Sansom, Ian

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Sansom, Ian


Education: Graduated from University of Oxford, Magdalen College.


Home—Northern Ireland. Office—The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, School of English, Queen's University, 2 University Sq., Belfast BT7 1NN, Ireland. Agent—Capel & Land Ltd., 29 Wardour St., London W1D 6PS, England.


Guardian Unlimited and London Review of Books, reviewer.


The Truth about Babies: From A-Z, Granta Books (London, England), 2002.


Ring Road: There's No Place Like Home, Fourth Estate (London, England), 2004, published as The Impartial Recorder, Fourth Estate (New York, NY), 2004.

The Case of the Missing Books: A Mobile Library Mystery, Harper Perennial (New York, NY), 2006.

Mr. Dixon Disappears: A Mobile Library Mystery, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, Guardian, and London Review of Books.


Novelist and essayist Ian Sansom is a prolific book reviewer and critic whose work has appeared in Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, London Review of Books, and the London Guardian.

In The Truth about Babies: From A-Z Sansom offers a series of essays and observations not so much about babies per se, but about "Sansom's life and how the baby impinges on it," observed Peter Forbes on the Contemporary Writers Web site. "Part memoir of his son's first twelve months, part anthology of quotations on all things infantile, the book is arranged alphabetically" to cover topics of importance to new parents and new babies, noted Allison Pearson in the London Guardian. Sansom dwells on the physical and emotional aspects of parenthood, the soiled diapers and the depression, the innocent beauty and the joy, all of the things common to caring for one's own flesh and blood while it cannot care for itself. Secret resentments give way to public pride for a child who gives and receives love in equal measure. "Sansom depicts the developing relationship of parent and baby as a fascinating odyssey that takes us deeply, if helplessly, into the mystery of existence," remarked Robert Faggen in the Los Angeles Times.

With The Truth about Babies, "Sansom has written the true and beautiful book about babies that he couldn't find in a bookshop," Pearson observed. "Every new parent should have a copy for their journey through that first year. For anyone lying shipwrecked with their offspring on the sofa, there is good news: you are not alone." Sansom's "observations are pithy enough to make the book genuinely entertaining to others in the same state of parenthood," Forbes commented. "For those who have waded through shelves of works by psychologists and pediatricians and would like a profoundly funny and wise book on the subject, The Truth about Babies is one of the most interesting and literate mediations available," Faggen stated.

In Ring Road: There's No Place Like Home—published in the United States as The Impartial Recorder—much has changed in Davey Quinn's remote little Irish hometown in the twenty years since he left. Many of the people are still familiar, but the character of the town itself has changed so much that it has become totally unfamiliar. Returning home from an ostensibly glamorous life in London, Quinn finds the once-grand hotel in the middle of town wasted away to a ruined hulk. Downtown has been depleted by a new Americanstyle mall. Fast food places and sandwich shops have replaced local eateries, but have propelled owner Bob Savory into rarefied social circles once reserved for the rich and aristocratic. A ring road now coils around the town, isolating the area's heart, pushing old-time residents and business back, out of the way and into insignificance. The local paper, The Impartial Recorder, still appears, though editor Colin Rimmer seems to know that even that onetime constant is doomed eventually to disappear. As Davey takes it all in, the famed prodigal, known for being a seventh son of a seventh son, has to come to terms with the fact that life in London isn't what it was reported to be, and that life back home isn't the way he left it.

"Here, in its quirky, perky, and intermittently moving way, is an admirable novel on the theme of mutability," noted Spectator reviewer Francis King. "With elegiac vividness Sansom contrasts the ramshackle, run-down, cosy world of the past with the neon-lit, concrete, brash one that has taken its place," King continued. "Few books published these days can fairly be described as charming and fewer still are the product of so generous an intelligence," commented Michael Moorcock in the London Guardian. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "a clever, affectionate poke in the ribs; just sentimental enough to be nostalgic, just sharp enough to avoid sentimentality."

With The Case of the Missing Books: A Mobile Library Mystery, Sansom kicks off his mystery series about a Londoner named Israel Armstrong who finds himself transplanted in a small town in Northern Ireland, where he goes to work for the local bookmobile when it turns out that the library he was supposed to take charge of has been boarded up. This is not exactly the way he envisioned his career going. However, Israel eventually manages to gain access to the library building, only to discover that thousands of books have vanished from the shelves. Using the rather dubious skills he has gleaned from reading detective novels, Israel sets out to solve the mystery and recover the stolen volumes. Along the way he encounters a variety of colorful townspeople and manages to start a tenuous relationship with a girl named George, with a second potential love interest in the wings. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called the book "a buoyant series kickoff," going on to note that "veteran Sansom … writes with refreshing deftness and sharp wit." Kathy Pershmann, writing for the Armchair Interviews Web site, commented: "This witty and engaging mystery will keep you chortling and guffawing, and waiting for installment number two." Booklist reviewer Keir Graff called Israel Armstrong "a champion against bullshit and bureaucracy in the service of books."



Booklist, December 1, 2006, Keir Graff, review of The Case of the Missing Books: A Mobile Library Mystery, p. 28.

Guardian (London, England), June 8, 2002, Allison Pearson, review of The Truth about Babies: From A-Z, p. 14; April 17, 2004, Michael Moorcock, review of Ring Road: There's No Place like Home, p. 26.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2004, review of The Impartial Recorder, p. 420; October 15, 2006, review of The Case of the Missing Books, p. 1049.

Library Journal, July, 2004, Barbara Love, review of The Impartial Recorder, p. 74.

Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2002, Robert Faggen, review of The Truth about Babies, p. R9.

New Statesman, July 19, 2004, Jonathan Heawood, review of Ring Road, p. 55.

New York Times Book Review, August 8, 2004, Tom Shone, review of The Impartial Recorder, p. 7.

Spectator, April 10, 2004, Francis King, review of Ring Road, p. 35.


Armchair Interviews, (July 10, 2007), Kathy Pershmann, review of The Case of the Missing Books.

Contemporary Writers, (December 17, 2004), "Ian Sansom."