Newest Literary Fiction Reviews

From TheBookbag
Jump to: navigation, search

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...

The Virtuoso by Virginia Burges

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

The title character of The Virtuoso is Isabelle Bryant, a professional violinist who has earned the affectionate nickname of 'Beethoven's Babe'. She was the youngest-ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and gave her first solo performance, of Beethoven's violin concerto, at Royal Albert Hall. 'Her violin represented another limb to her, it was that precious. It felt so natural, like an extension of her body.' It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the violin is Isabelle's life. Full review...

In The Wolf's Mouth by Adam Foulds

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

In Sicily, bandits steal the sheep of a young shepherd. Distraught, he seeks out his local Mafioso for help. Sixteen years later, two men are traveling to Sicily - one, a young English officer, and the other an American infantryman. They are all soon thrust into a war that is greater and more terrible than anything they could have dreamed, and they all must find different ways to survive its terrors. Full review...

Wallflowers by Eliza Robertson

4star.jpg Short Stories

Eliza Robertson won the Man Booker Scholarship and Curtis Brown Prize while completing her MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Wallflowers is already a bestseller in Robertson's native Canada. There is quite some variety across the seventeen stories. Broadly speaking, though, there are a few themes: moving on from loss, finding love in the midst of gentle madness, and interactions with the natural world, often on the edge of Canada's British Columbia wilderness. Full review...

Honeydew by Edith Pearlman

4star.jpg Short Stories

American short story writer Edith Pearlman brings us a compilation of stories that have only been seen separately in magazines over the years. This follows on from the huge success of Binocular Vision (in 2013), the short story collection that led to Ms Pearlman being presented with the National Critics' Circle Award. Full review...

Brother of Sleep by Robert Schneider

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Brother of Sleep tells the story of Elias Johannes Alder, a child born into a god forsaken village high in the Austrian Vorarlberg. He came into the world as a silent child, while his mother was screaming and the midwife wasn't really paying attention. It took a couple of loud intonations of the Te Deum from the neglectful nurse before he finally uttered a sound. Full review...

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Claire Limye Lamne (Claire of the Sea Light) is born in the fishing village of Ville Rose, Haiti as her mother dies. Her father Nozias, a poor fisherman, spends his life trying to make a better life for his baby to such an extent that he eventually encourages a local fabric seller to take Claire. This happens on the night of Claire's 7th birthday; the night that little Claire goes missing before the fabric seller can take her. Full review...

Academy Street by Mary Costello

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It is 1944. Tess Lohan's mother has just died at age 40, of tuberculosis. Seven-year-old Tess is one of six children in a rural Irish family. They live at Easterfield, a centuries-old manor house. A teacher later tells Tess the history of her home: built in 1678, it was a famine hospital in the 1840s; there are numerous corpses buried on the land. He hints there may be many ghosts on the property, but the only one that haunts Tess is her dead mother. 'Memories and traces of her mother must linger all over the house – in rooms and halls and landings. The dent of her feet on a rug. On a cup, the mark of her hand.' Full review...

Here Are the Young Men by Rob Doyle

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Here are the Young Men surges forward, oozing edginess, from the very first sentence. Is that a bad thing? Probably not. It just means that readers may at times slip out of the story, feel themselves taking a step back and admiring the spare coolness of the novel before easing back into the narrative. Full review...

Sanctuary by Robert Edric

3star.jpg Historical Fiction

Everyone knows Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Not many know that this famous trio of literary sisters also had a brother, Patrick Branwell Brontë, born the year after Charlotte and a year before Emily. Like his sisters, he had literary ambitions: he wrote juvenile stories, poems and translations from the Greek; he also trained as a painter (you have most likely seen his famous painting of his sisters). Again like his sisters, however, he was destined to die young. Full review...

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The Guest Cat had me at the cover. The reflective green material makes the cat's eyes glow and glint eerily in the light. There is something ethereal and otherworldly about this novella and that is before I've even read a single word. This simple story about a Japanese couple and the cat that decides to adopt them has become an international best-seller and I was keen to find out why. Full review...

Black Sheep by Susan Hill

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Mount of Zeal is a mining village, and no mistake. Three concentric semi-circular streets align across the side of a hill, like the rows of seats in an amphitheatre, with little thought at all allowed for the life above the crest of the hill, and a lot of effort and dreams focused on the coal mine at the village's core. The Howker family (and how evocative that name is, so akin to the noise of hawking coal dust from one's lungs), and Ted and Rose, the youngest of the clan, in particular, will face the destiny the environment they grow up in gives them – with only the merest glimmers of hope and the faintest of sparks to latch on to as regards a likeable future. But if that is a faint spark, then how safe is it so close to the tinderbox of a coal mine? Full review...

Snake Road by Sue Peebles

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

No one listened when Peggy Kirkpatrick began talking about a baby called Eleanor - well, no one except her granddaughter Agatha. You see, Peggy is elderly and she has dementia. No one has heard of 'Eleanor'. Some days are better than others, but none are particularly good. Peggy's unpredictable and sometimes it is - quite literally - a fight to wash her and she'll either go outside in her nightdress or wear multiple skirts indoors. The burden is carried most of the time by her daughter, Mary, but it's Aggie who attends the dementia carers' group in her place and it was probably this that provoked her into listening more carefully to what her Gran was saying and trying to learn more about her history in the hope of keeping Peggy in the present. Full review...

When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Little Isla has moved to Hobart, Tasmania from the Australian mainland with her mother and younger brother. Bo is a chef on the Nella Dan, a Danish ship supplying the Antarctic expeditions. Their meeting is just one of life's little moments that carry a greater effect than anyone realises at the time, whether for the better or the worst. Full review...

By Night The Mountain Burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Sometimes a novel will startle because it tackles a topic totally unknown to us or tells us of lives previously un-imagined. This is the case with By Night the Mountain Burns. However, what is most remarkable about Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel’s novel is how easy it is to slip into the story of a child growing up on an isolated island in Equatorial Guinea. We are not reading about mysterious 'others'. We’re reading about people like ourselves, who live in a different place which has its own constraints – namely poverty and isolation. Full review...

Asunder by Chloe Aridjis

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Marie, the narrator of Chloe Aridjis's second novel, Asunder, is a guard at the National Gallery in London. It is a simple, subdued life she leads in this 'tiny kingdom', but it suits her: 'I had always sought quiet in the world and there were few movements quieter, I realised, than paint cracking over time.' Most would find her work tedious, but over her nine years at the museum she has adjusted to the routine; 'unlike some of the new guards, I do not suffer from boredom or listlessness.' Full review...

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2014 Many generations of the Ghosh family live together in a single house in 1960's Calcutta, albeit a very big single house. Life may be materially comfortable but not easy. Jealousy, in-fighting, the struggle to keep the family business going (and, for the younger family members, the struggle to lead the life they'd like) causes more than the odd sleepless night. Son Supratik has succeeded in choosing a different path though. He's tired of the endless consumption and acquisition and leaves home to follow his Marxist beliefs, exchanging family living for discomfort and danger. Full review...

Problems with People by David Guterson

4.5star.jpg Short Stories

Problems with People is a meandering exploration of the relationships, big and small, that we form across a lifetime. Ranging from that of parent and child to that between landlord and tenant, Guterson’s observation of the complexities and nuances involved in how we navigate these personal links is extremely sharp and true to life. Full review...

Clara's Daughter by Meike Ziervogel

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Clara’s Daughter, in the short space of 144 pages, paints the portrait of the relationships threatening to destroy a family unit. The intensity is conveyed with sharp stabs from Ziervogel’s spare sentences. Full review...

How to be Both by Ali Smith

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

There's something which you need to know about this book: if you decide to read it, the book you read might not be the same as the one which I've read and am about to review. There are, you see, two stories in each copy and half the books published will have the story of Francescho Del Cossa who worked in and around Ferrara in the fifteenth century, followed by the story of George - really Georgia - a teenager who lives with her father and younger brother in twentieth century Cambridge. The other books will have the stories in reverse order. The stories are the same, but the experiences of the readers will be quite different. Full review...

Wreaking by James Scudamore

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

A derelict mental hospital, gloomy railway arches, the bleak countryside of the English coast. It all comes at us in grey flashes. If Wreaking was a film, it would saturated with cool tones. It’s an easy novel to visualise: Scudamore’s spare, elegant style creates an almost palpable atmosphere. Full review...

J by Howard Jacobson

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

J marks an unusual turn for Howard Jacobson. Though it seems at times like a skewed folk tale, it also bears the subtle signs of a future dystopia. It has some of Jacobson's trademark elements – odd names, humorous metaphors, and Semitic references – but felt to me like a strange departure after The Finkler Question and Zoo Time. Full review...

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Holly Sykes is 15 and has found true love with an older man in his twenties - until she finds him in bed with her best mate. Upset and disorientated, she runs away from home. This may enable her to escape from the unfaithful Vinny and her overbearing family but not the weirdness. She's not the only one though: Hugo the student, conman and lothario thought he was only doing someone a good turn when the weirdness started for him. There is a point to it though: eventually battle lines will be drawn and it's anyone's guess as to who will win, despite what the Anchorites may say. Full review...

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Rosemary's childhood is blighted by the disappearance of her sister, Fern. Rosemary went to stay with her grandparents and, on her return Fern was no longer there. Curiously enough, her mother and father don't speak of it. The knock on effect was the angry departure of Rosemary's older brother Lowell whom she also misses. As she grows to adulthood, Rosemary remembers trying to come to terms with this, the damage that being a daughter of a psychologist has wrought and the revealed secrets that will finally make sense of it all. Full review...

The City Son by Samrat Upadhyay

3.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Didi lives in a remote Nepali village. Her husband, always referred to by what is presumably a title rather than a name the Masterji teaches in the city. He rarely comes home to see his wife and sons. Full review...

He Wants by Alison Moore

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Lewis Sullivan is close to retirement, but elderly beyond his years and widowed. Edie's death seems to have had practical implications - he's not getting the food he used to enjoy - but beyond that it's difficult to see quite what they had in common other than the library. He used it and she worked there - but they didn't even enjoy the same books. Lewis is an RE teacher at the same school where his father, Lawrence, used to teach - when they were both there at the same time it often confused the paperwork. Lewis is beginning to wonder if he chose the wrong career, if he lives in the wrong place. He used to be able to see the house he grew up in from the bedroom window before it was demolished and replaced by a supermarket carpark, but he's always dreamed of living by the sea. His adult daughter, Ruth visits him every day and brings him soup.

He doesn't want soup. Full review...

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is the title of both Flanagan's Booker Prize-longlisted sixth novel and a book by seventeenth-century Japanese poet Basho. Poetry irradiates this often bleak story of Australian POWs building the Burma Death Railway during the Second World War, presenting beauty and love as counterpoints to gory descriptions of suffering and inhumanity. Full review...