Bone China by Laura Purcell review – a homage to Du Maurier


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A Cornish family’s history is shrouded in dark intrigue in a novel packed with melodramatic flourishes

Laura Purcell’s new novel is billed as a “Du Maurier-esque chiller”, which may be putting it mildly. We meet Hester Why aboard a mail coach as it lurches through the Cornish night. From Falmouth, she proceeds by pony and trap to her destination, announced in the time-honoured manner by a grizzled driver. “We be on Morvoren land now,” he croaks.

We be veering towards outright staginess, too, it must be said. The effect isn’t just Du Maurier-esque; it’s Du Maurier-tastic. Which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. She could ham it up with the best of them – indeed, she was the best of them – and sometimes readers like to know exactly what they are getting. It’s an approach that has certainly worked for Purcell so far: she won the WHSmith Thumping Good Read ...

The Dollmaker by Nina Allan review – a haunting literary experiment


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Two doll obsessives come together in this moving fable of otherness shot through with imaginative intensity

Dolls in popular culture are battling an image problem. In the best case scenario, a discarded doll might end up on the cover of a crime paperback, a drab emblem of sullied innocence; in the worst, as with Chucky, it will terrorise an entire town. To be a collector of antique dolls, as the protagonists of this novel are, is to be seen through a glacial mass of cultural prejudice. What, we are inclined to wonder, is the appeal?

An only child born with proportionate dwarfism, Andrew Garvie resigns himself at an early age to exclusion and solitude, exchanging playground taunts for dismal office “banter”. “There is no point,” he concludes, “in even trying to belong.” He devotes himself instead to dolls, at first as an avid collector, then as a dollmaker. ...

Top 10 modern Victorian novels


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Narrative tricks minted in the 19th century are still working in contemporary fiction by authors from Margaret Atwood to Sarah Waters

In historical fiction, as in all things, fashions come and go. As we near the end of Hilary Mantel’s glorious Tudor revival, the ancient world is again getting a look in, with writers such as Madeline Miller and Pat Barker refashioning the Homeric epics to glittering effect. But these trends mask more durable patterns, at least from a crudely chronological point of view.

Related: The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell review – a genre-busting gothic

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