Jude Cook

Hanif Kureishi – portrait of the artist as a young man

If any novelist, playwright or screenwriter of the past 40 years could be called ‘a writer of consequence’, to use the literary agent Andrew Wylie’s term, it would be Hanif Kureishi. While not shifting units on the scale of his near contemporaries Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie, Kureishi’s cultural influence – through his

The difficulties faced by identical twins

Despite being a twin myself, I wasn’t necessarily disposed to love William Viney’s Twinkind, a book for which the phrase ‘lavishly illustrated’ might have been invented. Much writing on twins intended for the general reader (including recent fiction such as Brit Bennett’s bestselling The Vanishing Half) has been produced by non-twins, or writers who have

Unholy row: The Choice, by Michael Arditti, reviewed

Michael Arditti’s 13th novel The Choice is full of tough moral conundrums. The central dilemma facing Clarissa Phipps, the rector of St Peter’s Church in Tapley, Cheshire, is particularly knotty. Should she remove the church’s panels depicting a troublingly sensuous Eden, painted by the degenerate artist Seward Wemlock in the 1980s, or leave them to

The lady vanishes: Collected Works, by Lydia Sandgren, reviewed

‘When someone leaves, existence splits into a before and an after.’ Lydia Sandgren’s epic, multigenerational saga explores both these existences within the Berg family in a novel that won Sweden’s August Prize in 2020 before going on to sell more than 100,000 copies in Sweden alone. Rakel Berg is only 11 when her mother, the

A treasury of wisdom about the writing life

In the penultimate entry of Toby Litt’s A Writer’s Diary, an autofictional daily record of a writer named Toby Litt (which first appeared from Substack), he admits he began the project wanting to write ‘the best book that has ever been written about writing – about the physical act of writing, and the metaphysical act’.

Planning a New Jerusalem: The Peckham Experiment, by Guy Ware, reviewed

The Peckham Experiment was a radical, if earnest, initiative begun in 1926 in which working-class families were given access to physical activities, such as swimming, as well as workshops and a shot at cultural betterment. It’s into this rather worthy scheme that identical twins, the subjects of Guy Ware’s novel, are born: Charlie and JJ,

Inside New India: Run and Hide, by Pankaj Mishra, reviewed

The first novel in more than 20 years from the essayist and cultural analyst Pankaj Mishra is as sharp, provocative and engagé as you’d expect. An exploration of Narendra Modi’s autocratic, Hindu-nationalist New India seen through the progress of three graduates from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, it’s also reassuringly rich in characterisation and

The first Cambridge spy: A Fine Madness, by Alan Judd, reviewed

For his 15th novel, the espionage writer Alan Judd turns his hand to the mystery of Christopher Marlowe’s death. The result is never less than engrossing, with Judd putting the scanty known facts about the great playwright to ingenious use. The story is narrated from the King’s Bench prison by Thomas Phelipps 30 years after

Eliminate the positive: Come Join Our Disease, by Sam Byers, reviewed

Sam Byers’s worryingly zeitgeisty second novel, Perfidious Albion, imagined a post-Brexit dystopia dominated by global tech companies, corrupt spin doctors, shady think tanks and the corporate manipulation of government. So far so true — were it not for the current pandemic, one might call him a soothsayer. His third, aptly titled novel, Come Join Our

The children’s hour: first novels brim with close family observations

Kiley Reid’s Philadelphia-set debut, Such a Fun Age (Bloomsbury, £12.99), is a satire on white saviour syndrome, woke culture and virtue-signalling motherhood. That it manages this balancing act with such political finesse and humour is testament to the powers of its author, who, like her heroine Emira, the 25-year-old black baby-sitter, spent time nannying for

A sea of troubles | 4 July 2019

Andrew Ridker’s The Altruists (Viking, £20) is a Jewish family saga of academic parents and grown-up offspring. From this rather careworn material he manages to wring a spry comedy of parental failure and romantic misadventure. Arthur Alter is a terrible father, an ‘emotional cheapskate’ who attempts to bring his estranged children Ethan and Maggie together

A banquet of delights

While the short story is currently under-going one of its periods of robust, if not rude, health, its two dominant modes — the classical or Chekhovian, and the postmodern or experimental — have become harder to define, with authors happily borrowing tricks from both approaches. None of the collections here can definitively be confined to

Appointment with death

It’s reassuring that of Ed Docx’s three admirably eclectic, though sometimes uneven, previous novels, Let Go My Hand most resembles the capacious, Booker long-listed Self-Help. Like that book, this is fiction with heft and moral nuance; a novel that gets its hands dirty in the soiled laundry basket of family secrets and resentments. As such,

Nine angst-ridden men

‘Insufficiency’ is a favourite David Szalay word. The narrator of his previous novel, Spring, suffered from ‘insufficiency of feeling’; in this new collection of carefully juxtaposed tales, a Scottish ne’er-do-well adrift in Croatia decides his smile is ‘insufficient’. Szalay’s dissections of masculinity can produce wonders from such banal anxieties. Over 400 pages, he goes to

The heavens are falling

The dystopian novel in which a Ballardian deluge or viral illness transforms planet Earth has become something of a sub-genre, and Clare Morrall’s astute and vigorously imagined novel follows on from the best of them, such as Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy and (most recently)Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Antonia Honeywell’s The Ship. Intriguingly,