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Book Bites: 1 March 2015

Vanessa and her SisterVanessa and her Sister
Priya Parmar (Bloomsbury)
*****
Book fling
In 1905 the Stephen sisters, Vanessa and Virginia, moved into a fashionable London suburb and opened their doors to a throng of artistic friends. The circle became known as the Bloomsbury Group. Vanessa and her Sister reimagines the events that followed Vanessa’s marriage to Clive Bell, which put an end to a glittering time of freedom. The novel is written in Vanessa’s honest, anguished voice, and shines a startlingly bright light on this early period in Virginia Woolf’s life.
- Sally Partridge @sapartridge

Their Lips Talk of MischiefTheir Lips Talk of Mischief
Alan Warner (Faber & Faber)
****
Book buff
Life is hard for two aspiring literary geniuses living together in a flat on the fifth floor of a decaying, London council block in the mid-1980s. Christmas fare is half a dry loaf and a jar of Marmite, and the only publishing house able to recognise their talents has them writing captions for the 1986 Cats Calendar. In the confined space of the flat, tensions grow. Warner’s book is boisterous, sharp and bitter.
- David Lea

Land of the BlindLand of the Blind
Barbara Nadel (Headline)
****
Book thrill
Nadel’s novels, featuring Inspector Cetin Ikmen, cleverly evoke the layered history and current upheavals that swirl around the ancient city of Istanbul. Here Ikmen and his libidinous sidekick, Mehmet Suleyman, are dealing with two corpses: one ancient but with possibly contentious historical significance and one fresh, and having freshly given birth. Goodness knows how Ikmen has survived his vast intake of nicotine through 17 books, but long may he continue.
- Margaret von Klemperer

Away from the DeadAway from the Dead
Karen Jennings (Holland Park Press)
****
Book buff
Jennings does not disappoint in this collection of short stories. True to the title, its theme is death – where “the dead” becomes a state within which the characters reveal their secrets, survive and try to heal. There’s Isaac, in “Away from the Dead”, who realises he can’t outrun those he wanted to leave behind. Emily’s life, in “Narrative of Emily Louw”, is reduced to routine in search of her missing husband. Throughout, Jennings sensitively lifts the veil shrouding the concept of death.
- Kholofelo Maenetsha @KMaenetsha

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