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The Shirt of Nessan

Patricia Craig, 9 October 1986

The Free Frenchman 
by Piers PaulRead.
Secker, 570 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 436 40966 6
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Dizzy’s Woman 
by George MacBeth.
Cape, 171 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 224 02801 4
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On Foreign Ground 
by Eduardo Quiroga.
Deutsch, 92 pp., £7.95, April 1986, 0 233 97894 1
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A New Shirt 
by Desmond Hogan.
Hamish Hamilton, 215 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 241 11928 6
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... Piers PaulRead’s Free Frenchman is Bertrand de Roujay, whose most significant act is to repudiate Pétain and his expedient administration at Vichy, and take himself to London, clandestinely, where he throws in his lot with the more honourable and recalcitrant de Gaulle ...
Ablaze: The Story of Chernobyl 
by Piers PaulRead.
Secker, 478 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 436 40963 1
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... that the removal of faith in its nuclear programme played a major part in its eventual downfall. Piers PaulRead picks out, then weaves, these two themes with skill and sometimes – notably in his description of the explosion itself – with the vigour of a superior thriller writer. He seems to tire towards the ...

Doris Lessing’s Space Fiction

Robert Taubman, 20 December 1979

Shikasta 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 365 pp., £5.95
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Fergus Lamont 
by Robin Jenkins.
Canongate, 293 pp., £7.95
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A Married Man 
by Piers PaulRead.
Alison Press/Secker, 264 pp., £5.25
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And Again? 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 267 pp., £5.95
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... of Canopus: yet the signals I receive about him are so confused that he’s no help, in ‘those dreadful last days’, in telling right from wrong. If there are no real characters in space fiction, there are certainly ideas, sometimes advanced with moral fervour, and yet they baffle me. Perhaps it’s that a fervent tone goes with the weakest prose. ‘The ...

New Mortality

John Harvey, 5 November 1981

The Hotel New Hampshire 
by John Irving.
Cape, 401 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 224 01961 9
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The Villa Golitsyn 
by Piers PaulRead.
Secker, 193 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 436 40968 2
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Funeral Games 
by Mary Renault.
Murray, 257 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 7195 3883 1
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The Cupboard 
by Rose Tremain.
Macdonald, 251 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 03 540476 0
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... The Hotel New Hampshire one doesn’t know; Irving, author of The World according to Garp, already had his own surreal interest in bears, as in his early novel Setting Free the Bears. At all events, a girl who wears all day (and night) a shaggy bearskin prowls the corridors of the largely empty Hotel New Hampshire, and in a zanily lyrical moment is ...

What ho, Giotto!

Julian Symons, 7 February 1991

Stanley Spencer 
by Kenneth Pople.
Collins, 576 pp., £25, January 1991, 0 00 215320 3
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... High Street put up by his grandfather Julius. Pa was a music teacher, worshipper of Ruskin, read the Bible to the family. Ma took the children to the village Methodist chapel, something Stanley in the end found unsatisfying. ‘I have listened to a thousand sermons, and would like something to counterbalance this. I would like to ...

Brought to book

Gordon Williams, 7 May 1981

Ronnie Biggs: His Own Story 
by Michael Joseph.
Sphere, 238 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 9780718119720
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A Sense of Freedom 
by Jimmy Boyle.
Pan, 264 pp., £1.25, September 1977, 0 330 25303 4
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... Edwards and Jim Hussey come across socially as chaps to go into the jungle with, although novelist Piers PaulRead might demur: despite being warned by Biggs that he was being wound up, he more or less accepted the robbers’ concocted revelation that the robbery was financed by Otto Skorzeny the scar-faced Nazi ...

Poped

Hugo Young, 24 November 1994

The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe 
by Colm Tóibín.
Cape, 296 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 224 03767 6
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... teaching he long ago rejected, but whose cultural effects he has been unable to shake off. The reader has reason to welcome the tenacity of this inheritance. Tóibín travels with the soul and memory of a young boy who can still recall exactly what it was like at children’s mass in the cathedral at Enniscorthy. At home the family knelt to say the Rosary ...

Mirror Images

Jenny Diski: Piers Morgan, 31 March 2005

The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade 
by Piers Morgan.
Ebury, 484 pp., £17.99, March 2005, 0 09 190506 0
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... Life, Piers Morgan says about being sacked in 2004 as editor of the Mirror, is as serious as you want it to be. Lighten up, he repeatedly tells sad celebrities who complain about his front page exposés that result in their unemployment or divorce. Take it easy, he emails spin doctors and government ministers who fear for their majorities after he has trashed their policies or their love lives to two million readers of the Mirror ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... as David Peterley disembarked at Liverpool. This framing of the book provoked much bewilderment. Readers were not told whether or when David Peterley had died or how his papers came to reach McGill University in Canada. They were told that since 1946 Richard Pennington had been head librarian at McGill University. But by including an anonymous drawing in ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet, 20 May 2004

The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... same period, literary criticism as a discourse available for, and even attractive to, the common reader has all but disappeared. Literature as criticism – DeLillo’s knowing essayism, Rushdie’s parables about hybridity, Franzen’s postmodern riffs – has burgeoned, while criticism as literature, what R.P. Blackmur called ‘the formal discourse of an ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2005, 5 January 2006

... 28 January 2005. Fly to Rome for a British Council reading. It occurs to me that a lot of the camp has gone out of British Airways and that as the stewards have got older and less outrageous so the service has declined. This morning there is scarcely a smile, not to mention a joke, the whole flight smooth, crowded and utterly anonymous ...

Diary

Jenny Turner: ‘T2 Trainspotting’, 16 February 2017

... parliament building. ‘Buying a Trainspotting postcode in 1996 was a solid investment,’ I read the other day in the Scotsman. Prices in Leith, apparently, have risen more than 200 per cent. How did they keep this going through the collapse of RBS and HBOS, not to mention the tanking oil price, on the slide even before the independence referendum in ...

Deep down

Julian Symons, 28 June 1990

The Last World 
by Christoph Ransmayr, translated by John Woods.
Chatto, 202 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 7011 3502 6
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The End of Lieutenant Boruvka 
by Josef Skvorecky, translated by Paul Wilson.
Faber, 188 pp., £12.99, May 1990, 0 571 14973 1
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The Dwarves of Death 
by Jonathan Coe.
Fourth Estate, 198 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 1 872180 51 5
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Last Loves 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Grafton, 190 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 333 51783 0
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... suggest the possibility of other meanings present beneath the surface level of realism, and when a reader has to decide whether suggested profundities really exist or in fact resemble what Eliot in old age called his notes to The Waste Land, an exhibition of bogus scholarship. The questions must be asked about Christoph Ransmayr’s The Last World, which has ...

Tea-Leafing

Duncan Campbell, 19 October 1995

The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... dead by a hit-man in Spain in 1990 – in a rather different aura, more Gauloise than Craven A. Piers PaulRead’s The Train Robbers (1978) was another one: ‘the evil ... which I had sought in the train robbers can be found in any one of us and has little to do with the law of the land. There was both a good thief ...

Mizzlers

Patrick Parrinder, 26 July 1990

The Sorrow of Belgium 
by Hugo Claus, translated by Arnold Pomerans.
Viking, 609 pp., £14.99, June 1990, 0 670 81456 3
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Joanna 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Virago, 260 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 1 85381 158 0
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A Sensible Life 
by Mary Wesley.
Bantam, 364 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 9780593019306
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The Light Years 
by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Macmillan, 418 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 0 333 53875 7
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... thanks largely to the posthumous revelations about the Belgian-American literary theorist Paul de Man. But what about the ordinary people of the Low Countries? Hugo Claus’s The Sorrow of Belgium, a novel first published in Holland in 1983, presents a world in which collaboration with the Nazis is made to seem as inevitable as breathing. The ...

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