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Paperback reviews

The Glorious First of June by Sam Willis (Quercus, £14.99)

Willis brings a welcome pace and energy to what might otherwise have been a dry account of a rarely remembered sea battle between Britain and France. It occurred right in the middle of "The Terror", the period when the French Revolution descended into slaughter and bloodshed, and was a precursor to later battles with Napoleon.

The Persephone Book Of Short Stories (Persephone, £14.99)

This collection celebrates Persephone's 100th book, and suitably includes experts of the short story form such as Katherine Mansfield, Edith Wharton and Penelope Fitzgerald. I particularly liked Kay Boyle's bitter, disillusioned tale of feminine betrayal during the Second World War and Shirley Jackson's typical small-town grotesque, where a country raffle turns into something horrific and Wickerman-ish.

Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism And The Ongoing Assault On Humanity by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (Abacus, £14.99)

Goldhagen argues that the problem of genocide is greater than the threat of war, and given what has occurred since Nagasaki and Hiroshima, in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sudan and the Congo, it's hard to disagree. But in exploring why people are prepared to kill in huge numbers, he also controversially smashes myths about "simply obeying orders".

The Edinburgh Companion To Sir Walter Scott edited by Fiona Robertson (Edinburgh University Press, £19.99)

With Scott's novels falling out of fashion, Scotland has sought recently to give the man his proper due. This volume places him in context, in Enlightenment Edinburgh, but also wants to stretch his influence further. The former attempt is more successful as I'm not completely convinced he left behind a tradition of Scottish historical fiction in his wake.

Lesley McDowell

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