Newest Literary Fiction Reviews

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The Crossing by Andrew Miller

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Tim and Maud seem, to everyone around them, mismatched. She, quite literally, falls into his life, and they build a life – jobs, a house, a boat, then a child. Tim needs Maud, needs her to complete him, wants desperately to completer her, to help her. But what if Maud is already complete? What if she doesn’t need help? When tragedy strikes, Maud will find herself miles away from anyone, on a journey that will change everything, and test her to the utmost. Full review...

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It's always a privilege when you're given an advance reading copy of something – and a real 'block' when you read the small print that says 'not for resale or quotation'. Fair comment on the resale bit, but when you get something as brilliant as The Loney being required not to quote is just plain unfair. Full review...

The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett

4.5star.jpg Science Fiction

Well, they kept this quiet – for reasons that will become obvious. A couple of years ago people in America were giving birth to problematic kids. They (the children) were soon found to be unnaturally quiet – perhaps crying with hunger or pain, but never even trying to 'ooga-wooga' their way into their parents' hearts. They were later found to be completely unable to speak, they could not read and indeed they could not understand anything said to them, or shown them, as an instruction. They were physically unable to parse anything as language, and were in a silent world of their own. But right about now they and we are combining worlds – schools are being set up, and funds are being made available, and people are coming down on the endless divide as to whether they are just problematic, disabled – or even the blessed. In a couple of years, however, the problems the virus that is causing these people to be born with will be shown to be a major problem – and that is before the kids themselves change. For they will be able to switch their mental abilities much like a blind man can hear more than the average, and will be able to comprehend body and facial language much more coherently than anyone else. Throughout this timeline, however, people will be working hard to try and study the problem, and put it right – if indeed 'right' is the correct word… Full review...

Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Meet Lydia. She's a normal British girl, interested in following both her father, and Nadia Comaneci, into the world of gymnastics but not brave enough to pull off the larger set pieces, and with not much more to interrupt her days than wondering why boys always have to talk about their willies. Now meet Kauthar, a white British convert to Islam, devoted follower of the precepts of her religion, ardent wife and stalwartly self-fulfilling, no-nonsense and satisfied. But what is this – why is she talking of being alone in a desert, and why is she directly addressing her god regarding how she can't perform any movement. Because it is torn apart? Has something gone wrong? Full review...

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland by Philip K Dick

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Dick is known primarily as a science fiction writer, most famously for the novel that spawned the film Blade Runner.

I read that novel - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - when I was about ten or eleven, a good ten years or so before the film came out and – to be fair – a good five years or so before I was fully capable of understanding the philosophical and ethical issues embedded in it. Not before, however, I was capable of asking the kind of questions that would get me the kind of answers that form my standpoint on those issues. Full review...

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

This is a beautifully written book, located both in England and Australia, about adulthood, changing responsibilities, and the universal desire for identity and belonging. This theme is also reflected in the search for union and fulfilment in the marriage of Henry and Charlotte, struggling with the changes imposed on them by parenthood and family life across two continents. Full review...

The Bear Whispers To Me: The Story of a Bear and a Boy by Chang Ying-Tai and Darryl Sterk (translator)

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Award winning Taiwanese writer Chang Ying-Tai's emotive, elegiac fable is a meditation on the art of storytelling. Its immersive detail and enchanting musical cadences give it a magical, dream like quality. It is a special work as it is one of the few examples of Taiwanese fiction available in English. The blind Paiwan poet Monaneng said of aboriginal Taiwanese culture:

"With tender care let us set in motion our blood that is once again warm.
Let us recall our songs, our dances, our sacred rituals.
And the tradition of unselfish mutual coexistence between us and the earth.

This is exactly what "The Bear Whispers to Me" effortlessly does. Full review...

Reunion by Fred Uhlman

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Hans Schwarz was a jew and attended the Karl Alexander Gymnasium, the most famous grammar school in Wurttemberg. At sixteen he didn't really have a friend and was slightly apart from the other cliques in his class, until the arrival of Konradin von Hohenfels, the elegantly-dressed son of the aristocracy. For some reason Hans and Konradin became the best of friends, spending a glorious summer walking in the Swabian hills, comparing their coin collections and talking about everything. Only slowly does it occur to Hans that whilst Konradin is made welcome in his home, Hans can only visit Konradin's home when his parents are absent. This was February 1932 and in the closing years of the Weimar Republic. Full review...

101 Detectives by Ivan Vladislavic

3.5star.jpg Short Stories

101 Detectives had me baffled. The book comprises of a collection of stories which explore multiple themes from the perspective of one person. The stories are as varied as the characters presenting the tale to you. This exquisitely written book leaves you asking many questions and pondering many ideas. Full review...

Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Paul Leibovitz was a journalist. That was before. Before he had a small child, who did not survive as long as he should have. Before the end of the marriage that did not survive the loss of a child. Now Leibovitz himself, merely survives. He lives in a kind of self-imposed exile on Lamma, third largest of the Hong Kong islands, a place of greenery and solitude. Full review...

The Just City by Jo Walton

3.5star.jpg Dystopian Fiction

Urged on by her brother Apollo, goddess Pallas Athene founds the Just City of Atlantis – a city based on Plato’s republic. Filling it with an assortments of adults collected from throughout time, as well as ten thousand ten year olds, (one of whom is a disguised Apollo). Whilst the city flourishes, the arrival of Socrates may prove to be a fly in the ointment… Full review...

The Man With The Overcoat by David Finkle

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Why would anyone - he was soon to ask himself innumerable times - take a coat from a complete stranger only because it had been offered? Skip Gerber steps off the elevator after a long day at work; the foyer of his office building is busy and buzzy and he does not notice the man holding the overcoat until the man hands it to Skip telling him to take very good care of it. Skip unthinkingly grasps the coat and before he has the chance to realise what he is doing - and that he is now holding an overcoat of unknown providence - the man disappears out of the exit door to the building. Full review...

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Frances comes from a 'desperately artistic family', her father a medical illustrator and her mother an interior designer. Along with her younger sister Sarah, she grew up in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan: bunk beds for the girls and a fold-out sofa bed for the parents. The claustrophobic atmosphere has gotten to everyone and now, with Frances graduating from college, it looks like the family might fall apart. Her parents argue constantly and disapprove of Sarah's fiancé (not just because he isn't Jewish). Frances has her own romantic crisis: after a pregnancy scare, Robert breaks up with her. A high-flyer with a future in politics, he tells her that her art has no purpose; it isn't helping anyone. 'What does it matter if you do what you love, if what you love doesn't matter?' she asks her father. Still, she has no other prospects, so agrees to take up a painting apprenticeship in the furthest reaches of Norway; 'All I had was a direction, north.' Full review...

Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Hailey was on a sabbatical from her job in the music business in Los Angeles and taking the holiday of a lifetime to Ireland, when she walked into the Galway Music Centre and found a job which she simply couldn't turn down. She also found a home in a local village, a liking for the rural life and a man whom she could love. Liam Hennessy was a talented accordion player: music was his life and whilst he was more attracted to Hailey than he had ever been to another woman it wasn't entirely clear whether 'love' could ever be on the cards for him. Full review...

An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It by Jessie Greengrass

3star.jpg Short Stories

The title story, which appears first, is exactly what it says on the tin: one hunter's story of travelling to remote islands to take part in massive culls of great auks, until they were simply gone. It's always hard to believe that species that once numbered in their millions, such as the passenger pigeon, could go extinct so quickly, but when you read about the brutal slaughter tactics here – swinging clubs and boiling birds alive – you can see how a flightless bird was a sitting target. The narrator makes no real attempt to defend himself: the birds were there for the taking; that was that. Still, he regrets their extinction, because 'in any loss you can see a shadow of the way that you will be lost yourself.' (Those interested in the great auk's extinction may also want to read the 2013 novel The Collector of Lost Things by Jeremy Page.) Full review...

Re Jane by Patricia Park

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Growing up in Flushing, New York –Jane Re has long been hoping to escape her whole life. A half-Korean, half-American Orphan, Jane struggles to find her place as a spirited and intelligent young woman growing up in a strict and mirthless family, observing the traditional Korean principle of “Nunchi” (a combination of good manners, obligation and hierarchy). Desperate to escape, Jane is thrilled when she becomes the au pair for a rich couple – two Brooklyn based professors of English, who have adopted a young Chinese girl into their family. Jane soon falls for the man of the family, but their blossoming affair is soon curtailed by a family death, prompting Jane’s return to Korea. As she learns more about herself, her history and her culture, Jane must make huge decisions about her life, her future, and her man… Full review...

Sophie and the Sibyl: A Victorian Romance by Patricia Duncker

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Sophie and the Sibyl, consciously modelled on John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, is a postmodern blending of history, fiction, and metafictional commentary. Brothers Max and Wolfgang Duncker really were George Eliot's German publishers, but the accident of their surname matching the author's makes them her clever stand-in. As the novel opens in 1872, the venerable English author is exploring Homburg and Berlin in the company of her 'husband' while ushering her latest novel, Middlemarch, into German translation. Max, a young cad fond of casinos and brothels, has two tasks: ensuring Eliot's loyalty to their publishing house, and securing Countess Sophie von Hahn's hand in marriage. Full review...

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Every Tuesday he goes into town. This particular Tuesday he sees an advert for a rescue dog that's been badly treated by its previous owner. Somewhere the ad strikes a resonance and he adopts the dog, calling it Oneeye (yes, one word, just like that). Gradually over shared meals a friendship grows and develops over the seasons as the spill of spring turns to summer's simmer, through the falter of autumn and on to withering winter. Full review...

Diary of the Fall by Michael Laub

4star.jpg General Fiction

Diary of the Fall is a story about regret, guilt and resentment. It's told from the point of view of an unnamed narrator, who reflects on not just his own life but also the lives of his father and grandfather. Full review...

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

5star.jpg General Fiction

Meet Laure. She's a widow in her 40s, who is entering her Parisian apartment building one night when she's mugged, and her handbag stolen. Meet Laurent, a middle-aged bookseller, who happens upon the handbag the following morning in the street, just before the binmen take it away, never to be seen again. More or less snubbed when trying to hand it to the police as lost property, he decides to take it upon himself to reunite the bag with its rightful owner. He has no idea their names are so intimately linked, and despite a lot of things being in the bag (including the titular notebook) there is no cash, no phone and no ID documentation at all. What's more – and what looks like making the idea even more fruitless – he has no idea that Laure has fallen into a coma as a result of the mugging… Full review...

The Listeners by Edward Parnell

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

May 1940. William Abrehart has not spoken since the mysterious death of his father, choosing instead to spend his days in the woods that surround his home. A promise he made to his dying father means that he is responsible for the wellbeing of his two sisters, and their withdrawn mother. Over the course of a weekend, ghosts of the past cause buried secrets, lies and promises to come spilling out - culminating in a series of shocking events. Full review...

The Pearl a That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Kabul 2007: Rahima and her sisters are followed home from school one day by a boy on his bike. He taunts them innocently enough as little boys do, but with no sibling brother, the girls are unchaperoned in this land that is ruled by the laws of men. And as daughters in a household without sons, in a country that is governed by fear, the consequences will weigh heavily for them all. Full review...

Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf by Norah Vincent

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Back in 1999, when The Hours won the Pulitzer Prize, Michael Cunningham set a precedent for depicting Woolf's later life and suicide. Nicole Kidman won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Woolf in the film version of the novel; she is best remembered for wearing a prosthetic nose. Fast forward 15 years. In 2014–2015 alone, three major novels about Virginia Woolf have been published. That confluence, especially in a year that does not mark a significant anniversary, speaks to a continuing interest in Woolf's life and writings. Full review...

The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse by Ivan Repila and Sophie Hughes (translator)

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

If you pick up a copy of this book you realise how small it is. You'll know, of course, that pockets hardly exist that are normally big enough to hold what we used to call a pocket book, but here is the exception to prove the rule. It's wee. The story is on a hundred pages. The concision is partly down to it starting after the beginning, for we first meet Big and Small, two brothers, once they're stuck down a large well in the middle of a forest. Tasked with a family errand, they're trapped at the bottom of a natural Erlenmeyer flask, and even a desperate move cannot get either out. This is the story of the next three months in their existence, as they brave hunger, delirium, loss of language, and the brute and unstinting human selfishness needed for existence. Full review...

Soil by Jamie Kornegay

3.5star.jpg Crime

Jay Mize is a scientific man with a particular interest in soil and agriculture. He decides he is the one to pioneer a revolution in farming techniques and uproots his wife and son to set up an experimental farm on a plot of land in the country. Jay is also an obsessive man and his plans take over, becoming his only focus and causing his family to leave him. Then flooding ruins his crops and he is left at the end of his tether; things only get worse when Jay finds a dead body on his land and his tenuous grip on his sanity is released. Full review...

Rise by Karen Campbell

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Justine is running for her life. She's had enough of being someone else's property, of being subjected to the kind of love that has seen her tattooed and owned and beaten and rented out to others to earn her keep. So she's taken what isn't hers, but then was never actually his either, and she's packed a bag, waited until he is drunk-enough asleep not to hear her say goodbye to the dog, and has left. Full review...

Karate Chop, and Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by Dorthe Nors

3.5star.jpg Short Stories

The reviewer picks up the book.
The book is called Minna Needs Rehearsal Space.
The book is entirely made out of one-sentence paragraphs.
The one-sentence paragraphs are very seldom poetic, but normally are grammatically correct sentences.
The one-sentence paragraphs on the whole have just one verb, unless regarding that from reported or unreported speech.
The book concerns a middle-aged musician and composer who does indeed need rehearsal space.
The book concerns a woman who suddenly gets more space than she wants when her boyfriend leaves her.
The boyfriend's departure causes a lot of people crowding around Minna, which causes a problem.
The problem might be resolved by a trip away from her city flat.
The title of the book might be ironic. Full review...

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

4star.jpg General Fiction

This book is essentially a cautionary family tale of four brothers and the way they react to a prophecy about them by the local madman. It is also, in a sense, a coming-of-age story where Ben, the young narrator, is plunged into premature adulthood under the most brutal of circumstances. And it is about brotherly love. None of these descriptions, however, convey the fact that this book is written by an exciting new voice in African literary fiction. Full review...

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Ladydi Garcia Martínez lives in rural Chilpancingo, Mexico, with her mother, Rita, who works as a cleaning lady for a rich family. Like many of the men in their town who left to find work, Ladydi's father crossed the river into America, where he is rumoured to have another family. As a result, this is very much a matriarchal community. Rita describes the situation for Ladydi's teacher: 'You men don't get it, yet, do you? This is a land of women. Mexico belongs to women.' Full review...

Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Like the central characters in Falling Out of Time, Israeli author David Grossman lost his son, a soldier named Uri, during the Middle East conflict. In this multifaceted examination of bereavement, it seems that everyone has lost a child. The genre-bending mixture of poetry, absurdist dialogue, and an inverted fairy tale reflects the difficulty of ever capturing grief in language. Each story and each strategy is like a new way of approaching the unspeakable. Full review...

How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much by Samantha Ellis

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

How to be a Heroine is a pleasant and addictive read. Playwright Samantha Ellis looks back at her childhood as a voracious reader and remembers the characters that influenced her. These are as diverse as Sylvia Plath, Little Women and Scheherazade. Full review...

The Complex Chemistry of Loss by Ian Walthew

5star.jpg General Fiction

Deep in rural France James Kerr was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. His mental problems were deep and intractable. Superficially he seemed never to have got over the sudden death of his mother and sister when he was a child and after their death his relationship with his father had deteriorated because his father refused to speak of their loss. There were additional factors too: Kerr had spent some time in Afghanistan in a secret capacity. In fact much of his life since he went to university had involved putting up a front, but doing something else in the background. Full review...

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It probably tells you a lot about the atmosphere of this book that for the whole time I was reading it, I thought the title was If I Fall, I Die. That missing second If is probably at the crux of the whole tale. Full review...