Fiction

Bernadine Evaristo shoulders weighty themes lightly: Girl, Woman, Other reviewed

21 December 2019 9:00 am

It’s a slippery word, ‘other’. Taken in one light, it throws up barriers and insists on divisions. It is fearful…

Dave Eggers’s satire on Trump is somewhat heavy-handed: The Captain and the Glory reviewed

14 December 2019 9:00 am

A feckless moron is appointed to the captaincy of a ship, despite having no nautical experience. The Captain has a…

Tame family dramas: Christmas in Austin, by Benjamin Markovits, reviewed

14 December 2019 9:00 am

My partner’s brother once found himself accidentally locked into his flat on Christmas Day, which meant having to spend it…

The good sex award goes to Sarah Hall: Sudden Traveller reviewed

14 December 2019 9:00 am

Sarah Hall should probably stop publishing short stories for a while to give other writers a chance. If she’s not…

Nostalgia for old Ceylon: lush foliage and tender feelings from Romesh Gunesekera

30 November 2019 9:00 am

Empires are born to die; that’s one source of their strange allure. An untenable form of society judders, in technicolor…

Ben Lerner’s much hyped latest novel reads like an audit of contemporary grievances

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Things keep recurring in the novels of Ben Lerner — snatches of conversation, lines of poetry, Lerner himself. But in…

Less radical, less rich: Elizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again is a disappointment

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-prize winning Olive Kitteridge (2008) is the novel I recommend to friends who don’t read much. Talk about…

Dieting to death: a black comedy of boarding school life

9 November 2019 9:00 am

It sounds in bad taste, but Scarlett Thomas has written a riotously enjoyable novel about a boarding school full of…

Our appetite for ‘folk horror’ appears to be insatiable

26 October 2019 9:00 am

This eerie, shortish book apparently had an earlier outing this year, when it purported to be a reissue of a…

Ian McEwan’s anti-Brexit satire is a damp squib

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Kafka wrote a novella, The Metamorphosis, about a man who finds himself transformed into a beetle. Now Ian McEwan has…

Jessie Burton’s The Confession is, frankly, a bit heavy-handed

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Jessie Burton is famous for her million-copy bestselling debut novel The Miniaturist, which she followed with The Muse. Now she’s…

Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House is even better on second reading

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Having a saint in the family is dreadful, They’re often absent, either literally or emotionally, and because they’re always thinking…

As Lyra grows up, Philip Pullman’s materials grow darker

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Two years after Philip Pullman published La Belle Sauvage, the prequel to His Dark Materials trilogy, we have its long-awaited…

An uncanny gift for prophecy — the genius of Michel Houellebecq

28 September 2019 9:00 am

The backdrop of Michel Houellebecq’s novel is by now well established. In this — his eighth — the bleak, essentially…

Haunted by a black cat: Earwig, by Brian Catling, reviewed

28 September 2019 9:00 am

Genuinely surrealist novels are as rare as hen’s teeth. They are a different form from the magic realist, the absurdist,…

A novel take on the Western: Inland, by Téa Obreht, reviewed

17 August 2019 9:00 am

Téa Obreht’s second novel is an expansive and ambitious subversion of Western tropes, set in fin de siècle America. We…

A child’s-eye view of the world: The Curse of the School Rabbit, by Judith Kerr, reviewed

10 August 2019 9:00 am

Is there a more perfect children’s writer for this generation than Judith Kerr? She started with a tiger — The…

Eternal truths: Night Boat to Tangier, by Kevin Barry, reviewed

10 August 2019 9:00 am

It lives in me still, the intense thrill when, as a child, I would listen to the Irish people around…

Washed up in Istanbul: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, by Elif Shafak, reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Elif Shafak once described Istanbul as a set of matryoshka dolls: a place where anything was possible. As with much…

Star-crossed lovers: Sweet Sorrow, by David Nicholls, reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

The 16-year-old hero of David Nicholls’s fifth novel is ostensibly Everyboy. It is June 1997, the last day at dreary…

At long last love: Live a Little, by Howard Jacobson, reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Towards the end of Live a Little, one of its two main characters says: ‘I’m past the age of waiting…

Savagery in the Cape Colony: Red Dog, by Willem Anker, reviewed

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Red Dog is an ambitious hybrid of a book. It was published in South Africa to wide acclaim in 2014…

Haunting short stories of fear and frustration

6 July 2019 9:00 am

In Nicole Flattery’s Show Them a Good Time (Bloomsbury, £14.99), her female protagonists grapple with abusive relationships, degree courses, difficult…

Beauty on the beach: Isolde, by Irina Odoevtseva, reviewed

6 July 2019 9:00 am

France was to blame. Yes, France was most definitely to blame. He was never like this at home. So thinks…

A novel about depression that doesn’t depress: Starling Days, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, reviewed

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan has achieved that rare feat, in her second novel Starling Days, of writing a convincing novel about…