Review: Walking to Hollywood

By Jonathan Beckman, October 26, 2010

By Will Self
Bloomsbury, £17.99

For some, the walking cure is the only option when the talking cure has failed. At the beginning of the titular section of this book, the narrator - who shares many of Will Self's vital statistics - tells his psychiatrist Zack Busner (a regular congregant in Self's fiction) that he is going to walk to Hollywood to investigate "who killed film". Even before he has left the country, Self's rickety mental health becomes apparent when he joins forces with Scooby-Doo to blow up Pinewood Studios.


Review: The Road

By Mark Glanville, October 14, 2010

By Vasily Grossman (Trans: Robert and Elizabeth Chandler)
Maclehose Press, £20

'Why am I writing? Which truth am I confirming? Which truth do I wish to triumph?" So wrote Maxim Gorky in his report on Grossman's first novel, Glyukauf.


Review: In Ishmael's House

By Lyn Julius, October 14, 2010

By Martin Gilbert
Yale University Press, £25

Sir Martin Gilbert's In Ishmael's House, perhaps for the first time, makes accessible to a mass readership the neglected history of Jews in Muslim lands, from Afghanistan to Morocco. Spanning 14 centuries from Mohammed's bloody subjugation of the Jewish tribes of Arabia to the virtual disappearance of Jewish life in the 20th, In Ishmael's House is built on a dichotomy of contrasts -"co-operation and segregation", "protection and exclusion" - experienced by Jews in the region.


Review: Vidal

By Jan Shure, October 7, 2010

By Vidal Sassoon
Macmillan, £20

What this entertaining and inspiring autobiography makes startlingly clear is that Vidal Sassoon, now 82, belongs to that generation of Jews whose career path might have taken them in a totally different direction if poverty had not early on forced them out of education and into work.


Review: Crazy Age

By Sipora Levy, October 7, 2010

By Jane Miller
Virago, £14.99

Jane Miller's delightful book takes its title from a poem by Robert Burns and offers a fascinating journey around old age and death. Part autobiography, and part comment on other published work, it focuses on people, books and events that have shaped her life.

Born in 1932, Miller is an English professor and author of several academic books, but here she appears to be writing for herself as well as for her readers. It is this quality of intimate reflection that makes her book so enjoyable.


Simon Wiesenthal

By Robert Low, September 28, 2010

By Tom Segev
Jonathan Cape, £25

From the moment he set out to preserve the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and to hunt down the Nazis who had murdered them, Simon Wiesenthal attracted enemies, and they have shown no sign of going away since his death in 2005 at the age of 96.

The latest of his critics is the writer Guy Walters, who has recently been afforded ample space in the Sunday Times and Daily Mail and on the BBC to detail his belief, previously set out in his 2009 biography of Wiesenthal, that the great so-called Nazi-hunter was a fraud.


Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife

By Jonathan Beckman, September 28, 2010

By Francine Prose
Atlantic Books, £16.99

If the SS sergeant and his Dutch colleagues who arrived at 263 Prinsengracht on the morning of August 2 1944 had ransacked the annexe above it in a different fashion, its eight residents might have achieved global fame, thanks to the diary of Margot Frank.

Anne's own entry on October 14 1942 informs us that her sister was also keeping a diary, though we do not know how extensive it was.


Every Home Needs a Balcony

By Amanda Hopkinson, September 21, 2010

By Rina Frank (Trans: Ora Cummings)
Fourth Estate, £12.99

This somewhat cumbersome title provides a running theme for the narrator of this at times fascinating memoir. Born a sabra to Romanian immigrants, whose turbulent private life is hung out to dry just like their faded washing, Rina Frank (whom we assume is the person inhabiting the narrator's identity) graduates through various balconied apartments to marry into a Catalan Sephardi family "with a 50ft-long balcony stretching from the dining area to the red velvet reception room".


The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict

By Vernon Bogdanor, September 16, 2010

By Jonathan Schneer
Bloomsbury, £25

On December 2 1917, in the midst of the First World War, a meeting was held in the London Opera House in Kingsway. The hall, designed to hold 2,700 people, was filled to capacity.


Review: Rise and Shine:

By Madeleine Kingsley, September 16, 2010

Rise and Shine: The extraordinary storyof one man's journey from near death to full recovery

By Simon Lewis
Santa Monica Press, £17.99

'You never get to make the two decisions of real importance in your life: how you arrive and when you leave."

So reflects Simon Lewis, in Rise and Shine, his searing story of survival. By all medical yardsticks, the broken-bodied, brain-damaged Lewis was beyond saving that night in March 1994 when his brand-new car was struck by a high-speed, hit-and-run driver.