City life

Sweet and sour: Barcelona Dreaming, by Rupert Thomson, reviewed

I’ve never been to Barcelona, but Rupert Thomson makes it feel like an old friend. The hot, airless nights and the car engines, ‘exhaust fumes mingled with frangipani’ and beneath the smell of jasmine ‘the stale, slightly medieval smell of drains’. Cafés con leche and jugs of caipirinha with wedges of lime and crushed ice. The clutter of pink-and-white buildings and the port, ‘the masts of boats swaying and clicking in the offshore breeze, the sunlight glassy, dazzling’. In places, those buildings give way to dusty wastelands — ‘areas like this were common in Barcelona’. The city of Thomson’s nostalgic 13th novel existed in the early 2000s, the financial crash

An independent observer: Whereabouts, by Jhumpa Lahiri, reviewed

After falling in love with Italy as a young woman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri broke with English and began writing in Italian. Her new novel — a slim and bewitching tale of a woman at her midpoint — she wrote first in Italian and has since translated. The story is told in a series of vignettes, the lengthiest six or so pages. Each is titled with the setting — in the office, at the register, on the street — and paints an exquisite picture of a single soul moving thoughtfully about her city. ‘I don’t share my life with anyone,’ says that soul early on. She lives alone