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Paperback reviews

A Very British Family: The Trevelyans And Their World by Laura Trevelyan (IB Tauris, £12.99)

Powerful families always make for good, gossipy history, and BBC news correspondent Laura Trevelyan's is no different. Unlike other landed, aristocratic families which really came of age during the Victorian era, the Trevelyans preferred connections with intellectuals and writers like the Macauleys, and their political maneuvering is interesting to witness.

Red Spheres: Russian 20th-Century Gothic-fantastic Tales selected and translated by Muireann Maguire (Angel Classics, £12.95)

The early Soviet crackdown on Gothic fiction for its supposedly decadent and non-realist content didn't stop writers like Bulgakov from writing tales full of Gothic effects like body doubles, phantoms and automata that come alive; on the contrary, being driven underground could hardly have suited it more. Superbly strange stories, finely crafted.

A Weekend With Claude by Beryl Bainbridge (Virago Modern Classics, £8.99)

Bainbridge's first novel, originally published in 1967, can feel a little anachronistic, if occasionally amusing, with its melange of confused and slightly dippy adults gathered at Claude's country cottage for the weekend, where past affairs and present ones are revealed from the viewpoints of the host and his three equally self-examining and self-absorbed guests.

1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII by Suzannah Lipscomb (Lion Books, £9.99)

Historians have long puzzled over what changed Henry VIII from a dazzling, brilliant Renaissance king into an obese tyrant, and Lipscomb contends that a domestically disastrous year that included the death of his first wife, the execution of his second and the loss of his third in childbirth, might have done it.

Lesley McDowell

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