A lost brother: My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is, by Paul Stanbridge, reviewed

Grief leads us down some strange roads. Few, though, can be as peculiar as those charted by Paul Stanbridge in his auto-fictional My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is. This singular and striking book follows a narrator (the extent to which this figure overlaps with Stanbridge is kept teasingly obscure) mourning the suicide of his brother, an isolated, eccentric mathematician. Yet, while it contains passages of raw tribute, it is a self-consciously tricksy narrative. Stanbridge circles around his brother’s death via some of history’s more overgrown byways, such as ‘Clever Hans’, the mathematical horse, locked-in syndrome and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s enthusiastic onanism. There’s a suggestion of Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Flights to

Homage to the greatest 18th-century poet you’ve never heard of

If you were to glance only briefly at the title of the Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s prose debut you might be forgiven for assuming that A Ghost in the Throat was a story about demonic possession — and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Demonic? No. Possession? Certainly. This spectral, arresting and at times disorientating autofiction is, most simply, the story of an author and her muse. But it isn’t just a story. Its fusion of historical biography, memoir and literary criticism makes it an intoxicating experiment in genre while also a heady and sensitive read. And that seems to be Ní Ghríofa’s modus operandi. As she sets out on

Mothers and daughters: I Couldn’t Love You More, by Esther Freud, reviewed

A new novel by Esther Freud — her ninth — raises the perennial but always fascinating question about the use of autobiography in fiction. Since her first novel, Hideous Kinky, Freud has frequently used an underpinning of autobiography, but mostly it’s been discreet. You didn’t need to distinguish what was life, what fiction. But with I Couldn’t Love You More the auto-biographical element has become overt and somehow obtrusive. Freud’s previous novel, Mr Mac and Me, concerned with Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s stay in Suffolk at the start of the second world war, is on the cusp of being an historical novel. This one is close to autofiction. In the acknowledgements,