An avian allegory: Dinosaurs, by Lydia Millet, reviewed

Adapt or die. That brutal Darwinian dictum is too blunt to serve as the motto of Dinosaurs, Lydia Millet’s slim, quietly powerful 12th novel, but the threat of extinction, implicit in the title, hovers in the air. Bird-obsessed – our feathered friends are ‘the last of the dinosaurs’ – the novel tracks two years in the life of a ‘stricken’ character who feels ‘less than whole’. Gil was damaged in early childhood by the sudden death of both parents, and then by a second abandonment, by a long-term girlfriend who absconded, leaving a three-word note: ‘I met someone.’ Gil is rich, having inherited his grandfather’s fortune. He has few friends

A post-racial world: The Last White Man, by Mohsin Hamid, reviewed

Mohsin Hamid’s fifth novel opens with a Kafkaesque twist: Anders, a white man, wakes to find that he has turned ‘a deep and undeniable brown’. Unrecognisable to his entourage, he first confesses his predicament to Oona, an old friend and new lover. Similar metamorphoses begin to be reported throughout the country and violence ensues as pale-skinned militants stalk the streets. In its use of a speculative device, The Last White Man recalls Hamid’s 2017 Booker-shortlisted Exit West, in which migrants teleport through Narnia-like doors. Whereas his first three books played with narrative conventions – a trial framing Moth Smoke (2000), dramatic monologue in The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) and the self-help

The dictator of the dorm: Our Lady of the Nile, by Scholastique Mukasonga, reviewed

In the cloud-capped highlands of Rwanda, even the rain-makers sound like crashing snobs. When two teenage pupils from Our Lady of the Nile lycée slope off to consult the sorceress Nyamirongi about some boyfriend trouble, she sizes up their genealogies and comes over all Mitford duchess: ‘You’re not from very good families. But nowadays they say it no longer matters.’ Like so much in Scholastique Mukasonga’s novel, it’s a comic scene with a rumble of menace in the background — akin to the rainy season’s distant thunder in these lush, green hills. Where you belong — your people, your connections, your identity — has been a matter of life and