Before I focus on the novel, I have to flag the wonderful shop in which I bought it: the Eagle Bookshop in Bedford, one of the largest and most welcoming second-hand bookshops I’ve visited in quite some time. Having recently moved to bigger premises, it’s thriving, with creative writing sessions, poetry readings and other literary events. If you live in or near Bedford, or find yourself in town with half an hour spare, I thoroughly recommend it. I came away with a modest stash, which allowed me to tread the fine line between supporting physical bookshops (on one hand) and (on the other) respecting the fact I have no book space left in my flat. It required great self-control. The first to catch my eye was this slim volume: Margaret Drabble’s second novel, written in 1964 when she was only twenty-five. Following a group of London actors as they decamp to Hereford for an arts festival, it’s a sharp and merciless tale of boredom, pretension and infidelity, notable for its acerbic and entitled narrator.