Although I was born in Scotland, I spent a lot of my young life growing up near the Hampshire border and Stonehenge was just a stone’s throw away (ha!) It was a place we visited when we had relatives or friends staying, intriguing and mysterious, and in those days you could wander among the stones, sit on the fallen ones and really soak up the atmosphere; I think there’s even a small fuzzy photo somewhere of me in amongst them with grandparents.

So I’ve always had an attachment to the place, which meant that the offer of a review copy of this intriguing-sounding book was extremely welcome. This is Harry Karlinsky’s second novel – it proclaims itself as such on the cover – yet it’s a fascinating book that defies categorisation and plays with the genres. If you like, it could be described as fiction masquerading as non-fiction.


The book’s narrator is an unnamed psychiatrist, puzzled as to why Sigmund Freud never received the Nobel Prize. He finally gains access to the Nobel records to try to find out the reason, but instead stumbles across something hidden – there was once a secret Nobel prize, only open to previous winners, and to be awarded to the person who solved the mystery of Stonehenge.

The book goes on to explore the background of the prize and the theories of the Nobel Laureates who entered; ranging from Marie Curie via Theodore Roosevelt to Rudyard Kipling. Was there a solution? Was the prize awarded? And why did Freud never receive the Nobel?

This is a delight of a book, the most wonderful interweaving of fact and fiction. Karlinsky captures wonderfully the tone of a dry, academic psychologist, albeit one with a strong sense of curiosity. It’s lively, entertaining and very unputdownable, particularly the various submissions purporting to be from the Nobel winners. I was particularly impressed with the one attributed to Kipling, as this is framed as a short piece featuring Dan, Una and Puck from “Puck of Pook’s Hall” which I read recently, and Karlinsky brilliantly captures the voice of the book. Intriguingly, he’s actually a psychiatrist in real life, which adds another layer to the many on display here.

TSL is also very dry and witty, and some of the one-liner notes in particular are really funny. Karlinsky’s taken the concept of crank letters to the Nobel authorities and created a most wonderfully readable fiction. Satisfyingly, the notes at the end reveal enough of what is fact and fiction to clear the reader’s mind. The book is scattered with illustrations and the end section has some fascinating biographical facts.


This is a really inventive piece of fiction, blurring the lines between the real and the made up in a most entertaining way. I’m not always a great fan of modern fiction, but TSL was an excellent and enjoyable read and deserves to be much more widely known – highly recommended!