Susie Mesure

A treatise on greed: The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff reviewed

Lauren Groff writes to alleviate her angst about aspects of life she finds hard to confront. Climatic disaster, misogyny, spousal death, flawed utopias and pandemics have all fuelled the plots of books as disparate as Fates and Furies, her 2015 contemporary two-hander about marital verisimilitude, and Matrix, which features a 12th-century feminist abbess based on

The stepmother’s tale: Take What You Need, by Idra Novey, reviewed

All writers studying their craft should be encouraged to try translation, thinks Idra Novey, the Pennsylvania-born novelist, poet and, si, translator. Working in another language confers the freedom to slip out of their own voices, developing their own tone in the process, she told one interviewer. On the strength of Novey’s third novel, Take What

Mother trouble: Commitment, by Mona Simpson, reviewed

There is more than one way to read the title of Mona Simpson’s seventh novel Commitment, a multigenerational family saga set mainly in California in the 1970s and 1980s. There is the ‘hospital commitment’ Diane Aziz, a single mother of three teenage children, needs after sinking into a deep depression shortly after her eldest, Walter,

Voice recognition: Big Swiss, by Jen Beagin, reviewed

When Flavia, 28, starts seeing a sex therapist called Om – a name that is as ‘on-the-nose’ as everything in Hudson, NY, the college town without a college where Jen Beagin sets Big Swiss – she is upfront about her ground rules.  Having been brutally attacked a few years earlier, she says to Om: Can

A cruel eviction: This Other Eden, by Paul Harding, reviewed

When Paul Harding won the 2010 Pulitzer for Tinkers, he was a literary unknown who had all but abandoned hopes of his debut novel getting published until a tiny independent publisher chanced upon it. That story, about George Crosby, a dying clock- repairer who lived in Maine, heralded Harding as a great new voice, championed

A child’s-eye view of the not-so-good life

Since winning the Costa prize for best first novel in 2008 with The Outcast, Sadie Jones has become known for well-crafted plots exploring isolation, shame and troubled families. In Amy and Lan, she sticks with some similar themes but shakes things up by using two child narrators to tell their own stories. As the seasons

Parallel lives: Violets, by Alex Hyde, reviewed

When Violet wakes up in Birmingham Women’s Hospital at the start of Alex Hyde’s debut novel her first thought is of what has happened to the enamel pail of blood, because she hates the idea of someone else emptying it: ‘Was that what it meant, lifeblood? Placental, uterine. She had seen the blood drop out

Lydia Davis masters the art of translating without a dictionary

‘Read slowly, word by word, if you wish to understand what I am saying.’ Despite appearing in Essays Two, the latest non-fiction collection from Lydia Davis, this exhortation is by the Norwegian author Dag Solstad; yet the approach is apt for Davis’s work. This is not because Davis, a feted translator and writer who won

Reassess every relationship you’ve ever had before it’s too late

‘Reading is a celebration of the mystery of ourselves,’ according to Elizabeth Strout, who writes to help readers understand themselves and other people. In Oh William!, Strout resurrects Lucy Barton, the enigmatic heroine of a previous novel, setting her on a mission to get to know William, her first husband. This is Strout’s third outing