Reviews for books by Sebastian Faulks, Zadie Smith, John Grisham, Joanna Trollope, Iain Sinclair and Hermione Lee's biography of Penelope Fitzgerald. Margaret Drabble, Simon Sebag Montefiore and Alan de Botton on the Literary Calendar. A Matthew Parris-endorsed Author Pitch. And we bend the rules for Hatchet Job of the Week.
Win Letters of Note by Shaun Usher and To the Letter by Simon Garfield
It's rare, in the frenzy and hubbub of Twitter, to click on something that makes the world slow down for a moment. The stupendously popular website Letters of Note has the power to do just that. For four years, Mancunian Shaun Usher has curated "correspondence deserving of a wider audience", delighting visitors with letters ranging from the tragic (Virginia Woolf's suicide note) to the comic (a British diplomat telling a friend about his amusingly-named new Turkish colleagueto the historically significant (the anonymous tip-off about Guy Fawkes' plans). Now, Canongate and crowdfunding website Unbound have published a selection of over 100 of the site's best letters, in what is sure to be the runaway hit of Christmas 2013. The book — read our review roundup here — is a joyful celebration of letter-writing, a practice which sadly tends to be prefixed by "the lost art of". Those of you nostalgic for a slower, more thoughtful age will also find much to enjoy in To the Letter, Simon Garfield's jaunt through the history of "epistolarity". As fans of his bestselling books, including Just My Type, will know, Garfield combines a talent for compressing exhaustive research into entertaining prose with a keen eye for trivia: if you want to know when Postman Pat switched to delivering parcels rather than letters, he's your man.

Thanks to Canongate, three Omnivore Digest readers can win a bumper-pack of BOTH Letters of Note and To the Letter (combined retail price: £46.99). To enter, answer the following: In 1960, the Queen sent President Eisenhower a recipe for which tea-time treat? Email by Friday 15 November.
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks
| Reviews | Buy | Comment |
"Throughout the book we get a sense of what Faulks hears in Wodehouse’s style. There’s zeugma, etymological daftness, addresses to camera and abundant literary allusions..." Sophie Ratcliffe, The Guardian VS "His big trouble is with Wodehouse’s comic use of literary reference. Wooster may be a bit of an idiot, but he quotes poetry, from Keats to Longfellow, that modern readers might not recognise." Christopher Howse, The Telegraph
Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee
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"Lee was a perfect choice as Fitzgerald’s biographer. She has done a superb job, capturing an elusive personality and a complex, sometimes rather harrowing story." Philip Hensher, The Guardian VS "The early sections of Lee’s book droop noticeably under their weight of superfluous detail, which she persists in including almost as though she was suffering from a nervous tic (Fitzgerald thought biographers were madder than novelists)" Mark Bostridge, Literary Review


Ok, so we know Hatchet Job of the Year is supposed to be about saving the professional critic from extinction and all that, but sometimes you've got to make an exception. Brad Stone's book about Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, incensed MacKenzie Bezos so much that she logged on to to her husband's website to set the record straight:

"In the first chapter, the book sets the stage for Bezos’s decision to leave his job and build an Internet bookstore. “At the time Bezos was thinking about what to do next, he had recently finished the novel Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro ... But it’s not true. Jeff didn’t read Remains of the Day until a year after he started Amazon ... While numerous factual inaccuracies are certainly troubling in a book being promoted to readers as a meticulously researched definitive history, they are not the biggest problem here. The book is also full of techniques which stretch the boundaries of non-fiction, and the result is a lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon."

Read the full one star review on Amazon.
Read what some other people had to say about The Everything Store on The Omnivore.


The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith
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"It’s a novel in miniature, divided into 21 tiny “chapters”, each of which is a brief scene that encapsulates what many writers would take several thousand words to say. Reading it is a bit like having a starter in a restaurant that is so good you wish you had ordered a big portion as a main course, only to realise, as you finish it, that it was exactly the right amount." Louise Doughty, The Observer
Sense & Sensibility by Joanne Trollope
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“The fidelity of the retelling has clever consequences. By retaining the precise beliefs and attitudes of Austen’s characters, Trollope alters our responses to them, now viewed through the distorting filter of the 21st century. " Francesca Segal, The Guardian VS "Trollope doesn’t take enough risks. The trappings of 21st-century life are conspicuously present, yet the story does not feel authentically modern" Holly Kyte, The Telegraph
Pig's Foot by Carlos Acosta
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"The novel, very nicely translated by Frank Wynne, conjures the salt-eaten arcades and collapsing promenades of Havana wonderfully." Ian Thomson, The Spectator VS " The prose style is matched by the melodrama of the plot — something that can’t be blamed on the translation." Claire Lowdon, The Sunday Times
Best of the rest
Someone by Alice McDermott, Sycamore Row by John Grisham, Awakening. by Stevie Davies, Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng, S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dourst, Hello and Goodbye by Patrick McCabe, All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Pick of the paperbacks
Gone Again by Doug Johnstone
A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine: The Last Diaries of Tony Benn
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"It is hard to read these diaries without feeling enormously nostalgic for a quasi-mythical lost age of public service" Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian VS "His eight previous volumes of diaries are a remarkable historical resource. This concluding one, however, barely merits publication in its own right … The book is studded with absurd remarks." Oliver Kamm, The Times
The First Bohemians by Vic Gattrel
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"A gorgeously engrossing book, bracingly sceptical of received pieties, and it combines scholarship with originality, colour and imagination to a rare degree.” John Carey, The Sunday Times VS "If this is an account of 18th-century Covent Garden, it is fatally undermined by the exclusion of writers and thinkers … Harlots get a whole chapter, by contrast." James McConnachie, The Spectator
Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner
Reviews | Buy | Comment |

"Sure to be found on the bookshelves of Bach-lovers for many years to come" Adam Lively, The Sunday Times VS "Tighter editorial input might have condensed this into a consistently, rather than spasmodically, brilliant book." Iain Burnside, The Observer
Best of the rest
American Smoke by Iain Sinclair, The Mistress Contract by She and He, Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography 

Pick of the paperbacks
Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland, The Day Parliament Burned Down by Caroline Shenton

What are you reading?
The Hugo Young Papers. Because he got all the really juicy stuff, and a little bit because he and I share a name.

What have you just finished reading?
Smiley’s People – John le Carré. Because I think it’s probably my favourite TV series ever, and I wanted to see where they’d started from.

What will you read next?
Think I’m due something funny. The above all sounds a bit serious.

Hugo, 29, Highgate 

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Snug by Matthew Tree

What’s Snug about?
A tiny village on the south coast of the Isle of Wight finds itself besieged by a horde of unfamiliar faces. When things start to change radically, their village stops being so very snug, and becomes quite the opposite. As for the ‘subject’, the book is about teenage love, racism, colonialism and how the complacency and self-satisfaction of many white British people can easily turn into (violent) arrogance.

Imagine your ideal reader: which authors do they enjoy?
The same ones I do, without that implying that I resemble them in any way: Henry Miller, William Burroughs, Bohumil Hrabal, Thomas Bernhard, James Ellroy, and a fantastic Catalan language writer called Quim Monzó (available in English). And there are many more, it goes without saying. What do all these authors have in common? They all do something different, they are all naturally original.

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