The end of days: It Lasts Forever And Then It’s Over, by Anne de Marcken, reviewed

How do you picture the end of days? ‘When I was alive, I imagined something redemptive about the end of the world,’ muses the unnamed narrator in It Lasts Forever And Then It’s Over. ‘I thought it would be a kind of purification. Or at least a simplification. Rectification through reduction.’ But no: ‘The end of the world looks exactly the way you remember. Don’t try to picture the apocalypse. Everything is the same,’ she continues from her vantage point in an afterlife, brought into vivid existence by Anne de Marcken. It’s telling that the author’s biography states that she ‘lives in the United States on unceded land of the

Unequivocally Japanese: The Premonition, by Banana Yoshimoto, reviewed

Who are you without memory? This is the question that sits at the heart of The Premonition by Banana Yoshimoto, best known for her 1988 novella Kitchen, which was a smash hit in Japan and adapted for film. The Premonition is a similarly slender work and one that casts a delicate spell. Nineteen-year-old Yayoi has the perfect family – doting parents and a brother she adores – but she feels unsettled, as if she’s forgotten something vital in her past: ‘There, in the midst of such a beautiful evening, my heart must have been full of that premonition.’ Looking for answers, she goes to live with her eccentric aunt Yukino,

Memory test: The Candy House, by Jennifer Egan, reviewed

On page 231 of The Candy House, a sequel – no, a ‘sibling’ says Jennifer Egan – to the Pulitzer prize-winning A Visit From the Goon Squad, we meet a character called Noreen. Wasn’t she in Goon Squad? Quick check and yes, there she is playing a bit-part peeping through a fence. Now she’s older, madder and still obsessed with the fence. It’s hard to decide if it’s an advantage to have read the previous novel, or if it just makes reading The Candy House like the sort of memory test that could mess with your head. This is unfortunate, since memory is key to its themes: the future of

The difficult decisions that come with downsizing

I’m perched on the bed reading an old Mothering Sunday card. It’s just one item in a box of miscellanea that I must sort and prune and I really can’t afford the time to linger. That box contains a fraction of what I have to deal with before I move house and I need to crack on. But I am sweating the small stuff. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. One of the legacies of lockdown has been a longing for more space. Across the UK, families with children are falling over themselves to find bigger places. It’s a downsizers’ market right now for those of us who feel

Lord Lucan, Joan Collins and the greatest dinner ever

There’s a narrow stretch of Chelsea, south of the King’s Road from Oakley Street to Ormonde Gate, that reminds me of post-war London when I first came here with my dad. Names such as Margaretta Terrace, St Loo Avenue, Alpha Place and Robinson Street bring back sweet memories of youthful innocence and desire. London back then was big on rep but ranked last on comfort. Much later, towards the end of the 1950s, Queen’s Club held the second biggest tennis tournament in the land and had just one shower in the men’s locker room. (With a dirty white curtain.) It is often said that schoolboys derive no benefit from fine

I loved prison

Memories for me are like beautifully edited copy: all cleaned up and retaining only the good parts. The wife tells me that I’m quite lucky in choosing to remember just pleasant things, and of course I agree. Actually it’s not really a choice; it is almost automatic. Bad things are tucked away immediately, never to return. I suppose many idiots enjoy such forgetfulness, but then I’d rather be called an idiot than a surly grouch, complaining and finding fault with everything and everyone. Needless to say, I cannot forget Pentonville. Looking back, I recall only fun times among my fellow convicts. There was Warren, the large black man whose appeal

Technology is robbing us of the power to forget

Two years ago, Lauren Goode, a senior writer at Wired magazine, cancelled her wedding and it was awkward. These things always are, but you get over it because the brain slowly learns how to skip over painful memories. Or it did, before social media. Goode has made a career out of wittily stripping away the pretensions of consumer tech, and when her wedding plans blew up consumer tech had its revenge. She ended her eight-year relationship in 2019 — but the internet didn’t get the message and kept confronting her with ‘a cyborg version of me, a digital ghost, that is still getting married’. As she wrote in Wired, at