Book review – fiction

The Charlie Hebdo attacks form a backdrop to a complicated love triangle in C.K. Stead’s latest novel

17 February 2018 9:00 am

There has been much debate recently about what exactly constitutes ‘literary’ fiction. If the term means beguiling, gorgeously crafted novels…

Emily Hill is the Saki of sex

10 February 2018 9:00 am

How I love short stories! Long before the internet realised that we can’t sit still long enough to commit to…

Denis Johnson: where pain and comedy collide

3 February 2018 9:00 am

The death of Denis Johnson last May marked the loss of a great original who catalogued the lives of junkies,…

Trying hard to be somebody in Trump’s America

3 February 2018 9:00 am

For Horace Hopper, the half-breed protagonist of Willy Vlautin’s bleak new novel, essential truths come slowly, and usually too late…

Crime and puzzlement in Tony White’s Oulipo-inspired novel

3 February 2018 9:00 am

Tony White’s latest novel begins for all the world like a police procedural, following the delightfully named sleuth Rex King…

For Julian Barnes, the only story is a love story — and it’s inevitably sad

27 January 2018 9:00 am

The story, as it emerges, feels both familiar and inevitable. A bored 19-year-old student, on his university holidays in mid-century…

Michelle de Kretser: the modern Australian Jane Austen

27 January 2018 9:00 am

Twenty-odd pages into Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come, I pounded the table and bellowed an Australian-accented ‘fuck yeah!’…

An 80th birthday party causes no end of trouble in Barney Norris’s latest novel

20 January 2018 9:00 am

‘People live in the space between the realities of their lives and the hopes they have for them,’ muses the…

Jenny Erpenbeck finds a novel way to tackle the migrant problem

20 January 2018 9:00 am

The title of Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go Went Gone, and the autumnal tone of its beginning — a classics professor retires,…

Drugs and drag queens in New York’s vanished clubland

25 November 2017 9:00 am

In 2014 Michael Alig, impresario, party promoter and drug provider, was released on parole after 17 years in prison for…

Susie Boyt neatly skewers the self-help trends

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Grief is not being able to eat a small boiled egg. ‘Could you face an egg?’ the widowed Jean asks…

More menace - and magic - on the moors

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney was one of the surprise stand-outs of last year, and a worthy winner of the…

The enigma of Enric Marco

11 November 2017 9:00 am

Enric Marco has had a remarkable life. A prominent Catalan union activist, a brave resistance fighter in the Spanish Civil…

More secrets, symbols and awesome truths from Dan Brown

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Being reflexively snotty about Dan Brown’s writing is like slagging off Donald Trump’s spelling: it just entrenches everyone’s position. In…

Growing up with the Little Nursing Sisters

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Suffering, wrote Auden, takes place ‘while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along’. His…

The Telemachuses: even quirkier than the Addams family

21 October 2017 9:00 am

This delightfully good-humoured novel is the sort of genre scramble that doesn’t often work: there’s a bit of 1990s family…

The one almighty problem with Philip Pullman’s storytelling

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Philip Pullman’s new k, the prequel to his Northern Lights series — the one north Oxford academics very much prefer…

Outcasts, émigrés and refugees crowd the latest debut novels

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Black Rock White City (Melville House, £16.99) is ostensibly about a spate of sinister graffiti in a Melbourne hospital. ‘The…

Is there any such thing as a truly frightening ghost story?

21 October 2017 9:00 am

How do you like your ghosts? Supernatural fiction is arguably the hardest to get right. Ideally it should terrify, but…

Could John Banville please go back to being himself?

7 October 2017 9:00 am

Did I enjoy this novel? Yes! Nevertheless, it dismayed me. How could John Banville, whom I’ve admired so much ever…

Love and tragedy in Orhan Pamuk’s Oepidean tale

2 September 2017 9:00 am

The Red-haired Woman is shorter than Orhan Pamuk’s best-known novels, and is, in comparison, pared down, written with deliberate simplicity…

Nights of the living dead in London’s bomb-damaged theatreland

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Patrick McGrath is a master of novels about post-traumatic fragmentation and dissolution, set amid gothic gloom. His childhood years spent…

Journeys to Israel and self-realisation: Forest Dark reviewed

2 September 2017 9:00 am

‘I frankly hate Descartes,’ states a character in Nicole Krauss’s new novel, Forest Dark: ‘The more he talks about following…

Modern terrorism and ancient Greek tragedy: Isis meets Antigone

2 September 2017 9:00 am

If someone was to lob the name Antigone about, many of us would smile and nod while trying to remember…

Nelson Mandela meets Mrs Dalloway in Johannesburg

19 August 2017 9:00 am

Martin Amis once said that the writer’s life is half ambition and half anxiety. While one part of your brain…