Leiden Book Club Book 9 – Persuasion


  Jane Austen has never been a particularly large blip on my literary radar. My mother has been a voracious fan since long before I was part of the world; and after I did become a part of it she would often put forward the Austen catalogue as a recommendation to me. I would smile and nod, acknowledging that no bookshelf is complete without a few Austens present, but never quite getting around to taking the plunge. This changed with Emma, which I only picked up in order to impress my future de-facto wife (also Emma). And while I found… Continue Reading

Leiden Book Club Book Book 8 – Swing Time


  Swing Time, a novel by Zadie Smith, is an onion. There is layer upon layer upon layer; the more you dig, the more you will find to ponder and discuss. It’s likely you may shed a tear or two while reading, or at the very least, feel the odd tug on your heart strings. It’s not an easy book to review because, frankly, a lengthy essay would be more fitting (and for the hardcore literature nerds, much more satisfying). Swing Time is a best friend bildungsroman within which lies an acute social commentary about race, class and gender; an… Continue Reading

Leiden Book Club Book 6 – Quiet


  To say that Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking changed my life is not an understatement. When I first read Quiet, I was a public servant in a role that required working long hours, extensive travel, and being switched on around stakeholders all the time. Not just in the office or boardroom either, but over lunch, at the airport, at networking drinks – in other words, I was constantly depleted of energy and felt on the verge of burnout. My poor husband commented at the time, ’I see you coming home later and… Continue Reading

Leiden Book Club Book 5 – Lolita


  There is something strangely uncomfortable about recommending a book about the sexual relationship between a middle-aged man and his twelve-year-old stepdaughter. Yet I find myself doing exactly that. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, is not a comfortable book. The content is certainly uncomfortable. At least, for me, it was – I mean, Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged sexual pervert and a murderer and Dolores seems quite happy to receive his sexual attentions. However, it was not the content that I found to be most unsettling; rather, it was the subtle manner that Nabokov was able to elicit sympathy from me… Continue Reading