emerge with the punter whole-heartedly on his side.”

Read all the reviews here. We've got five copies up for grabs (thanks Fourth Estate). For your chance to win one, tell us: In 1996, Philip Hensher was sacked from which job after an indiscreet interview with Attitude magazine?

Entries to by Friday 11 July.

Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"Brilliantly observed but determinedly unsettling book" Stephanie Cross, The Daily Mail VS “Grant’s vision is clearly that of a Brideshead for a different generation but it lacks the sincere sense of loss that haunts Waugh’s classic. Which isn’t to accuse Grant’s novel of being frivolous; indeed one might describe it as too earnest.” Lucy Scholes, The Independent
Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"Beneath its strenuously statesmanlike surface, Hard Choices tells us what it takes to evolve from a clever, passionately idealistic young feminist into a broad tough enough and cynical enough for the highest office." Allison Pearson, The Telegraph VS "If literature is, as Martin Amis memorably put it, a ‘war against cliché,’ then in Hard Choices literature has its Little Big Horn... a long, calm, boring book." Matthew Walther, The Spectator

Notorious for mining her personal life for column inches, renowned for her frank opinions on sex and feminism, loved by many but loathed by others for her relentless self-obsession, Liz Jones was an inspired choice to review Caitlin Moran's first novel:

"Moran hasn’t stretched herself, and by that I don’t mean she’s missed a decade of Pilates classes. I loved How to be a Woman, her manual/memoir, other than the chapter on fashion, which was old hat, and thin (apt, probably, but it was still a weak segment). But this is a children’s book that rehashes the former’s surprise and vim: it’s like a brew made from a used tea bag. It’s a 343-page pat on the back. No one is this assured of their own marvelousness, surely? Self-induced orgasms are “white light and joy”. Are they, always? 

It would be easy to give this book a good review: I have a novel coming out, too. But I feel it’s my job, or was my job as a fashion editor, to warn young women when I think they’re wasting their money. Even if it means I’m the most unpopular girl on the playground." 

Read all reviews for How to Build a Girl

This issue of the Digest has been sponsored by the online wine merchant Red Squirrel Wine. Thanks, guys!
Your Fathers, Where Are They? by Dave Eggers
Reviews Buy | Comment |
“The very big question the author poses — is America heading for the rocks or already on them — lingers in the mind. Let’s say it’s a very interesting novel." John Sutherland, The Times VS "A labored, predictable and tiresome piece of fiction lacking the emotional wisdom and dazzling prose that have distinguished so much of this author’s earlier work.” Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"Without ever tipping into Black Swan-style melodrama, Shipstead carries her readers through to the book’s climax with an appropriately relentless, quixotic energy; from the work’s quiet beginnings to a stunning, stagey ending." Isabel Berwick, The Financial Times VS “As well as its basic improbability, this is a novel that — actually, quite rightly — refuses to explain all the balletic jargon, which will be lost on readers who, like me, couldn’t tell a pirouette from a  pork pie. However, it is very well-written ... And it kept this balletophobe gripped.” Harry Ritchie, The Daily Mail
Travelling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"As is the case with Baker’s novels in the wacko mood, Travelling Sprinkler is sometimes infuriatingly whimsical, but more often beautiful, charming and touching." Mark Lawson, The Guardian VS “B-grade Baker. Graded on the curve of all his stuff, it would actually score something worse than a B. It’s his most aimless and least realised novel” Dwight Garner, The New York Times
Pick of the paperbacks: 
The Guts by Roddy Doyle, The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh, & Sons by David Gilbert, The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
Hotel Florida: Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill
Reviews | Buy Comment |
"...written with verve and passion, and full of drama, pathos and gossip" Lewis Jones, The Telegraph VS "Vaill is excellent throughout on her six protagonists, but elsewhere is undone by a lack of specialist knowledge. There is an underlying cold war tone about the book that echoes the oft-repeated myth that the Spanish Republic was the puppet of Moscow." Paul Preston, The Guardian
The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order by Adam Tooze
Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"Interesting, engaging and very readable... he has delivered a clear and compelling rationale as to why it is actually worth going back and looking at the era of the First World War at this particular moment in time." Neil Gregor, Literary Review VS "I kept making guilty, sustaining pit stops with Peacemakers, Margaret MacMillan’s gossipy book about the Versailles conference, which is packed with the sort of human details Tooze doesn’t bother with... his book smoulders but does not catch fire." Ben Shephard, The Observer
Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat by Helen McCarthy
Reviews | Buy | Comment |

"[An] important book full of brilliant vignettes" Kate Williams, The Independent VS "...what is lacking are the contradictions and complexities of at least a couple of their lives, to give depth. As a result, it all seems a bit of an upper-class hoot." Yvonne Roberts, The Observer
Pick of the paperbacks:
Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner, What's in a Surname by David McKie

Café Independence by Seanpaul Thomas

What made you sit down to write Café Independence?
I was having a coffee with a friend last year in a quiet Edinburgh cafe when I overheard a couple of teenage ‘Neds’ (Scotch slang for Non Educated Delinquents’) talking about what an independent Scotland would be like. I nearly spat my coffee over my mate’s iPhone. I couldn’t tell if they were serious or joking around. Especially when they insisted upon the rebuilding of Hadrian’s Wall and changing all the English road signs back to Scottish Gaelic just to confuse the hell out of all the English tourists. I then began interviewing friends and talking to various different acquaintances to get their own opinions on independence before blending those ideas into the minds of my characters.

The Omnivore helps readers discover the best indie authors. If you would like to be considered for Author Pitch, email

FICTION: Best of the rest
Hidden Knowledge by Bernadine Bishop, Happy are the Happy by Yasmina Reza, All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones, Her by Harriet Lane, How To Build A Girl: A Novel by Caitlin Moran
NON-FICTION: Best of the rest
Everything is Wonderful by Sigrid Rausing, How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan EllenbergThe Summit by Ed Conway, The Zhivago Affair by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée
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