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Paperback reviews

The Brickfield by LP Hartley (John Murray, £9.99)

The republication of this rather gossipy 1964 novel by the author of The Go-Between highlights a few anachronisms, as it is doubtful today's novelists would be allowed so much time and so much digression to reach the central action, the death of a young woman with whom the now elderly narrator was once in love.

Love: A History by Simon May (Yale University Press, £12.99)

May asks why attitudes to love haven't changed over the centuries when those things associated with it, like sex and marriage, have changed enormously. We still expect too much from it, a hangover from Romanticism, and must abandon the old opposites (love as self-sacrificing, love as self-pleasing) for a new "theory" of love. Almost intimidatingly erudite and wide-ranging.

The Mill For Grinding Old People Young by Glenn Patterson (Faber, £7.99)

Northern Ireland's best novelist gives us a historical novel that eschews linearity for the almost boisterous yet touching tale of Gilbert Rice, his 19th-century Belfast shipyard hero, who falls in love with a young Polish woman. Hints of another kind of love affair, too, are in Patterson's faithful rendering of the sights and sounds of the city.

Gauntlet Of Fear by David Cargill (Matador, £8.99)

There's not nearly enough narrative tension in Cargill's tale of his magician-historian and detective Giles Dawson, who has been asked to investigate some strange happenings at the Circus Tropicana, which too often reads like a non-fiction account of an historical event, to capture and hold the reader's attention, for all the often interesting magic detail.

Lesley McDowell

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