Newest Literary Fiction Reviews

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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...

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

'My name be Ice Cream Fifteen Star and this be the tale of how I bring the cure to all the Nighted States, save every poory children, short for life. Is how a city die for selfish love, and rise from this same smallness. Be how the new America begin, in wars against all hope - a country with no power in a world that hate its life. So been the faith I sworn, and it ain't evils in no world nor cruelties in no red hell can change the vally heart of Ice Cream Star.' Full review...

The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

When the bomb exploded at the Karachi railway station causing intended death and mayhem, an aging reactionary poet, his middle-aged son, a child, a writer and a woman who relates more to stories than reality, are in the midst of it. Each experiences the blast as differently as their experiences of life are from each other but each will be affected. Full review...

In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie

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Jacob Little is many things to many people as he goes through life, reinventing his personae and name. Who exactly is he? Perhaps he's unsure but the thing he's certain of is his love for a young woman he lived with for 2 years. It took her leaving and the next decade apart for him to realise he loves her but now he wants to make up for lost time. She said her name was Solace so now he's (all together now) in search of Solace. Full review...


The Sixteenth of June by Maya Lang

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

On June 16th, 1904, James Joyce had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle – an occasion he commemorated by choosing it as the one-day setting for his magnum opus, Ulysses; main character Leopold Bloom gives his name to the annual Joyce celebration that takes place around the world on June 16th. Full review...

After Before by Jemma Wayne

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Emily easier for English people to pronounce than Emilienne, lives in a council tower block, barely furnished, but still - for her - a place of safety, a place of anonymity, which is the best way for her to exist. She cleans commercial premises and relishes the work. She makes her small earnings go as far as possible, shopping locally, living frugally. Full review...

Firefly by Janette Jenkins

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

I read Firefly wanting to be charmed. Sat at home, wishing I was in Jamaica, idly humming 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen'. Full review...

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

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The first thing you'll notice about this novel is that, like a crazy house, it's upside-down. That is: it opens in 1999, that near-contemporary storyline taking up about half the text; follows it with sections set in 1955 and 1929; and finishes with a 'prologue' set in 1900. The second thing to jump out is that this is a ghost story – or is it? The first line is both declaration and qualification: 'For a ghost story, the tale of Violet Saville Devohr was vague and underwhelming.' Full review...

Breaking Light by Karin Altenberg

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Gabriel Askew retires to the village of Mortford, the place in which he grew up and from where childhood ghosts haunt him to this day. It’s a conscious decision: Gabe, ostracised as a child due to his hair lip, returns to face these demons that have controlled his life and forced him to do the unthinkable but now he wants peace… if it's not too late. Full review...

Lost Luggage by Jordi Punti

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There are lots of things you wonder when you grow up with just one parent, but whether you also have a bunch of half-siblings, all with the same name as you, all dotted around the continent, is not normally high on the list. Gabriel Delacruz has 4 boys by 4 different women in 4 parts of Europe. None of them know of the others’ existence but when Gabriel disappears, his incredulous life is uncovered and Christof, Christophe, Christopher and Cristofol meet. Full review...

Wild Wood by Jan Needle and Willie Rushton

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Bank clerk Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 classic Wind in the Willows, populated with lovable anthropomorphic characters, started life as a bed time story for his son Alistair. He fused these adventurous tales with later descriptive epistles for a holidaying Alistair to create a tale which was, as Grahame described in a letter to Teddy Roosevelt, an expression of the very simplest joys of life as lived by the simplest beings. Indeed the four iconic protagonists - the outrageous, irrepressible toad, the loyal and humble mole, the brave and paternalistic badger and the resourceful and determined rat have a fond place in many childhood memories but are they as valiant as they seem? What if they were suddenly recast as the villains of the piece? Full review...

Beautiful Fools by R Clifton Spargo

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Famous writers' wives have had something of a literary revival in recent years. Paula McLain's The Paris Wife and Naomi Wood's Mrs Hemingway imagine the lives of the various Hemingway women, while the vogue for flappers and The Great Gatsby has led to a spate of books about Zelda Fitzgerald. Fans of the Roaring Twenties have been spoiled for choice, what with Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck, and Guests on Earth by Lee Smith. Full review...

The Good Children by Roopa Farooki

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The Saddeq family are an example of success for their friends and neighbours in Lahore. Mr Saddeq is a doctor with his own practice, sons Sully and Jakie are studying medicine in the US and UK respectively and daughters Mae and Lana have made good marriage matches. However the four 'good' children would view their success differently. Each reacts differently to the futures that their caring father and calculating mother have mapped out for them and plough their own furrows as far as they're permitted but the gravitational pull of home remains a constant through their lives and also, to some extent, for the generation that follows. Full review...

All Our Days by Dinaw Mengestu

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Isaac is a refugee from Ethiopia who finds a home in Uganda. At the university he's taken under the wing of a political activist also called Isaac. The 1970s is a dangerous time to be in Uganda as their world is about to explode. Years later Isaac the Ethiopian finds himself in America and lives under the care of social worker Helen. Slowly they form a less than professional relationship and Helen realises that what little she knows of him may not be the truth. Gradually his past is revealed as the guilt he carries comes to the surface. Full review...

Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

There is never any end to Paris. The sentence pops up, hypnotic, through most of the book. At times ironic, thoughtful or questioning, it is a quote from Hemingway’s novel, A Moveable Feast, in which the American author looked back at his days in Paris, where he was ‘very poor and very happy.’ The narrator of Never Any End to Paris tells us that when he lived in Paris, he was ‘very poor and very unhappy.’ Full review...


Black Lake by Johanna Lane

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

John's family have owned Dulagh (Black Lake), the big mansion in the Irish countryside, for generations. Unfortunately now no longer able to afford its upkeep, John, his wife Marianne and children Kate and Philip, move into a cottage on the estate instead. They still own the house but it'll be run by the government with revenue from opening it to the public. At the time it seems the perfect solution, but the future has plans other than perfection. Full review...

Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

There's something very special about an epistolary novel. The format might seem unnatural to readers in this day of abbreviated text messages and e-mails, but the conceit of a written exchange allows for fully developed first-person voices and a confessional tone. Provided the author can bypass the subtle difficulties of plot-building, letters are also a handy indicator of the passage of time, and ably convey period vocabulary. Full review...

Being Someone by Adrian Harvey

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The relationship between a mahout and his elephant is close: some have said that it's rather like a marriage. On the surface it seems almost idyllic with an obvious affection between man and beast - "that their spirits were water of the same pool", but all is not quite as it seems. Iravatha was the magnificent elephant who, year in, year out, led the Maharajah's parade only this year there was a dreadful accident and Annayya, his mahout, slipped beneath the elephant's foot - and was killed. They'd been together for more than half a century and beautiful, intelligent Iravatha knew what this meant. Full review...

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit

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1943: In the US a group of men, women and children are uprooted from their homes with hardly any notice and after being sworn to total secrecy. Their destination is a hastily knocked up, unfinished small town in the New Mexico desert; a place where muddy water drips from the taps and their lives are turned upside down for nearly 3 years. This isn't mass abduction by a malevolent power but the US government's plan to end WWII. The men (and some of the women) are scientists, the place is Los Alamos, the site of the project that will result in Robert Oppenheimer stating Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." His story has been well documented in the past; now the voices belong to the Los Alamos Wives. Full review...

Orfeo by Richard Powers

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

'No one thinks twice about the quiet, older bohemian in the American Craftsman at 806 South Linden…people take up all kinds of hobbies in retirement.'

Seventy-year-old Peter Els is an out-of-work composer in Pennsylvania. He teaches music appreciation at a senior centre, but much of his spare time is devoted to chemistry experiments. As a college student he agonised over the choice between chemistry and music, in fact, and these days he wonders if he got it wrong. His avant-garde compositions, such as a three-hour opera based on medieval German history, were infrequent and never very well received. Should he have gone into biochemistry after all? Thus, thanks to a few thousand dollars' worth of semi-professional equipment purchased off the Internet, Els is now engaged in a new kind of composition – with bacterial DNA taking the place of musical notes. Full review...

Ghost Moon by Ron Butlin

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Maggie sits in an elderly persons' care home tgryig to exist through the ever tightening grip of dementia. Her son, Tom, visits trying to jog her memory but she doesn't even recognise him. To Maggie, Tom is 'Michael' a name that means nothing to a son getting more desperate to break through to his mother once again. However there was once a Michael, in a life that bubbles with secrets that even Tom doesn't know; for once, long ago, Maggie was young. Full review...