Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Low Heights by Pascal Garnier and Melanie Florence (translator)

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Edouard is an exemplary example of a crotchety old man – changing his mind, and blaming anything and everything – even that decision – on other people. He's physically fine, apart from one hand disabled by a stroke, but mentally, what with forgetting his past, assuming too many days are Sundays when they're not and buying too many inappropriate things, he needs a nurse – Therese, who has formed an unlikely and almost unwanted couple with him. For Edouard, the memory of his wife who died ten years ago is still a little too strong. But this unusual 'family' is about to be upset by an unexpected arrival, who will stir the emotions and life of their remote house no end… Full review...

Refuge by Dina Nayeri

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Sinking boats in stormy seas, national borders boosted with barbed wire, and overcrowded shelters – the media's portrayal of seeking asylum focuses on the process in its darkest, most dangerous form. What happens after tumultuous journeys and temporary shelter is not news; and life after decades in the new country is rarely headline material either. But in Dina Nayeri's Refuge, it is the life after that takes centre stage. Full review...

Across the Ocean by Hawa L Crickmore

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A young cage fighter, Martin Grandson, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder which required a bone-marrow transplant, preferably from a sibling. Only recently he'd been a fit young man, in the prime of life, but now he was suffering from a rare type of bone cancer: without the transplant he would be paralysed for life and might be dead within the next twelve weeks if he didn't receive the transplant within the next fourteen days. Unfortunately Martin's parents had died in a car crash and there were no siblings or other close relatives. His girlfriend, Celia, was not a match. Full review...

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

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Set in Istanbul in 2016, Three Daughters of Eve centres on Peri, a Turkish woman who finds herself thinking back to her years at Oxford University to distract herself from a boring dinner party. Her reminiscing is triggered when she finds an old polaroid of herself, her friends Mona and Shirin, and the rebellious Professor Azur. Much of her thoughts revolve around the scandal that prevented her from graduating from her dream university. More of a commentary on religion than a story, the novel asks many questions about faith - in particular, Islam - and whether its customs and traditions can be adapted to suit modern life. Full review...

The Hidden Keys by Andre Alexis

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Tancred Palmieri is a talented thief thrown into the path of Willow Azarian an eccentric, unpredictable heroin addict. She is also part of the Azarian dynasty, bequeathed almost a million dollars upon her father's death. Each of the Azarian children were also gifted a deeply personal memento mori, which Willow is convinced make up an intricate treasure hunt. She enlists the help of Tancred to steal each item, solve the mystery and prove she is not blindly following a baseless fantasy. Tancred must use all his skills to infiltrate the homes of each of Willow's siblings, uncover the clues hidden in each item and fight off the rival interests of competing criminals and the police. Full review...

Yuki Means Happiness by Alison Jean Lester

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High-tech and high-rise, kimonos, and big-eyed visuals – through a dynamic juxtaposition of the ultra modern and the traditional, Japan has succeeded in branding itself both as an intriguing travel destination that does not cease to surprise, but at the same time defies being ever wholly full understood by outsiders. All of this has come to be encapsulated and reinforced in Sofia Coppola's cult classic Lost in Translation: the iconic still of Scarlett Johansson standing at the scramble crossing in Shibuya has come to represent Japan in pop culture as much as the more traditional cherry blossom imagery. Full review...

The Favourite by S V Berlin

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Siblings Edward and Isobel Vernon haven't spoken in years and live on opposite sides of the Atlantic. When their mother Mary dies unexpectedly, they are thrown together to sort through the family home. With Edward's diffident but devoted girlfriend, Julie, making an awkward threesome, each stumbles through the practicalities of funeral preparation and house clearing, trying to make sense of their emotions and their feelings toward one another. Isobel makes a disturbing discovery and her fateful decision has consequences for all of them, challenging their beliefs about the past, hopes for the future and understanding of Mary's role in keeping them at once apart and together. Full review...

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

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In June 2009 Isaac Vargas sends his assistant, twenty-four-year-old Alice Whitley, to Bel Air, California to help Mimi Gillespie produce her long-awaited second novel. Under the name M.M. Banning, Mimi issued a wildly successful novel back in the 1970s, Pitched, which quickly became a modern classic on every American adolescent's list of assigned reading for school. She's the sort of figure Harper Lee was for decades: a one-hit literary wonder and an infamous recluse. But there's one key difference here: Mimi has a nine-year-old son, Frank. Full review...

The Way Back to Us by Kay Langdale

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A household revolves around its weakest member and because it's revolving there's always a danger that some people - such as a spouse - will be spun to the outside, whilst other children, loosely attached to the main carer will be at a distance, never completely close, but never escaping either. In the centre are the carer and the person who needs that care, bonded together in such a way that it's actually difficult to offer help or even friendship. So it is with Anna and Teddy, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA as it's generally known. He's five now, confined to a wheelchair or his Whizzybug and not putting on much weight as chewing and swallowing are difficult. Full review...

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years Old by Hendrik Groen and Hester Velmans (translator)

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As the old adage goes, to walk a mile in someone else's shoes is to gain some understanding of what it is to be that person. Admittedly, Hendrik Groen isn't much up for long walks any more, but he does acquire a swish mobility scooter to zoom around in; one could say that we get to zoom a mile in Groen's shoes, and oh, what fun shoes he wears! Full review...

Shelter by Sarah Franklin

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Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women's Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.
Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.
What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect? Full review...

Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

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18 year old Rachel Fullsmith returns home to Kenya after being away at school in England and finds a lot can change in 6 years. Of course she realises her mother's death would alter things but she's not prepared for her father's live-in 'companion' Sara nor Sara's son Harold sleeping in Rachel's old room. Michael the Kikuyu servant boy she grew up with is still there though and now a man with his own ideas. Meanwhile the unrest between the British rulers and the local Mau Mau fighters is increasing and about to blow. Full review...

Summer at Hope Meadows by Lucy Daniels

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Animal Ark was a popular series of children's books written between 1994 and 2008. The stories focus on a young girl called Mandy Hope, the daughter of two vets who run a practice, Animal Ark, in the Yorkshire town of Welford. Along with her best friend James, the children seek to help out creatures in need. The series consisted of 94 books in total and was written by a collection of authors writing under the pseudonym Lucy Daniels. Summer at Hope Meadows is the first in a new series for adult readers, continuing grown-up Mandy's story now that she is a fully qualified vet. Full review...

Madame Bovary of the Suburbs by Sophie Divry and Alison Anderson (translator)

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It starts with becoming a homeowner, then settling in, then reproducing.

Well, it actually starts a lot before then, with a set of fractured memories of our heroine's childhood – things she recalls her parents and relatives saying both to and about her. It goes through her childhood, and pen letters to a best friend conveying her wishes for her life, those wishes being revised and affirmed by the liberty of university years, those wishes being met with or denied by married life… Someone archly could point out that you should be careful what you wish for, but not even our wise, modern woman could not see the next step after the reproducing – standing disappointed in front of the refrigerator. Full review...

Some of Us Glow More Than Others by Tania Hershman

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I won't be alone in stating that reading short story collections can be slightly awkward. Going through from A-Z, witnessing a bounty of ideas and characters in short order can be too much, but do you have the right to pick and choose according to what appeals, and what time you have to fill? The sequence has carefully been considered, surely. Such would appear to be the case here. The last time I read one of this author's collections, with The White Road, the only real difficulty was holding back and rationing them, but here you not only get a whopping forty pieces of writing, they are also spread into sections. Full review...

Court of Lions by Jane Johnson

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Kate Fordham arrived in the sunlit city of Granada a year ago. In the shadow of the Alhambra, one of the most beautiful places on earth, she works as a waitress serving tourists in a busy bar. She pretends she's happy with her new life – but how could she be? Kate's alone, afraid and hiding under a false name. And fate is about to bring her face-to-face with her greatest fear. Five centuries ago, a message, in a hand few could read, was inscribed in blood on a stolen scrap of paper. The paper was folded and pressed into one of the Alhambra's walls. There it has lain, undisturbed by the tides of history – the Fall of Granada, the expulsion of its last Sultan – until Kate discovers it. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate's life forever. Full review...

Together by Julie Cohen

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This is a love story told backwards, in the most beautiful manner, so that we know from the very beginning that Emily and Robert love each other enormously, and that he is about to break her heart in the most dreadful way in order to protect a secret that they've lived with for decades. Seeing their love unfold in reverse is beautiful. We get to know them once they have already gotten to know each other, and it makes for an unusual and interesting structure. The secret they hold is referred to throughout, but it isn't revealed until very late in the book. I'm guessing very few readers will figure it out. Even once you know, you want to go back and read the whole story again in the light of the information you now hold. Full review...

Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall

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Kate and Harriet are best friends growing up together on an isolated Australian cape. As the daughters of the lighthouse keepers, the two girls share everything, until a fisherman, McPhail, arrives in their small community. When Kate witnesses the desire that flares between him and Harriet, she is torn by her feelings of envy and longing. An innocent moment in McPhail's hut then occurs that threatens to tear their peaceful community apart. Full review...

The Shifting Pools by Zoe Duncan

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Perhaps the most overused phrase in fiction publishing is life-affirming, closely followed by human condition. The Shifting Pools takes this to a whole new level. Its blurb boasts that it is charged throughout with the beautiful urgency of life, whatever that means. It isn't. And that's the problem. This isn't a bad book, but it sets itself up to fail. A cardinal rule of writing is focus on the small stuff. If you set out to write a life affirming novel that answers all the big questions, you'll struggle. And it is this trap that Zoe Duncan falls into. In her quest for profundity she loses her way. Full review...

The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy

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Mary and Bunny. That's how it has always been ever since Bunny was born. Two sisters with an unbreakable bond, twisted together so tight that they were two sides of the same coin. Bunny was Mary's whole world; nothing else really mattered; school...friends...boys...well, maybe one boy, but he was something altogether extraordinary. When the unthinkable happened, Mary and Bunny found themselves completely alone in the world, and that's when Mary decided to take an unforgettable road trip, just the two of them, across the United States, in search of a place where they could belong. Full review...

The Woolgrower's Companion by Joy Rhoades

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1945: The war is in its dying days and creating problems far from the different fronts. For instance, in Australia, what can be done with the Italian POWs brought into the country? The solution seems to be their use as cheap labour. In this way Kate Dowd's father agrees to take two onto his sheep farm in drought-ridden New South Wales. Kate is initially wary of the two men – Vittorio and Luca – but gradually she realises that not all dangers come from outside her community. Life on a sheep station may be harsh but for Kate it's going to get a lot worse. Full review...

Septimania by Jonathan Levi

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First and foremost a tale of love, Septimania delivers the frustrations and agony of two people who find each other and then lose each other, all on the same day. But what a momentous day! Life takes Malory and Louisa off in totally different directions but strangely their paths cross again and again. Malory, searching to uncover his past, moves to Rome and discovers great and incredible facts about his ancestry. Louisa, a brilliant mathematician, is head hunted for 'secret' work and is signed up by her father for a life time's contract with the American Government. She completely disappears from Malory's life and he has no way of knowing how to find her again. They are both trapped in their separate lives. Full review...

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator)

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Meet Pierre-Francois. He should by rights be an antiques dealer, as he made a fortune selling on his first collection (of erasers) while at school, and funded both his university and carnal education, with prostitutes, by trading too. He is, however, a patent and intellectual property lawyer, and his wife is forever demanding a reduction in the space his collections take up in their flat. But he still dabbles – although this latest visit to the showrooms will cause a lot of unexpected incident. In amongst the grot at a low-key sale he finds an ancient pastel, showing himself – a bewigged, antique version of himself, even if, however, nobody else sees the connection between Pierre-Francois and the picture's subject. Still, as an effeminate uncle told him, real objects carry memory of their past owners – and Pierre-Francois is intent on finding the truths behind those memories. Little does he know just what he will discover… Full review...