Newest General Fiction Reviews

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Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin and Megan McDowell (translator)

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Meet Carla. She's a glamorous older woman, with poise and beauty, and someone who still looks a treat in a golden bikini. But inside, she's different. The biggest issue she seems to bear relates to an event a few years ago, when her horse breeder husband had the drama of both a hired, valuable stallion, and their son, being poisoned. Away from the right medical treatment, Carla took David to a woman who said the only hope was a 'migration' – basically, to farm out part of David's spirit and swap it with someone else's, to dilute the toxin. This was a success, as David seems to have survived, although Carla is sure it was the wrong decision – she now sees David as at least part monster. But another odd thing about this tale is that it isn't being narrated by Carla, but by her neighbour, another mother called Amanda, who is renting a holiday home nearby. And the further odd thing is to whom she is narrating this story – it's to David… Full review...

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill

5star.jpg General Fiction

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Pierrot is a piano prodigy, and Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary show the world has ever seen. Seperated as teenagers and sent off to work during the Great Depression, both descend into the city's underworld - dabbling in sex, drugs, and theft. Will Rose and Pierrot ever reunite? And if they do - what lengths will they go to to make their dream come true? One thing's for sure - neither they nor the theatre nor the underworld will ever look the same... Full review...

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

4star.jpg General Fiction

I have often said that much of what I know of the world, its geography, history and politics, I have learned from reading story books. Because I learn this way, I do wonder about people who profess not to read fiction. I wonder how much of the truth of how the world really is passes them by as a result. In the light of 2016 in the UK and the USA, I wonder if this is a concern to be added to all of the others about cuts to arts funding and arts learning and the absolute necessity of having public libraries where children can start to choose for themselves at the earliest age, which stories to read, uncensored by the views of those who might think they know better. I say all this because Pachinko is yet one more of those books that did not just make me think differently about what I thought I knew, but actually opened up to me a world that I knew nothing about: the world of the ethnic Korean in Japan. Full review...

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Solimar wants more from her life than her Mexican home can offer and now she's 18, she can go find it. Her target is to get to the USA, a target so blinding that she doesn't realise what reaching out for it will cost. Meanwhile Kavya is living the American dream. She's rich in friendship, family, a loving husband and life prospects and yet Kavya has a baby-shaped hole in her world. The problem is that there's only one baby for both of them… Lucky boy! Full review...

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

4star.jpg General Fiction

Kate Battista is in an odd and not entirely satisfactory situation. At the age of twenty nine she finds herself working as a teaching assistant and running the home for her scientist father (who is eccentric, to say the least) and her younger sister Bunny, who might be fifteen but is actually three going on thirty. Dr Battista has other problems - and when he has a problem he offloads them onto Kate (he's concerned that she hasn't yet done his taxes). This time though, it's serious. Pyotr, his brilliant young lab assistant, is in the USA on a visa and it's about to expire. If that happens Dr Battista is convinced that he'll not be able to complete his work and all that he's done will be for nothing. Full review...

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Reading the blurb for this novel, the first novel for adults by author Dawn O'Porter, I got very excited. It talks about the cow being a piece of meat, born to breed, one of the herd, and compares this to women, saying how they don't have to fall into a stereotype. I expected a slightly subversive novel about feminism. What I found was an easy to read, enjoyable romp through three modern women's lives. Full review...

City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

5star.jpg General Fiction

It would be unkind and certainly unfair to say that it was Stacey Grant's mother who was the cause of Stacey losing her job: she might well have been the trigger but it was her manager, Jeff Dodds, who used her request to work flexibly as an excuse to make her redundant. There was a lot of support for Stacey - the staff were as stunned as she was, but in terms of the people she could rely on, there were just a few. Her mother was out of the equation : it was her dementia which started the problem and her husband Steve was wrapped up in the fact that he'd just been promoted to board level in his job. There were the girls: the four of them had met at University and Stacey, Melissa, Beth and Gaby had been firm friends ever since. And there was Bruno the dog. Full review...

Sealskin by Su Bristow

4star.jpg Fantasy

Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous ...and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives - not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Full review...

Blind by Cath Weeks

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

American ex-pat Twyla is ready to be the perfect mother. She never dreamed her first child would be anything other than perfect himself, but when he's born blind she is forced to re-evaluate her view of the world. Full review...

For a Little While by Rick Bass

4star.jpg Short Stories

For a Little While is a collection of twenty-five short stories from Rick Bass. As someone previously unacquainted with Bass' work this new collection was a wonderful introduction to his quirky, unusual style which focuses on stripped back, simple fables featuring often mundane situations, mysterious characters and magical experiences. The characters in each tale are beautifully crafted and the stories are dreamy, loose narratives covering everything from love to death to choices made and chances taken. Full review...

Shtum. by Jem Lester

5star.jpg General Fiction

Jonah Jewell is ten years old; he likes Marmite sandwiches, being outside and sticking exactly to his routine. He cannot speak but he communicates his wants and needs clearly. The adults in his life do nothing but speak but they do not communicate nearly as effectively as Jonah. While functioning from the outside, this is the story of a family falling and tearing each other apart. Ben Jewell needs to fight for his son and by doing so needs to learn how to fight for himself. Full review...

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend's future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt. What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Moving from a life in her parents basement to a life in New York City, Shelby remains damaged by the loss of her best friend, stumbling through life blindly and fighting desperately to become connected to anything at all. But, as she grows, she discovers emotion, survival and happiness, bundled up with dogs, food, books and men she's probably best avoiding… Deep in New York City she find a circle of lost and found souls, and the angel who's been watching over her since that fateful night all those years ago… Full review...

The Horseman by Tim Pears

4star.jpg General Fiction

The Horseman feels like a novel written much earlier than 2016. This is in large part because it is set in 1911 in rural Somerset but also because Pears writes in a style which is reminiscent of authors in the twentieth century, if not the nineteenth. Readers who are hoping for action, pace and suspense will be sorely disappointed in The Horseman, in which not a lot happens at all; the story could easily be condensed into a couple of pages. However, if you have a rainy weekend in a cosy cottage somewhere, Pears provides the perfect companion, giving readers an antidote to frenetic, twenty first century urban life. Full review...

Octavio's Journey by Miguel Bonnefoy and Emily Boyce (translator)

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Meet Octavio. He's a large lunk, a gentle giant, living alone in a lowly Venezuelan town – a town which once, fleetingly, had fame, fashion and success through a minor miracle, but has none any longer. Octavio, it seems, has some unusual habits – here he is, marching off to the chemist's with a table across his back, for it was all the doctor had at the time to write a prescription on. Now we never learn exactly what the cause of the prescription was, but we soon find out what the cause of the table is – Octavio cannot read, and has learned nothing beyond cutting into his palm to allow the wound to let him escape the need to write. Until, that is, a woman seems to suggest a way for him to learn to read and write, and to love – but that experience also proves to Octavio that there is a whole host of other things he can put his mind to, both for good, and for bad… Full review...

The Things We Learn When We're Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

5star.jpg General Fiction

On the way to a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. Waking up in what appears to be a hospital, but a hospital in which wine is served for supper, everyone avoids her questions, and her nurse looks suspiciously like Sean Connery, it soon transpires that Lorna is in Heaven, or, at least, on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. At first Lorna can remember nothing, but as her memories return – some good, some bad, she realises that she has a decision to make, and that maybe, she needs to find a way home… Full review...

Kill the Next One by Federico Axat

4star.jpg Thrillers

After getting started with the opening chapters of Spanish writer, Federico Axat's Kill the Next One, you might be forgiven for thinking you are stuck with one of those machismo riddled tales where a middle-aged man with a mysterious past is forced to shoot or blunder his way through a by-the-numbers thriller. The spectre of Lee Child's successful Jack Reacher series creeping in around the edges of the page. The novel opens with Ted McKay and his Browning pointed to his temple. He has the perfect life, including a beautiful wife and two adoring children, but has discovered that he is also in possession of an untreatable tumour buried deep within his brain which is slowly killing him. However, right before he decides to take the shot and end his life, there is a knock on his door. Standing behind it is a man named Justin Lynch who tells Ted that he represents an all-knowing organisation that turns would-be suicides into opportunities to correct the imbalances of the law. Ted, instead of killing himself, could kill someone who really deserves it. Full review...

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

4star.jpg General Fiction

Claude is the baby of the family. He's very bright. He has a vocabulary way beyond his years so he can hold his own in the rough and tumble of a house containing four older brothers, an emergency doctor mother and a writer father. Claude also likes to wear dresses. He wants to become a night fairy when he grows up. And one day, Claude becomes Poppy. He becomes she. Poppy's parents, Penn and Rosie, aren't too concerned at first - children all like to try on different identities and why should Claude/Poppy be any different? But it soon becomes clear that Poppy isn't play-acting at being a girl. Poppy is a girl. And things get complicated... Full review...

You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman

4star.jpg General Fiction

A woman known only as A lives in an unnamed American city with her roommate, B, and boyfriend, C, who wants her to join him on a reality dating show. A eats mostly popsicles and oranges, watches endless amounts of television, often just for the commercials — particularly the recurring cartoon escapades of Kandy Kat, the mascot for an entirely chemical dessert — and models herself on an impossible standard of beauty. She fixates on the fifteen minutes of fame a local celebrity named Michael has earned after buying up a Wally's Supermarket's entire, and increasingly ample, supply of veal. Meanwhile, B is attempting to make herself a twin of A, who in turn hungers for something to give meaning to her life, something aside from C's pornography addiction. Maybe something like what's gotten into her neighbors across the street, the family who's begun ghosting themselves beneath white sheets with holes cut for eyes… Full review...

Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki and Polly Barton (translator)

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Murakami, and (long before the film) Endo's Silence. That's my limit as regards contemporary Japanese writing. But now there's Tomoka Shibasaki, and her noted work Spring Garden. Which, make no mistake, is definitely Japanese. For instance, if I told you it starts with a man looking up to watch his female neighbour on her balcony, and concerns obsession, you could well think it was his about her. But no – perhaps only in the west is the gaze so male. The obsession is very much hers here, and it – and the novel – concern a singular house. And the very singular country it lives in, and the changes it is going through… Full review...

English Animals by Laura Kaye

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

When Mirka gets a job in a country house in rural England, she has no idea of the struggle she faces to make sense of a very English couple, and a way of life that is entirely alien to her. Richard and Sophie are chaotic, drunken, frequently outrageous but also warm, generous and kind to Mirka, despite their argumentative and turbulent marriage. Mirka is swiftly commandeered by Richard for his latest money-making enterprise, taxidermy, and soon surpasses him in skill. After a traumatic break two years ago with her family in Slovakia, Mirka finds to her surprise that she is happy at Fairmont Hall. But when she tells Sophie that she is gay, everything she values is put in danger and she must learn the hard way what she really believes in. Full review...

Rockadoon Shore by Rory Gleeson

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Cath is worried about her friends. DanDan is struggling with the death of his ex, Lucy is drinking way too much and Steph has become closed off. A weekend away is just what they need. They travel out to Rockadoon Lodge, to the wilds in the west of Ireland. But the weekend doesn't go to plan. JJ is more concerned with getting high than spending time with them, while Merc is humiliated and seeks revenge. And when their elderly neighbour Malachy arrives on their doorstep in the dead of night with a gun in his hands, nothing will be the same again for any of them... Full review...

Another Day Gone by Eliza Graham

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

A single event from the past has the power to create a chain-reaction that has powerful consequences in the future. This is a theme explored and expanded upon in Another Day Gone, the story of sisters Sara and Polly who, despite being close during childhood, have grown emotionally distant from one another after Polly discovers a devastating family secret. We join their story at the point where the prodigal sister, Polly, returns home after years of no contact with her family. Sarah contacts their old nanny Bridie in the hope of piecing together the family mystery and unearthing the secrets before it is too late, but Bridie's memory is failing and some secrets may be lost forever. Full review...

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

4star.jpg General Fiction

Anthony Peardew lost the love of his life before they married. In the midst of his tragedy he found solace and purpose in collecting 'lost things' - things that were left behind on trains, in parks, or found in the gutter, and he records each and every one carefully, in the hope that perhaps some day they can be reunited with their rightful owner. He writes stories about the items he finds, becoming a published author. However, as he grows older and starts to realise that he is dying, he knows he must hand over the task to someone else choosing his housekeeper, Laura, to take on what is, to her, a completely unknown aspect of his life. Full review...

The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Mr Tom Hope is becoming Mr No Hope. His wife has been killed in an accident, and he's now left, haplessly trying to bring up their two young daughters. While his mother in law is a help in the beginning, she soon adopts a cruel-to-be-kind approach and decides to leave him to it, knowing the only way he'll step up is if he has no choice in the matter. Full review...

The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain

4star.jpg Women's Fiction

The Amirs are dysfunctional: there's really no other way of putting it. They're of Bangladeshi origin and they're the only Muslim family in the small village of Wyvernage. On the surface they look to be happy, but actually each of the sisters is struggling in her own way. For the most part they're doing it quietly, but it's not always the case. The eldest is Fatima. Her name's often abbreviated to Fatti: it's not meant unkindly, but she's well upholstered and at thirty she's unmarried. Even her mother doesn't seem to think that there's much point in trying to find a husband for her. Full review...

In the Field by Jesse Loncraine

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

In the Field is essentially a story of two mothers who have been separated from their sons. Liz and her (adult) son Orin are both Western journalists, while Christine and her 12-year-old son Paul are from a remote village in East Africa. After major surgery, Liz flies to East Africa to find her son who has gone walkabout. At the same time, Christine is mourning the loss of her own family: her husband has been killed and her son abducted by militia. Full review...

Rasmus: A Television Tale by PJ Vanston

4star.jpg General Fiction

It's all about the ratings in the world of TV. Therefore the BBC, part of the British televisual establishment since TV was invented, feels it has nothing to fear from a new internet channel. However those in control don't understand what – and who – is behind this new phenomenon. The mysterious Rasmus has a plan and some savagely innovative ideas; nothing can stand in his way. Full review...

Something Is Rotten in Fettig: A Satire by Jere Krakoff

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Leopold Plotkin finds himself in some very hot water when he initiates the Mud Crisis. Leopold inherited the family butcher's shop and he is a very good and skilled butcher. But he doesn't like people watching him work and is generally lacking in social skills. The shop's trade suffers and Leopold decides to cover the window with mud so that no-one can see inside. Full review...

The Boy by Wytske Versteeg

5star.jpg General Fiction

Kito was a withdrawn child. It was difficult for his parents, especially his mother, to reach him. Like many children who turn inwards, he struggled to make friends at school. And those he did make seemed only to use him for access to his games consoles. His dark skin also marked him out for bullying. Kito went missing after a class trip to the beach. His body was discovered when it washed up on the sand. Kito had drowned. Full review...