mon 18/10/2021

fiction

Jonathan Franzen: Crossroads review - can goodness ever be its own reward?

It’s Christmas 1971 in New Prospect, a suburb of Chicago, and pastor Russ Hildebrandt has plans for time alone with Frances, an attractive young widow who’s just moved back into town.Important facts become quickly apparent: Russ resents his long-...

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Sarah Hall: Burntcoat review - love after the end of the world

Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat is one of those new books with the unsettling quality of describing or approximating a great moment in history and its aftermath, as the reader is still living through it. This could be trite, but Hall manages to make it...

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Colson Whitehead: Harlem Shuffle review - period piece speaks to the present

More than once, reading Colson Whitehead’s latest novel Harlem Shuffle, the brilliant Josh and Benny Safdie movie Uncut Gems from 2019 came to mind, which was unexpected. For one, Whitehead’s book takes place on the other side of Central Park, far...

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Sebastian Faulks: Snow Country review - insects under a stone

Historical fiction – perhaps all fiction – presents its authors with the problem of how to convey contextual information that is external to the plot but necessary to the reader’s understanding of it.Some authors supply an omniscient third-person...

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Claire-Louise Bennett: Checkout 19 review - coming to life

Like any good writer, Claire-Louise Bennett loves lists. Lists are, after all, those moments when words, freed from grammar’s grip, can simply be themselves – do their own thing, show off, let loose. It doesn’t take much for Bennett to let one...

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Thora Hjörleifsdóttir: Magma review - love burns in debut novel from Iceland

Thora Hjörleifsdóttir’s Magma is certainly not an easy read. It describes, in short chapters, the obsessive and ultimately destructive power of an abusive relationship. It is, at times, patchily written (perhaps because we have been...

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10 Questions for novelist Mieko Kawakami

Mieko Kawakami sits firmly amongst the Japanese literati for her sharp and pensive depictions of life in contemporary Japan. Since the translation of Breasts and Eggs (2020), she has also become somewhat of an indie fiction icon in the UK, with her...

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Adam Mars-Jones: Batlava Lake review - pride and prejudice in the Kosovo War

For a slim book of some 100 pages, Batlava Lake by Adam Mars-Jones is deceptively meandering. The novella is narrated by Barry Ashton, an engineer attached to the British Army troops stationed with the peacekeeping forces during the Kosovo War....

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Danielle Evans: The Office of Historical Corrections review - what happens when history comes knocking

There’s something refreshing about fiction you can easily trace back to the question “what if?” What if this or that existed? What would happen? What could? That question doesn’t have to send you down memory lane, wondering about roads not...

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Victoria Mas: The Mad Women's Ball review - compelling plot meets disquieting history

To this day, if you take a stroll down Paris’ Boulevard de l’Hôpital, you’ll come across an imposing building: the Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière. It’s one of Europe’s foremost hospitals. It’s the place where 20th-century icons Josephine Baker and Michel...

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Kylie Whitehead: Absorbed review - boundary-blurry, darkly funny debut

Absorbed meets Allison at the end of her relationship with Owen. They are at a New Year's Eve party when she realises that their 10-year partnership has wound down. So far, so normal. But even within this introduction, we are drawn into Allison's...

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Lucy Caldwell: Intimacies review - exploring the empty spaces

In the first short story of Lucy Caldwell’s collection Intimacies, “Like This”, one of the worst possible things that could ever happen to a parent occurs. On the spur of a stressful moment in a café, an overloaded mother takes her screaming toddler...

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