Child prodigy

The great deception: The Book of Goose, by Yiyun Li, reviewed

As introductions go, ‘My name is Agnès, but that is not important’ does not have quite the same confidence as ‘Call me Ishmael’. But there’s a reason for this. Agnès Moreau, the narrator of Yiyun Li’s disconcerting, mesmerising fifth novel The Book of Goose, only became a storyteller by accident. Writing from Pennsylvania, where the ‘French bride’ Agnès raises geese, she remembers post-war rural France and her childhood in Saint Rémy. She and her friend Fabienne, avoiding other girls their age, spent their days lying among gravestones and minding cows – until Fabienne decides that they should write a book together. Fabienne’s stories are dark – dead babies, dead children,

Boy wonder: The Young Pretender, by Michael Arditti, reviewed

During his brief stage career Master Betty, or the Young Roscius, was no stranger to superlatives: genius, unparalleled, superior, Albion’s glory, a Child of Nature, the Wonder of the Age. He was a child prodigy who, in the early 19th century, took British theatre by storm. Aged just 11 William Betty made his debut and was hailed as a second David Garrick. Bettymania ensued: theatres fought for his services and the House of Commons adjourned early to see him tread the boards. But it didn’t last. After two years Betty’s star had faded. In Michael Arditti’s latest novel, The Young Pretender, we follow Betty, now aged 20, as he attempts