Newest General Fiction Reviews

From TheBookbag
Jump to: navigation, search

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...

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

5star.jpg General Fiction

Ruth Jefferson is a nurse. She looks after new mothers and their babies and she's the sort of nurse that you hope you'll encounter when it's your turn, or the turn of anyone close to you. She cares and she's good at her job, very good, in fact. Turk and Brittany Bauer and their new son, Davis, were under her care, only Turk took strong exception to Ruth having anything to do with their child: Turk and Brittany were white supremacists - and Ruth Jefferson was black, an African American and despite all her experience she was banned from caring from Davis Bauer. Full review...

Travels With My Father by Karen Jennings

4star.jpg General Fiction

Despite the coda, this does not feel like an autobiographical novel. I am not sure why Jennings felt the need to couch it in those terms unless there is much in the structure that is fiction. I'm hoping there isn't. I am hoping that the fiction is purely that conceit that this pretends to be a novel. If that was necessary to get it published, then I'll applaud the subterfuge, because this is writing that needs to be read. It is – if as true as I want it to be – a delicate reminiscence: a daughter's in memoriam to a father she loved, worshipped, idealised, cared-for, lived with, and yes (in true daughterly fashion) at times, hated. A father who was, therefore, a good dad. Full review...

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand

5star.jpg General Fiction

A year is a long time in the life of the Quinn family. So much can happen. For some people this can just be births and deaths and the whole circle of life, but for the Quinn family it's more love triangles, felonies, drug dealers who stalk you, ex-husbands who haunt you, and business opportunities transplanted from the scorching Caribbean to the cooler north east coast of America. As spring leads to summer, leads to autumn leads to winter we follow the extended family on Nantucket and in nearby cities (Boston, Manhattan) and learn that as divisive as life can be, there are some ties that will always bind you. In this case the tie is called Bart, and whatever else is happening, if he returns then everything else will all be ok. Full review...

The Watcher by Ross Armstrong

4star.jpg Thrillers

Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can't help spying on her neighbours. Then one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat. But can Lily really trust everything she sees? Full review...

Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North

3.5star.jpg Humour

For all those who think tragedy plots are too restricted and prescribed, read on. In these pages you too will see that Romeo had lots of options en route to hitting the bottle. Likewise, she could have turned away from her predestined path at no end of junctures. And to what result? Well, happy marriage and a kid called Ben, because the leads have just banged people's heads together and stopped the quarrelling, or Death by Tybalt (him) or a long life running an establishment curing murderous women, such as a Lady M (her). Full review...

Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes

5star.jpg General Fiction

Henritetta Rose-Inne's Nineveh instantly reassures you that you are in the presence of a confident and talented writer. The story of Katya Grubbs, a second generation pest exterminator who specialises in relocating the bugs and rodents that ruin middle-class garden parties, Rose-Inne writes with the enviable ability of describing both the intricacies of Katya's job and the feeling of it simultaneously. Full review...

The Gravity of Love by Sara Stridsberg and Deborah Bragan-Turner (translator)

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Particularly literate cover… Setting of a real-life mental hospital – in Sweden… Mature themes… Opening with an emotion- and closure-laden death… Yes, this book has more than its share of things to put the potential reader off. Which, in this instance, is quite a large shame indeed. Full review...

The Road To War: Duty & Drill, Courage & Capture by Steven Burgauer

4star.jpg Biography

After World War II Bill Frodsham led an everyday life, raising a family in an ordinary US suburb. He, his wife and children became friends with the Burgauer family, little Steven Burgauer knowing him as Mr F. Time rolls on and little Steven grows up, and then eventually retires from the American financial sector to write science fiction and lecture from time to time. He's therefore surprised when, out of the blue, Mr F's daughter tracks him down and presents him with a pile of handwritten notes asking Steven to make them into a book. These are Mr F's self-authored memoirs, stretching from his youth onwards and showing that this seemingly good, kind but unremarkable man was anything but unremarkable. During the war Mr F trained for the impossible and then lived it as he led men across Omaha Beach on D Day. He was then captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW in inhumane conditions. Steven accepted the request and The Road to War is the result: the life and war of Captain William C Frodsham Jr. Full review...

The Dark Circle by Linda Grant

5star.jpg General Fiction

It's 1949, and with the Second World War over, a new decade of recovery is beginning. For East End teenagers Lenny and Miriam, life has been suspended. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, they are sent away to a sanatorium in Kent, to take the cure, submit to the way of the Doctors, and learn the deferential way of the patient. Through doors newly opened by the one year old NHS, come Lenny in his striped London drape suit, and Miriam in cherry felt red coat, and beret pinned gingerly onto her blue-black curls. Trapped in a sterile closed environment, the twins find themselves meeting air force officers, a car salesman, a university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the Aristocracy, and, arriving to blast away their lethargic submission to authority - an American merchant seaman. Together they discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach, and may only be gained through full scale rebellion... Full review...

The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Oliver has spent years trying to convince himself that he's suited to a life of money making in the city, and that he doesn't miss a childhood spent in pursuit of mystery, when he cycled around the cobbled lanes of Oxford, exploring its most intriguing corners. When his girlfriend Kate inherits a derelict house - and a fierce family feud - she's determined to strip it, sell it and move on. For Oliver though, the house has an allure, and amongst the shelves of a discarded, leather bound and gilded volumes, he discovers one that conceals a hidden diary from the 1920s. So begins a quest to discover the identity of the author, Sophia Louis. It is a portrait of war and marriage, isolation and longing and a story that will shape the future of the abandoned house - and of Oliver - forever. Full review...

The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent

4star.jpg Crime

When Fran met Nathan everyone assumed she was on the rebound from a lengthy stint at the mercy of Nick The Unsuitable. I imagine falling pregnant within those first few heady months may have added fuel to that particular fire particularly from where Fran's best friend is standing. But when this is followed by a hasty wedding and a move to an isolated farmhouse in the Fens, Fran feels sure that her new role as home-maker and mother, so very different from the London party-girl she used to be, is the right one for her. So when Fran wakes in the middle of the night to find Nathan's side of the bed completely cold, she goes to look for him. Finding him bloodied and very much dead was most definitely not part of the bargain. Full review...

Theory of Mind by Sanjida O'Connell

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Sandra works in a zoo, studying the minds of chimpanzees, mankind's nearest living relatives. Her involvment with the animals starts to affect her own relationships, in particular that with her new boyfriend Corin. His energy stimulates her, his passion excites her and his work as a TV producer fascinates her, but are his feelings real, or does he want to control her? As her feelings preoccupy her, Sandra continues her research into the emotions of chimps and whether or not they are capable of empathy. During a visit to the zoo, Sandra meets a strange and isolated child, Paul, son of one of the keepers, and she also meets Kim, a scientist who has built a killer instinct into the robots she makes. As Sandra worries about her friends and her relationship, things race to a thrilling climax - putting much more than Sandra's emotions at risk. Full review...

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

4star.jpg General Fiction

The USA is an odd place at times, and not just during election season. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies, places that time forgot, places that ‘’people’’ forgot. Broken Wheel, Iowa is one such place. You’d have no reason to go unless you knew someone there. And Sara does, her pen-pal Amy. Invited by Amy to come for a visit, and with time on her hands due to a recent redundancy, Sara packs her bags (and her books) and buys a plane ticket from her native Sweden to the US of A. Full review...

Whilst I Was Out by Sara Stewart

2.5star.jpg General Fiction

Sara Stewart's debut novel, Whilst I Was Out, opens with all the promise of a book intent to delve head-first into invention and oddness. The narrator of the story, Alice, is stuck in traffic with her husband – who she refers to throughout the book as My Dear Husband (or MDH for short) – when he suddenly jumps out of their car and runs off for seemingly no reason. The scene opens with a mention of domestic abuse but seems much more interested in the inherent malfunction of Alice's husband as she describes his fixation with his bicycle and how her and their three children have taken a back seat to his 'finding himself' through affairs and cross-country cycling. Full review...

The Last Night by Cesca Major

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Spring 1952: Two best friends; Abigail and Mary, sit together on a bench, looking out to sea. They have big plans, but know that whatever happens they will always be together. They dream of a new life in America, each with a handsome husband and a happy family. When Abigail's mother dies unexpectedly, however, she is sent to live with her estranged sister in Devon, and the friends are torn apart. Little does she realise that tragedy lies just around the corner, and that the last night will change everything forever. Decades later, in 2016, a shy furniture-restorer called Irina has been given an unusual commission: to restore an old bureau containing many hidden secrets. As the two stories merge, curious Irina tries to piece together exactly what happened on the Last Night. 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...

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

I love it when I get a book so very few have read yet, but it's hard to say what needs to be said, when you're not allowed to quote. All good secrets have a taste before you tell them… Full review...

Holding by Graham Norton

5star.jpg General Fiction

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama, and yet the inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn't always been this overweight, mother-of-two Brid Riordan hasn't always been an alcoholic, and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn't always felt her life a total waste. When human remains are discovered on a farm, thought to be those of Tommy Burke, an ex lover of both Brid and Evelyn, the village's dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community's worth of anger, resentment, secrets, and regret. Full review...

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Meet Trudy. Successfully living in a large and valuable London home, she is heavily pregnant, and in between two men – she has swapped the homeowner, poet and publisher John, for someone completely different, namely Claude, a nasty, brutish and short type. Some people cannot work out why on earth she has made that decision, including our narrator. Oh, and he himself, our narrator, is the child she's pregnant with. He is a very alert young thing, with nothing else to do but kick here and there, and practice what you might well call mindfulness, and listen in on Claude and Trudy, as they calmly talk their way to plotting and carrying out murder… Full review...