Newest Literary Fiction Reviews

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Review of

The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Plantagenet Palliser, the Duke of Omnium, is the prime minister of a coalition government but he's privately enraged at the seemingly unstoppable rise of Ferdinand Lopez. Lopex is exotic - some describe him as Jewish, others as Portuguese but the truth is that no one knows and Lopez is not going to explain. The ladies of society, even Palliser's own wife, Lady Glencora, are supporters but after Lopez makes an advantageous marriage Palliser is placed in the position of having to support his wife's actions when Lopez loses a by-election. The Duke's payment of Lopez' election expenses in an attempt to stem gossip about his wife will come back to haunt him. Full Review

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Review of

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It's some time since we heard from Phineas Finn. Having succeeded in parliament and achieved a paying position he fell out with those who provided his income and returned to Ireland where he married Mary, his childhood sweetheart. He was fortunate to get a job in Cork (or Dublin - recollections may vary) and seemed settled into a life of domesticity. To bring Finn back, Trollope had to kill off poor Mary and Phineas emerges in London as a childless widower with a legacy from an aunt who died at just the right time to allow the move to be possible. Full Review

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Review of

The High House by Jessie Greengrass

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Charles Darwin taught that all living matter evolved to pass on its genetic material with the implied belief that your progeny will then pass on theirs. However, that train of thought is slowly seems to have fallen out of favour. Today's young generation are discovering that their parents and their parents' parents did not seem to think that far ahead. Or they did think that far ahead and thought "it's not my problem" or "there's nothing I can do". Raising a child and living in a world on the precipice of catastrophe is what drives The High House by Jessie Greengrass. This is not a science-fiction novel. This is our reality. This is the life our children and their children will have to live. Full Review

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Review of

The Lip by Charlie Carroll

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Melody Janie Rowe even the name is evocative of…probably of whatever we want it to be, and maybe that's the point. To me the name sings of English folk music, but even in my use of that word English, I know I'm putting an emmet take on things. And Melody Janie Rowe is anti-emmet. Full Review

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Review of

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It was generally thought that Sir Florian Eustace had come to regret his marriage but he didn't live long enough for this to become a problem. After his death, his wife, Lizzie - still only in her late teens - was in possession of a very valuable diamond necklace and was determined that she would not hand it over to her husband's executors. She was adamant that Sir Florian had given it to her absolutely, although the precise circumstances of the giving varied from telling to telling. Lady Eustace was not a woman to whom truth meant a great deal. All that was important to her now, she maintained, was her son. And, of course, her diamonds. Full Review

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Review of

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Phineas Finn is the son of Dr Malachi Finn, a successful doctor in Killaloe in County Clare, who sent his son to London to train as a lawyer. Phineas's interest is more in making influential friends than in becoming a lawyer and one of them, Barrington Erle, suggests that he runs for Parliament in the forthcoming election. His father is not entirely in favour of this as members are not remunerated and it would be up to him to provide financial support for his son as well as funding his election. One of the doctor's patients is Lord Tulla who controls the borough of Loughshane and by this stroke of luck Finn is, eventually, elected by a small margin. Full Review

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Review of

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

On the surface Can You Forgive Her? looks deceptively simple: it's the story of one woman and two men who are vying with each other for her love. Alice Vavasor was originally engaged to her cousin, George Vavasor but she broke off that engagement and later became engaged to John Grey. When we first meet Alice she's on an extended tour of the continent with George Vavasor and his sister Kate. It's obvious that there's still a great deal of chemistry between John and Alice - and Kate is all for encouraging the relationship as it would tie Alice to her. George wants Alice but it's a matter of amour propre rather than love: he has little consideration for anyone other than himself and the original engagement had fallen through because of his infidelity and deceitfulness. This thread is the story of a very complicated love affair and a woman who lacks confidence in her own judgement. You might not like Alice to start with but you will warm to her. Full Review

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Review of

Sistersong by Lucy Holland

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Sistersong is part of a genre I particularly enjoy, the modern retelling of folk and fairy tales. These stories, for most of us, are a cornerstone of childhood and I relish seeing them retold with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. If handled well these retellings give new life and new meaning to stories that are now becoming increasingly narrow and outdated, fleshing out characters, examining relationships and re-evaluating the role of women. Sistersong is a perfect example of a modern retelling done well, the plot is handled with care, keeping its archaic historical feel but allowing the characters to come to life, to feel real and human, most importantly they feel relatable in a modern world whilst still feeling appropriate for the pre-Saxon age they live in. This is a masterpiece of storytelling and I was captivated from beginning to end. Full Review

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Review of

The Complete Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

When I told my daughter that I didn't know what to listen to now that I'd finished The Complete Novels of Jane Austen for the second time on the trot she had the perfect answer: The Barchester Chronicles and they were in my inbox in a matter of minutes. They're not quite as well known as the Austen books but they're an excellent follow on. Full Review

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Review of

The Complete Novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Yes - that's over eighty-one hours of listening for the purchase of one audio book. All six major novels are read by conmedienne Alison Larkin and they're presented in the order in which they were published. Full Review

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Review of

If You Kept a Record of Sins by Andrea Bajani and Elizabeth Harris (translator)

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

This was an incredibly readable novella, but one that left me a little conflicted. We start as our hero arrives at Bucharest airport, and before we even know his gender or the nature of the person he's addressing in his second person monologue of a narration, we see him picked up by his mother's chauffeur, and carted off to do all the necessary introductions before said mother is buried the following day. The mother was a businesswoman, who clearly left northern Italy and settled in Romania with her (night-time and business) partner, and feelings of abandonment are still strong. And so we flit from current (well, this came out in the original Italian in 2007, so moderately current) Bucharest, to the lad's childhood, and see just what he has to tell her as a private farewell address. Full Review

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Review of

Kokoschka's Doll by Afonso Cruz and Rahul Bery (translator)

2.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Well, this looked very much like a book I could love from the get-go, which is why I picked my review copy up and flipped pages over several times before actually reading any of it. I found things to potentially delight me each time – a weird section in the middle on darker stock paper, a chapter whose number was in the 20,000s, letters used as narrative form, and so on. It intrigued with the subterranean voice a man hears in wartorn Dresden that what little I knew of it mentioned, too. But you've seen the star rating that comes with this review, and can tell that if love was on these pages, it was not actually caused by them. So what happened? Full Review

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Review of

Snow by John Banville

5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Well, at least you're a Wexford man.

So said Colonel Osborne when he welcomed DI St John (pronounced 'Sinjun') Strafford to Ballyglass House just before Christmas 1957. Osborne was master of the Keelmore Hounds and had done something memorable with the Inniskilling Dragoons at Dunkirk. The niceties had to be established even when there was a Catholic priest dead on the library floor with some precious bits of his anatomy missing. Strafford was from Roslea at Bunclody and this, along with his good-but-shabby suit, marked him out as of Osborne's class and obviously Protestant. The dead priest was Father Tom Lawless from Scallanstown, who - despite the different religions - was in the habit of spending time at Ballyglass House. His horse was stabled there. Full Review

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Review of

Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

We long for our past even though it is a place to which we can never return. Tahi Saihate, in her debut novel Astral Season, Beastly Season illustrates how these rose-tinted glasses often lie. Her novel is a meditation on youth and how the things we do as a teenager can seem intensely important and often life-altering. Full Review

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Review of

The Phone Box at the End of the World by Laura Imai Messina

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

In the northeast of Japan, in Inwate Prefecture a man installed a telephone box in his garden. Inside there is an old black, telephone, disconnected, that carries voices into the wind. It is a real place, a necessary place, and I am pleased to see the IMPORTANT NOTE that the author attaches to her story, that the place is not a tourist destination, it is a sacred place, a place that must be left to those who really need it. Full Review

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Review of

The Disoriented by Amin Maalouf

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Adam has lived in Paris for years, speaks French more easily than his native Arabic. In fact he hasn't been back to his homeland for 25 years. An old friend is dying…or as Adam prefers to think of him a former-friend, perhaps not as harsh as an ex-friend, or maybe. The falling out was a long time ago, and Adam's partner has no idea what it was about, even so she urges him to go knowing that he'll regret not doing so. Not knowing whether he's going because he needs or wants to, or simply because he was asked, he's on the next plane. Full Review

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Review of

A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M Harris

5star.jpg Confident Readers

I have always been of the mind that once you're above picture-book level and before you get to graphic sex & violence, there is no difference between books for children and books for adults. There are good books and poor ones. And Joanne Harris does not produce poor ones. A Pocketful of Crows is clearly aimed at the younger readers as witness the use of the middle initial in the author's name to differentiate from her adult offers. Ignore that if you have loved anything from Chocolat onwards you will know that Harris is mistress of the modern fairy tale. This is no different. It is an utter delight. Full Review

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Review of

A Life Without End by Frederic Beigbeder and Frank Wynne (translator)

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

I looked at the calendar the other week, and disappointedly realised I have a birthday this year – I know, yet another one. It won't be one of the major numbers, but the time when I have the same number as Heinz varieties looms on the horizon. And then a few of the big 0-numbers, and if all goes well, I'll be an OBE. (Which of course stands for Over Bloody Eighty.) Now if that's the extent of my mid-life crisis, I guess I have to be happy. Our author here doesn't use that exact phrase, but he might be said to be living one. Determined to find out how to prolong life for as long as he wants – he would like to see 400 – he hops right into bed with the assistant to the first geneticist he interviews, and they end up with a child, which is at least a way of continuing the life of his genes, and a motive to keep on going. But how can he get to not flick the 'final way out' switch, especially when foie gras tastes so nice? Full Review

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Review of

The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Condé

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

We live in a post- world: post-colonialism, post-modernism, post truth. The list goes on. There are numerous works that utilise the prefix post- in their categorisation, but perhaps none more so than Maryse Condé. In her new novel, The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, Condé writes with fervour about the scars left by colonialism on the countries to which it latched itself. Ivan and Ivana are twins born in Guadeloupe, a French overseas department. They grow up with intense and passionate feelings for each other. As they grow up and move overseas, the ravages of a post-colonial society drive them apart with tragic consequences. Full Review

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Review of

Ogadinma Or, Everything Will Be All Right by Ukamaka Olisakwe

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The new novel by Ukamaka Olisakwe is a look at the trauma and heartache of being a woman in 1980s Nigeria. The title is Ogadinma Or, Everything Will Be All Right. Ogadinma is the eponymous heroine of the story.. We are with her in every scene and it is her narrative voice that leads the story, although Olisakwe writes in third person. This provides a sense of detachment for the reader and highlights the isolation of Ogadinma. She is exiled from her father's home and sent to Lagos where she is married to an older man named Tobe. Their marriage descends into violence and indignities and Ogadinma must utilise her resourcefulness to escape. Full Review

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