Books of the month: From Blake Bailey’s Philip Roth biography to Richard Coles’s The Madness of Grief

Martin Chilton reviews five of April’s biggest releases for our monthly column

Wednesday 28 April 2021 17:42

iography lends to death a new terror,” quipped Oscar Wilde. Luckily Philip Roth wasn’t too concerned about whether a posthumous account of his life raked over his disreputable, incorrigible past. Roth’s main instruction to his biographer was to make him interesting – and Blake Bailey excels in that with Philip Roth: The Biography.

April is an unusually rich month for life stories. In addition to the Roth book, there is also a new biography of acclaimed author Barbara Pym, memoirs by musicians Richard Thompson, Tracey Thorn (writing about her friendship with Australian drummer Lindy Morrison), and a touching memoir by Communards musician-turned churchman Richard Coles. All five are reviewed in full below.

Chris Power’s striking debut novel, A Lonely Man (Faber) is first-rate, about a struggling writer in Berlin, whose life takes a dangerous turn when he meets a ghostwriter for a recently dead Russian oligarch. Power’s previous book was the excellent short story collection Mothers and his latest book is bursting with potent, beguiling prose.

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