Ferdinand Mount

Spectator books of the year: Ferdinand Mount on Colm Tóibín

I have always loved Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale. I now have an equal fondness for Sathnam Sanghera’s Marriage Material (Heinemann, £14.99), which is a reworking of the Black Country classic translated to a Punjabi corner shop in Wolverhampton. Every bit as rich and sad and comic as the original.

Meanwhile, back in the subcontinent, M.J. Carter’s The Strangler Vine (Fig Tree, £14.99) follows the trail of the Thuggees, the throttling sect of Kali-worshippers, and comes up with a startling denouement. Is it a thriller, or an anti-colonial satire or Wilkie Collins with saris? Irresistible any way you take it.

If you loved Colm Tóibín’s Brooklynyou won’t be able to remain indifferent to his Nora Webster (Viking, £18.99). Tóibín is now in full view as Ireland’s greatest novelist since John McGahern, and this is his best yet. The ache of a widow’s grief is rendered with such an unadorned intensity that you might not think the book could be entertaining too, but it is.

Read the other Spectator books of the year

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Written by
Ferdinand Mount
Ferdinand Mount was head of the No. 10 policy unit under Margaret Thatcher. He is author of a number of books, including ‘The New Few: Power and Inequality in Britain Now’.

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