Book review – fiction

An 1850 engraving of slaves fleeing from Maryland to Delaware by way of the Underground Railroad

America’s slaves and the Underground Railroad

15 October 2016 9:00 am

It is difficult to write well about slavery. As with the Holocaust, the subject’s horrific nature lends itself too easily…

Men behaving badly in suburban California

8 October 2016 9:00 am

‘Leonard Michaels (1933–2003) was one of the most admired and influential American writers of the last half century,’ states the…

Nell Zink - Copyright Fred Filkorn

Nell Zink’s much-hyped ‘genius’ is looking decidedly underused

8 October 2016 9:00 am

Nell Zink’s route to publication became something of a story in itself: one that involved an email exchange about birds…

Sex among the spreadsheets

3 September 2016 9:00 am

This exhilaratingly lowbrow first novel concentrates on money and lust or, to put it more bluntly, sex and the City.…

Hamlet, as retold from inside the womb

3 September 2016 9:00 am

Ian McEwan’s novels are drawn to enclosed spaces. There is the squash court upon which the surgeon plays a meticulously…

A very Mexican shaggy dog story — from Juan Pablo Villalobos

3 September 2016 9:00 am

The Mexican author Juan Pablo Villa-lobos’s first short novel, Down the Rabbit Hole (Fiesta en la madriguera), was published in…

Who wouldn't want to be Joseph Conrad?

27 August 2016 9:00 am

A certain sort of male novelist will always aspire to be Joseph Conrad. The seedy cosmopolitanism of his fiction and…

Peter Ho Davies’s Chinese-Americans are neither one thing nor the other

27 August 2016 9:00 am

Peter Ho Davies’s second novel, The Fortunes, is a beautifully crafted study, in four parts, of the history of the…

Gale-force lyricism from Iceland’s most poetic novelist

27 August 2016 9:00 am

Centuries before their footballers learned giant-slaying ways, Icelanders knew how to startle the world with tall stories. In the moonscape…

Tommy Wieringa’s Job-like hero has an age-old problem

20 August 2016 9:00 am

With a title like A Beautiful Young Wife, this is of course about the decline of an older husband. Professor…

J.M. Coetzee has lost the plot

20 August 2016 9:00 am

The Schooldays of Jesus is not, as it happens, about the schooldays of Jesus. It is the Man Booker-nominated sequel…

Mark Lawson hits back at the wild accusers

20 August 2016 9:00 am

Mark Lawson’s latest novel, set in Britain in the recent past, presents us with a nation in the grip of…

What could resist the Red Guards? Music and storytelling

13 August 2016 9:00 am

Madeleine Thien’s third novel, recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, begins in Vancouver with Marie, who, like the author,…

The joy of sex turns to misery in Clancy Martin’s latest novel

13 August 2016 9:00 am

Six years ago, the Canadian author Clancy Martin made a splash with his autobiographical novel How to Sell, based on…

The Angels Die spares no punches

13 August 2016 9:00 am

We can all share the anguish in the downfall of a simple soul — for movie-goers Brando’s despairing ‘I coulda’…

Colin Thubron’s Night of Fire both disturbs and consoles

13 August 2016 9:00 am

Night of Fire is Colin Thubron’s first novel for 14 years. For most of us he is better known as…

War Porn: a novel of the Iraq war that rewards repeated rereading

6 August 2016 9:00 am

In the first year or so of the Iraq occupation — or ‘big Army goatfuck’, as it is not quite…

David Eggers takes us to the ends of the earth

6 August 2016 9:00 am

In The Circle, Dave Eggers’s satirical dystopia about an insatiable Google-like conglomerate, there’s a scene in which drones hound a…

You Were Never Really Here: a thrilling hammer horror

30 July 2016 9:00 am

‘Joe lay in bed in his mother’s house. He thought about committing suicide. Such thinking was like a metronome for…

The Mare: a story of longed-for children and what children long for

23 July 2016 9:00 am

How’s this for a heartwarming set-up­­? Forty-something recovering alcoholic and aspiring artist Ginger copes with the disappointment of being unable…

Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata strikes all the right notes

2 July 2016 9:00 am

Rose Tremain sets the true story of Police Captain Paul Grüninger, commander of the Swiss border force in Canton Saint…

Imagine Me Gone: a novel about depression that isn’t at all depressing

25 June 2016 8:00 am

If it was not yet ‘The Age of Anxiety’ in 1947, when Auden published his long poem of the same…

Don't be too cool for Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent

18 June 2016 9:00 am

I suspect some readers might be too cool for this lovely book, partly because, despite its gothic horror set-up, it…

Edmund White’s fiction has not aged well

18 June 2016 9:00 am

Let’s start with arithmetic. Edmund White’s 11th novel is a book about age and ageing. The young man of the…