Book review – fiction

An inflatable boat with 47 migrants is rescued off Libya’s coast in January 2019. Credit: Getty Images

Desperate souls: Travellers, by Helon Habila, reviewed

29 June 2019 9:00 am

Death by water haunts the stories of Africans in Europe that flow through this fourth novel by Helon Habila. From…

Niven Govinden. Credit: Dan Lepard

A drag army in waiting: This Brutal House, by Niven Govinden, reviewed

29 June 2019 9:00 am

Niven Govinden’s This Brutal House is set in the demi-monde of the New York vogue ball. This is an organised,…

Boer refugees were herded by the British into cattle trucks to be shunted into concentration camps at Bloemfontein in 1901. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Brutish Brits: You Will Be Safe Here, by Damian Barr, reviewed

25 May 2019 9:00 am

Damian Barr explains the upsetting genesis of his impressive debut novel, You Will Be Safe Here, in his acknowledgements: This…

Murder in the basement: The Language of Birds, by Jill Dawson, reviewed

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Jill Dawson has a taste for murder. One of her earlier novels, the Orange shortlisted Fred and Edie, fictionalised the…

Writing as revenge: Memories of the Future, by Siri Hustvedt, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Why are people interested in their past? One possible reason is that you can interact with it, recruiting it as…

Sam Lipsyte. Credit: Ceridwen Morris

Hitting the bullseye: Hark, by Sam Lipsyte, reviewed

16 February 2019 9:00 am

This is an ebullient, irreverent and deeply serious novel in the noble tradition of Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis (especially Babbitt…

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Fun at the EU’s expense: The Capital, by Robert Menasse, reviewed

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Stendhal likened politics in literature to a pistol-shot in a concert: crude, but compelling. When that politics largely consists of…

Kristen Roupenian Credit: Urszula Soltys

Kristen Roupenian’s debut short stories fulfil all expectations

9 February 2019 9:00 am

Kristen Roupenian’s debut collection, You Know You Want This (Cape, £12.99), comes hotly anticipated. Her short story, ‘Cat Person’, went…

Credit: Ian Hill

The Australian James Joyce: the novels of Gerald Murnane reviewed

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Gerald Murnane is the kind of writer literary critics adore. His novels have little in the way of plot or…

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Where would we be without crime’s heavies? Muscle, by Alan Trotter, reviewed

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Let’s hear it for the heavies, the unsung heroes of noir crime fiction on page and screen. The genre would…

Jeeves and Bertie Wooster by Roger Payne. [Bridgeman Images}

Bertie takes on the Black Shorts: Jeeves and the King of Clubs, by Ben Schott, reviewed

1 December 2018 9:00 am

In 2016, inspired by reports that Donald Trump’s butler had recommended the assassination of Barack Obama, Ben Schott wrote a…

Uwe Johnson at his desk [Getty]

Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries is an astonishing achievement

24 November 2018 9:00 am

The most striking and difficult aspect of this novel is its incredible scale. How can a reviewer best discuss an…

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Heredity is only half the story

27 October 2018 9:00 am

The Romans invoked Fortuna, the goddess of luck, to explain the unexplainable; fortune-tellers study tea leaves to predict the unpredictable.…

Car On Country Road, Dartmoor, UK

The road trip from hell: A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better, by Benjamin Wood, reviewed

27 October 2018 9:00 am

A lingeringly strange atmosphere hangs about Benjamin Wood’s third novel, in which the settings and paraphernalia of a new wave…

Sally Rooney. Credit: Jonny L. Davies

A friendship in flux: Normal People, by Sally Rooney, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

‘Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t…

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Deep in the forest’s mysteries: The Cloven, by Brian Catling, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

Brian Catling’s great trilogy takes its title from The Vorrh, his first volume. This final book fulfills all the promises…

The burden of freedom: Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

It’s 1830, and among the sugar cane of Faith Plantation in Barbados, suicide seems like the only way out. Decapitations…

Sebastian Faulks (Rex Features)

Hoping to find happiness: Paris Echo, by Sebastian Faulks, reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a serious novel must be in want of a theme. Paris Echo soon…

Christopher Priest (Getty Images)

All things lead to 9/11: An American Story, by Christopher Priest, reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 many writers spoke of feeling immobilised. The scale of the attacks and the world’s…

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A paean to lesbian love: Aftershocks, by A.N. Wilson, reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The polymath writer A.N.Wilson returns to the novel in Aftershocks, working on the template of the 2011 earthquake which devastated…

Caught between fascism and witchcraft: All Among the Barley, by Melissa Harrison, reviewed

25 August 2018 9:00 am

All Among the Barley, Melissa Harrison’s third ‘nature novel’, centres on Wych Farm in the autumn of 1933, where the…

Too much American angst: the latest short stories reviewed

25 August 2018 9:00 am

In ‘A Prize for Every Player’ — one of 12 stories in Days of Awe, a new collection by A.M.…

The plight of the returnee: A Terrible Country, by Keith Gessen, reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

If the 20th century popularised the figure of the émigré, the 21st has introduced that of the returnee, who, aided…

Unlucky in love: Caroline’s Bikini, by Kirsty Gunn, reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

‘The most interesting novels are a bit strange,’ Kirsty Gunn once told readers of the London Review of Books. ‘They…

From the Iliad to the IRA: Country, by Michael Hughes, reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

Recently there has been a spate of retellings of the Iliad, to name just Pat Barker’s The Silence of the…