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Fiction

A bit of slap and tickle

14 April 2012
Skios Michael Frayn

Faber, pp.278, 15.99

Hard on the heels of the ecstatically received London revival of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off (currently playing at the Novello Theatre) comes this hilarious novel. It’s not easy to pull… Read more

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A polished fragment

The Hanging Garden Patrick White

Cape, pp.224, 14.99

One evening nearly 40 years ago the world’s press descended on Patrick White in Sydney: they rampaged outside his house, pounded its doors, shouted through windows, camped on the lawn.… Read more

To thine own self be true

31 March 2012
Azazeel Youssef Ziedan, translated by Jonathan Wright

Atlantic, pp.312, 15.99

Azazeel comes to Britain as the winner of the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, inevitably known as the ‘Arabic Booker’. It’s also been both a source of controversy and… Read more

… in the fall of a sparrow

31 March 2012
Painter of Silence Georgina Harding

Bloomsbury, pp.312, 14.99

Set in Romania in the 1950s, this is the story of two people, Augustin and Safta, who are both very different and yet very closely linked. Safta is the daughter… Read more

What was it all for?

31 March 2012
No Time Like the Present Nadime Gordimer

Bloomsbury, pp.421, 18.99

What happens to a novelist who becomes the conscience of a nation? Nadine Gordimer, who is now 89 and whose writing career began in the 1940s, has represented the progressive… Read more

Memory games

24 March 2012
The Man Who Forgot His Wife John O’Farrell

Doubleday, pp.309, 14.99

I read this novel while convalescing from pneumonia. It proved admirably fit for purpose. A light diet, mildly entertaining and with enough twists and turns of plot to serve as… Read more

Picking up the pieces

The Chemistry of Tears Peter Carey

Faber, pp.271, 17.99

‘The World of Interiors’ might have been a better title for this novel. Its two chief protagonists, Catherine Gehrig and Henry Brandling, live a century and a half apart, but… Read more

A choice of first novels

24 March 2012

Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat (Virago, £12.99) comes garlanded with praise from the likes of J. M. Coetzee and Hilary Mantel. Rogan, who has only taken up writing after a career… Read more

Joy to the world

17 March 2012
A Perfectly Good Man Patrick Gale

Fourth Estate, pp.405, 16.99

Patrick Gale’s new novel could be read as a companion work to his hugely successful Notes from an Exhibition, and in fact, in a satisfying twist, some characters and even… Read more

Enigma variations

17 March 2012
The Detour Gerbrand Bakker

Harvill Secker, pp.230, 12.99

This is a novel full of hints and mysteries.  Why does the Dutch woman rent a house in rural Wales, bringing with her a mattress, some bedding and a portrait… Read more

Deviation and double entendre

17 March 2012
Briefs Encountered Julian Clary

Ebury, pp.364, 12.99

If there’s anything full-time novelists hate more than a celebrity muscling in on their turf, it’s the celebrity doing such a good job that it seems as if anybody could… Read more

Thirty years on

10 March 2012
Uncommon Enemy Alan Judd

Simon & Schuster, pp.349, 18.99

One of the pleasures of Alan Judd’s books is their sheer variety. His work includes biographies of Ford Madox Ford and Sir Mansfield Cummings, the first head of what became… Read more

A matter of life and death

10 March 2012
Capital John Lanchester

Faber, pp.650, 17.99

Hmm. Of the 30-plus characters in this novel, not one is both black and British. Odd, since it’s set in 2007-8, in south London. An early passage shows us a… Read more

Apocalypse now

10 March 2012
The Land of Decoration Grace McCleen

Chatto, pp.304, 12.99

The blurb on the front of Grace McCleen’s debut novel (from Room author Emma Donoghue) proclaims it to be ‘extraordinary’, and goes on to praise it as ‘brutally real’, commending… Read more

The view from the top

3 March 2012
Over the Rainbow Paul Pickering

Simon & Schuster, pp.303, 16.99

Halfway through this book, the veil lifted, and I thought: ‘I see! I see what he’s trying to do!’ Pickering gets his characters, and moves them along, and then, after… Read more

Tragedy of Antigone

3 March 2012
The House on Paradise Street Sofka Zinovieff

Short Books, pp.336, 12.99

Sofka Zinovieff’s absorbing first novel has two narrative voices. Maud is the English widow of Nikitas, whose death in a mysterious accident leads her to contact Antigone, the mother-in-law she… Read more

A choice of recent thrillers

3 March 2012

Sam Bourne’s new thriller, Pantheon (HarperCollins, £12.99), is set just after Dunkirk in the darkest days of the second world war. James Zennor, an experimental psychologist, returns to his family’s… Read more

Our man in Vienna

25 February 2012
Waiting for Sunrise William Boyd

Bloomsbury, pp.358, 18.99

Just in case Private Eye smells a rat, let me put my cards on the table. Not once, but twice, I have sent the galley proofs of my novels to… Read more

Many parts of man

18 February 2012
The Divine Comedy Craig Raine

Atlantic, pp.184, 15.99

In some ways, you’ve got to hand it to Craig Raine. Two years ago, after a distinguished career as a poet and all-round man of letters, he published his first… Read more

Winter wonderland

18 February 2012
The Snow Child Eowyn Ivey

Headline Review, pp.432, 14.99

Jack and Mabel move to Alaska to try to separate themselves from a tragedy — the loss of their only baby — that has frozen the core of their relationship.… Read more

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Bookends: A network of kidney-nappers

18 February 2012

Raylan Givens, an ace detective in the Raymond Chandler mould, has encountered just about every shakedown artist and palooka in his native East Kentucky. His creator, Elmore Leonard, is a… Read more

Frank exchange of views

11 February 2012
Hope: A Tragedy Shalom Auslander

Picador, pp.292, 16.99

Solomon Kugel is morbidly obsessed with death: his own, and that of those he loves, including his wife Bree and his only son Jonah. He spends his idle hours writing… Read more

Intrigue and foreboding

11 February 2012
A Small Circus by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hofmann

Penguin Classics, pp.578, 20

In 2009, Alone in Berlin, Hans Fallada’s masterpiece about civilian resistance to Nazism, appeared in English for the first time. Now A Small Circus, Fallada’s literary breakthrough, makes its English… Read more

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Menace, mystery and decadence

11 February 2012
The Alexandria Quartet Lawrence Durrell

Faber, pp.880, 14.99

Amateurs in Eden Joanna Hodgkin

Virago, pp.335, 25

It is fitting that Charles Dickens’s bicentenary coincides with Lawrence Durrell’s centenary, for the two novelists have crucial resemblances: both of them are triumphant in the intensity and power of… Read more

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Bookends: Trouble and strife

4 February 2012

It isn’t true that Joanna Trollope (pictured above) only produces novels about the kind of people who have an Aga in their kitchen: what she writes about are families. Her… Read more