Kate Webb

Whose truths are they anyway?

Transcription, Kate Atkinson’s 11th novel, sees her returning to the detective fiction she honed in her series about Jackson Brodie, the haunted private eye who, after the murder of his young sister, chased the killers of girls. It also pursues some of the themes of her more recent fictions, Life After Life and A God

When worlds collide

In her keynote lecture for a conference on ‘The Muse and the Market’ in 2015 Aminatta Forna mounted a powerful advocacy for the political novel, challenging the assumption that politics or ‘subject’ undermines literary aesthetic. ‘A political novel can fail as a work of art as much as any other novel,’ she argued, ‘but the

A friend in need

The title of Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go Went Gone, and the autumnal tone of its beginning — a classics professor retires, leaving him at home raking leaves, mulling over memories of his wife and wondering about the body in a nearby lake — suggests that this will be a book of endings, something akin to Anita

The violence of poverty

Neel Mukherjee has had a two-handed literary career, working as a reviewer of other people’s novels and writing his own. In 2014, his second novel, The Lives of Others, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His latest book is a state-of-the-globalised-nation novel which gives human particularity to those deadened concepts we pass around such

Things fall apart | 17 November 2016

Ali Smith is that rare thing in Britain: a much-beloved experimental writer. Part of her attraction for readers is that she continually connects formal innovation and the freedom to reinvent a story with the freedom to reinvent the self. It’s a beguiling proposition that can make liberation seem like a matter of style. Following the

The art of listening

Rachel Cusk is a writer who provokes strong reactions in her readers, and her critical reputation has swung wildly in a short space of time. Many, who not long ago were offended by the overflowing emotion of her memoirs of motherhood and divorce, are now full of praise for her current trilogy of novels, admiring

Tales out of school | 25 August 2016

At first glance Sean O’Brien’s new novel appears to focus on England’s devotion to the past. Even its title carries the sense and long-sustained rhythm of things going on as before. As if to underscore the point, Once Again Assembled Here is set in the autumn of 1968, a year often portrayed in fiction to

One day, two lonely people

Twenty-four long hours, two lonely people, one city in decline. This is the premise of A.L. Kennedy’s new novel Serious Sweet, a work full of anger at what has happened to London since the Thatcher revolution and concern for the city’s isolated, impotent inhabitants. Kennedy’s representative Londoners are Jon, a divorced and fusty civil servant,

Life in a glass house

‘First and last I was, and always would be, an American,’ Jeremy O’Keefe, the professor narrator of Patrick Flanery’s new novel, insists, with just the kind of pedantic over-emphasis that makes the reader suspicious. Equally dubious is the way he talks. Having spent the last decade at Oxford teaching and writing a book about the

A lonely ice maiden

‘Mystery comes through clarity’, is how Rupert Thomson recently described the effect he was trying to achieve in writing. It’s an apt phrase for his latest book, Katherine Carlyle. Thomson has previously published nine novels but has never achieved wide public recognition, partly because of their lack of uniformity. This, though, is what has attracted

The lonely struggle of Jude the obscure

Just over a century after Virginia Woolf declared that ‘on or about December 1910 human character changed’, the American novelist Hanya Yanagihara has announced a new shift in consciousness. Jude, the lead character in A Little Life, is known to his friends as the Postman, ‘post-sexual, post-racial, post-identity, post-past’. The obscurity of his origins (left