Patrick Skene-Catling

From New York to the New Hebrides

The best new first novels are variously set in New York, New Orleans and the New Hebrides

Publication of a debut novel is an experience comparable with the birth of a first child. Literary gestation is normally a longer process, and delivery of a book is more deeply fraught. Here is some evidence that the labour can be worthwhile.

Asymmetry (Granta, £14.99) by Lisa Halliday, a young American now living in Milan, is a lopsided triptych of admirable erudition and stylishness — in effect, two novellas and a short story: a Manhattan romance, an Iraqi reminiscence of the devastation of Baghdad, and a BBC interview on Desert Island Discs.

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