BOOK REVIEW / Recommended

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The Independent Culture
The Oracle at Stoneleigh Court by Peter Taylor, Chatto & Windus, pounds 14.99. Haunting short stories imbued with the lost grandeur of the American South. Review by D J Taylor, 13 March.

The Collision of Civilisations by Alain Peyrefitte, Harvill, pounds 20. Excellent study of the relations between China and Britain during the 19th century. Review by Godfrey Hodgson, 20 February.

The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt, Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 8.99. Sinister, elegantly written first novel about a young woman's life in New York. Review by Justine Picardie, 13 February.

Sentimental Journeys by Joan Didion, HarperCollins, pounds 15. Clever and singular musings on the heart and mind of America. Review by Natasha Walter, 30 January.

The Palace of Dreams by Ismail Kadare, Tr. Barbara Bray, Harvill, pounds 7.99. Acute allegory of totalitarian life set in a ministry of dedicated to the classification of dreams. Winner of the Independent foreign fiction award for January / February. Review by Robert Winder, 25 February.

Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories by Jenny Uglow, Faber, pounds 20. Charlotte Bronte's biographer gets a fine treatment of her own in this readable and rigorous life. Review by Sue Gaisford, 6 February.

Swing hammer swing] by Jeff Torrington, Secker & Warburg, pounds 8.99. Deep and affecting novel about life on the streets of Glasgow by a 57-year-old newcomer, and winner of this year's Whitbread Book of the Year Prize. Interview by Marianne Brace, 30 January.