A children’s book this week became the Costa Book of the Year. Frances Hardinge, with The Lie Tree, won the prize over Kate Atkinson, Andrew Michael Hurley and all the other front-runners. If this doesn’t sound momentous enough, then even Hardinge looked shocked at the ceremony, admitting that she hadn’t prepared a speech because, as everyone knows, “the children’s book never wins”.
Thanks for minding the gap, Judith!
Simple pleasures aren't enough to beat the January blues
In a prologue to the book The Passion of Mademoiselle S: Letters to a Lover, a French diplomat tells us how he found a trove of letters in a satchel while helping a friend to clear out a cellar. They were written in the 1920s in the same hand and signed by the same woman. On reading, he discovered them to be filled with the intimate passions of a mistress – Simone – to her male lover, Charles (who later on in their affair is referred to in the feminine, as Lottie and “my sweet mistress”). The detail of their encounters relived in writing, and her desires, are expressed in vivid and pornographic detail, more shocking for their period setting when, for instance, telephones were only for the wealthier set of Parisians, to which this couple belonged. We have little idea of how Charles felt in this one-sided account because his letters to her are referred to, but not preserved, in the bundle. We might assume that he felt something significant, given that these letters were kept, albeit hidden away in a dark cellar, like buried treasure.
Han Kang tackles a shocking moment in South Korean history in her searing novel
There is another way to see Shakespeare, I discovered this week, beyond the improvised, the abridged and the foreign-language productions that reboot the Bard. It is Shakespeare staged without a rehearsal, as was originally done in the 16th and 17th centuries, when each player was given a scroll with only his part, and relied on original “cue scripts” that contained the barest of contexts – when, and to whom to speak. No one, except for Shakespeare, knew the play as a whole before it was performed thus. Actors’ senses of discovery mirrored the audiences’ own. Some had hours to learn lines and carried multiple parts in their heads.
From The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, to The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
Charles Saatchi’s history of advertising includes breathtaking images and slogans, yet lacks any real analysis, says Arifa Akbar
Michael Cunningham's dark, alluring fairy tales, rebooted for grown-ups
Mass hysteria surrounding the notorious witch-trials at Salem is vividly re-created but the question of 'why' still lingers
The Booker Prize winner's oft-rejected, ultra-violent debut novel powerfully blurs good and evil, writes Arifa Akbar
The 2015 Booker Prize winner Marlon James has been dubbed the literary Quentin Tarantino. He opens up about writing to shock, growing up gay in Jamaica and why there’s no such thing as the Great American Novel
His Novel ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015
Little Sister Death is a classic haunted-house story, based on a notorious 19th-century case of the Bell Witch in Tennessee
Is Moby Dick too long? Should its editor have cut out the natural science on whales or long tracts on nautical engineering?
When Linda discovered her husband, David, was having an affair with a young actress, she didn’t stand by her man, or go lingerie-shopping in hope to win him back (this was the 1960s). She filed for divorce. The mistress got bored and David promptly ran back to Linda, only to find her with a new man – a Hollywood big cheese – who, in the parlance of this fiction, could keep it in his trousers. David hit the bottle. The women went on to greater things. The End.