Sisterly duty: The Painter’s Daughters, by Emily Howes, reviewed

The painter in the title of Emily Howes’s first novel is Thomas Gainsborough, famous, of course, as a great portraitist – ‘the curs’d face business’, as he once called it – and landscape artist. His daughters by his wife Margaret were Molly and Peggy, immortalised in half a dozen double canvases by their father. These family pictures allow us to intrude upon the sisters’ special intimacy as we follow their development from carefree girls playing in their native Suffolk to their emergence as fashionable young women in Bath and London society. Ultimately, it’s the secret of Molly’s mental instability that keeps the two sisters inseparable One of these paintings of

Water, water everywhere: Touring the Land of the Dead, by Maki Kashimada, reviewed

Maki Kashimada won the 2012 Akutagawa Prize for Touring the Land of the Dead, the strange, unsettling novella that makes up half of this volume. It is translated here for the first time from the Japanese into English by Haydn Trowell, alongside Kashimada’s ‘Ninety-nine Kisses’, a short story based on Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s classic novel about four unmarried women, The Makioka Sisters. In Japan, Kashimada has become known for her avant-garde, nonconformist style. These two offerings are exemplary pieces. In Touring the Land of the Dead, a woman called Natsuko returns to a hotel she went to as a child with her mother and brother; now she is with her disabled