Magazine article The Spectator

Books of the Year - PHILIP HENSHER

Magazine article The Spectator

Books of the Year - PHILIP HENSHER

Article excerpt

Top of my list are two impressive lives of composers, or half-lives; the second volume of Stephen Walsh's life of Stravinsky (Cape, £30), and the first volume of John Tyrrell's life of Janacek (Faber, £60). Tyrrell's in particular was something of a tour de force, since very little of Janacek's lasting music was written in that period, and it could have seemed like an overextended life of a Moravian music teacher. In practice, it proved entirely absorbing.

The novels I liked best were Claire Messud's wonderful The Emperor's Children, (Picador, £14.99), a real Dawn Powell spectacular, Sarah Waters's The Night Watch (Virago, £16.99) and Will Self's The Book of Dave (Viking, £17.99). All three showed novelists who have always been good deepening their tone and broadening their range; I thought The Book of Dave attained real architectural grandeur from what might have proved a flippant donnée. …

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