Fiction

Nina Stibbe. Credit: Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi

Further adventures of a dysfunctional family: Reasons to be Cheerful, by Nina Stibbe, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

My ex-dentist resembled a potato wearing a Patek Phillipe. In those precious moments between the golf course and the cruise…

Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Credit: Rex Features

Missive from a living fossil: Little Boy, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

In his adopted city of San Francisco, the poet, publisher and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti is venerated to levels nearing those…

In the pavilion of fun: Bowlaway, by Elizabeth McCracken, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Bowlaway, Elizabeth McCracken’s first novel in 18 years, is a great American candy-colour Buddenbrooks, a multi-generational epic spanning almost 100…

Marlon James

Tolkien in Africa: Black Leopard Red Wolf, by Marlon James, reviewed

23 February 2019 9:00 am

Anyone who has issues with Tolkien (at 16, even in a suitably ‘altered state’, I could not finish The Hobbit,…

An island’s dark secrets: The Tempest, by Steve Sem-Sandberg, reviewed

9 February 2019 9:00 am

‘I should not have gone back to the island but I did it all the same.’ So begins the Swedish…

Shakespeare on the beach: Oh I Do Like to Be..., by Marie Phillips, reviewed

9 February 2019 9:00 am

The phrase ‘Shakespeare comedy’ is an oxymoron with a long pedigree, one which perhaps stretches back to the late 16th…

Maggie Gee. Credit: Nick Rankin

Cycle of violence: Blood, by Maggie Gee, reviewed

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Maggie Gee has written 14 novels including The White Family, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s…

Credit: Alamy

Beware the female stalker: Dream Sequence, by Adam Foulds, reviewed

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Adam Foulds’s fourth novel, Dream Sequence, is an exquisitely concocted, riveting account of artistic ambition and unrequited love verging on…

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The ghostly Thames: Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield, reviewed

26 January 2019 9:00 am

While its shape is famous — prominent on maps of London and Oxford — the Thames is ‘unmappable’, according to…

Lost in allegory: The Wall, by John Lanchester, reviewed

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Dystopian fiction continues to throng the bookshelves, for all the world as though we weren’t living in a dystopia already,…

Yoko Ono in the Dakota building, on the first anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. Credit: Getty Images

Partying with John and Yoko: The Dakota Winters, by Tom Barbash, reviewed

12 January 2019 9:00 am

Tom Barbash’s dark and humorous second novel takes a risk by combining invented and real characters. I feared nagging doubts…

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Nazi caricatures: The Order of the Day, by Éric Vuillard, reviewed

12 January 2019 9:00 am

There was a time when you read French literary novels in order to cultivate a certain kind of sophisticated suspicion.…

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Love in a time of people-trafficking: Among the Lost, by Emiliano Monge, reviewed

12 January 2019 9:00 am

From the very first pages of Among the Lost, we’re engaged, and compromised. Estela and Epitafio are our main anchors,…

Chigozie Obioma. Credit: Jason Keith.

An Igbo Paradise Lost: An Orchestra of Minorities, by Chigozie Obioma, reviewed

12 January 2019 9:00 am

Nurture hatred in your heart and you will keep ‘an unfed tiger in a house full of children’. A man…

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Life and death in 1970s Belfast: For the Good Times, by David Keenan, reviewed

12 January 2019 9:00 am

David Keenan’s debut novel, This is Memorial Device, about a small town in Lanarkshire and its post-punk scene, showed that…

Ma Jian

Biting political satire: China Dream, by Ma Jian, reviewed

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Ma Jian’s novels have been banned in his native China for 30 years and he has been hailed as ‘China’s…

Andrei Navrozov.

The gambler and the hooker: Awful Beauty, by Andrei Navrozov, reviewed

8 December 2018 9:00 am

This book — the title is from Pasternak —is billed as ‘literary fiction’. The narrator, a Russian gambler and drinker…

The Sultan crosses the Golden Horn.

Tell them of Battles, Kings and Elephants, by Mathias Enard, reviewed

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Michelangelo seems never to have travelled to Turkey to advise the Sultan on a bridge to span the Golden Horn,…

Chains and planes: Turbulence, by David Szalay, reviewed

8 December 2018 9:00 am

In the opening pages of Turbulence, a woman in her seventies, who is visiting her sick son in Notting Hill,…

Alexander Chee. Credit Bloomsbury Publishing

Does an autobiographical novel really count as fiction?

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Orhan Pamuk, writing about Vladimir Nabokov’s masterful memoir Speak, Memory, noted that there was a particular ‘thrill’ for the writer…

Credit Getty Images

A darkly comic road trip: The Remainder, by Alia Trabucco Zerán, reviewed

10 November 2018 9:00 am

You could call The Remainder a literary kaleidoscope: look at it one way and you see how the past lays…

Marat was assassinated in his bath by Charlotte Corday in 1793. Credit Getty Images

Horrors of the house of wax: Little, by Edward Carey, reviewed

3 November 2018 9:00 am

The reader of Edward Carey’s Little must have a tender heart and a strong stomach. You will weep, you will…

Jonathan Coe. Credit: Getty Images

A novel view of Brexit: Middle England, by Jonathan Coe, reviewed

3 November 2018 9:00 am

Jonathan Coe writes compelling, humane and funny novels, but you sometimes suspect he wants to write more audacious ones. He…

Barbara Kingsolver. Credit David Wood

Treat in store: Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver, reviewed

3 November 2018 9:00 am

In a living room in Vineland, New Jersey, in the 1870s, a botanist and entomologist named Mary Treat studied the…

Sergio De La Pava. Credit Brian Hawkin

Manic creations: Lost Empress: A Protest, by Sergio De La Pava, reviewed

20 October 2018 9:00 am

American mass-incarceration is the most overt object of the ‘protest’ of this novel’s subtitle. The author, Sergio De La Pava,…