Newest Literary Fiction Reviews

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In The Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

In 1930's Berlin, three people obsessed with art find themselves swept up into a scandal. Emmeline, a wayward young student, Julius, an anxious middle-aged art expert, and Rachmann, a mysterious art dealer, live in the politically turbulent Weimar Berlin, and soon find themselves whipped up into excitement over the surprise discovery of thirty-two previously unknown paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. Based on a true story and unfolding through the subsequent rise of Hitler and the Nazis, the discovery of the art allows these characters to explore authenticity, vanity and self-delusion. Full Review


The Phoenix of Florence by Philip Kazan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Deep in the Tuscan countryside of fifteenth century Italy, Onoria survives a massacre that destroys her family and home. Alone in the forest, she meets a band of soldiers who, believing her to be a boy train and develop her – and the determined Onoria becomes a mercenary – desperate to avoid any situation in which she may feel vulnerable again. Along the way, she meets ex-soldier Celavini, whose journey to Florence sees him investigating two brutal murders. As he digs further and uncovers links to his own family history, Celavini must revisit the past he shares with Onoria, in the hope that they can lay the ghosts of their shared history to rest, before it's too late... Full Review


The Great Wide Open by Douglas Kennedy

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

Douglas Kennedy's The Great Wide Open has been described as epic by just about everyone, and it often feels as though that was the intention. Though the novel often feels like a pastiche of the great American novel – epic in scope, preoccupied with matters of money and literature, fixated with New York – it often feels more like Kennedy is trying to reverse-engineer the concept altogether. Initially, the novel presents itself as an intimate study of family drama, in the latter half of the novel it smoothly turns to examining the turn of American society since the 70s, and the rapid rise of the hyper-capitalist neoliberal values that have dominated the west since the election of Ronald Reagan. Though it takes place over a twenty-year period between the 70s and the 90s, it notably always keeps one an eye on the present day (Trump, of course, makes an inevitable and slightly incongruous cameo) such that what happens links subtly into current affairs without ever explicitly referencing them. Full Review


Deviation by Luce d'Eramo and Anne Milano Appel (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Autobiography, Historical Fiction

For those of you who have read books of life in the Nazi camps – and of course, for those of you who have not – this can be considered a next step. It begins, after all, with someone escaping Dachau and fleeing her work assignment during a bombing raid, and you'd not blame her one minute, as her career was deemed to be cess-tank cleaner and sewage unblocker by the Germans. In Munich, she stumbles on help to get her to what seems to be a camp for non-native civilians to look for work, or company, or transport elsewhere, either official or otherwise. But then the next chapter sees her going back into the camp next to Dachau once more, and by then eyebrows are being raised. Full Review


The Hidden by Mary Chamberlain

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

When Barbara Hummel arrives, determined to identify the mysterious woman whose photograph she has found among her mother's possessions, Dora and Joe find their worlds upended – and are swiftly forced to confront their pasts. Revisiting their time on the Channel Islands during World War II, Dora remembers a time when she concealed her Jewish identity, and Joe, a Catholic Priest, remembers a time when he hid something very different. In this story of love, loss and betrayal, it remains to be seen whether a speck of light can diffuse the darkest shadows of war… Full Review


The Reckoning by Clar Ni Chonghaile

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

As the blurb says, In a cottage in Normandy, Lina Rose is writing to the daughter she abandoned as a baby…the whole of Chonghaile's second novel is a series of letters addressed to Diane. Lina is now in her seventies and Diane is a mother herself. They have met just once since Lina gave her up for adoption. It was not a good meeting. Full Review


Frieda by Annabel Abbs

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Married to English Professor Ernest Weekley, aristocrat Frieda Von Richtofen finds herself stifled by the confines of married life. Visiting family in Munich, she becomes captivated by the ideas of revolution and free love. Meeting the penniless writer D.H. Lawrence, she finds herself drawn into a passionate affair and a tempestuous relationship, changing the course of both their lives, and unleashing a creative outpouring that will change the course of literature forever. Full Review


House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Clara suffered from Osteogenesis imperfecta: these days it would probably be called brittle bone disease and whilst there is still no cure, treatments have advanced. At the beginning of the twentieth century it meant that Clara was confined to her home, living life through a window and the tales her mother, Charlotte, brought home. Both became far too knowledgeable about bones and the sounds they made on breaking. Charlotte would list bones like continents. Clara would only escape the house after her mother's death - of a tumour at the age of thirty nine - and in her wanderings discovered Kew Gardens. Her growing knowledge of tropical plants led to the offer of a job stocking a newly-built glass house at Shadowbrook in Gloucestershire. Full Review


The Water Thief by Claire Hajaj

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Literary Fiction

Nick is in the middle of wedding preparations when he decides to leave his fiancée behind in London and take up a post in some un-named west African country providing engineering support for the building of a children's hospital. He has no idea what he is getting himself into. Full Review


Aftershocks by A N Wilson

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, General Fiction

In a country very much like New Zealand, but at the same time most avowedly not, two women will find love. Strong love too, for our narrator will say that her first attraction for her partner was the only thing to make sense of all those exaggerated songs she'd heard, and books and poems she'd read, and plays she'd acted in – works of art that had until then seemed sheer hyperbole. It was entirely unrequited love for quite some time, but it does burgeon, or so we're promised from the off, because of something quite drastic – a major earthquake very much like the one that hit Christchurch, but at the same time most avowedly not. This book then is the combined exploration of the lovers and the story of the quake. Full Review


Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

This is a quiet but remarkable story, written in a style reminiscent of E. M. Forster, [Tirzah and the Prince of Crows has no great and stirring action but rather small ripples that make a huge impact. Tirzah is a young girl of sixteen raised in a small Welsh town in the 1970s by highly religious parents as part of a strict religious community. The book follows Tirzah though a tumultuous year as she tries to decide who she wants to be, and what she wants to do with her life. Full Review


The Gilded Ones by Brooke Fieldhouse

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime, Literary Fiction

It was a hot day in 1984 and Pulse had two job interviews for the day, but the heat wasn't the only reason why he wasn't feeling on top form. He'd had a disturbing dream the night before. He'd been following a Porsche on a difficult route, probably somewhere in the Alps when the Porsche went off the road. The passenger, a man, was dead, but the woman was still alive. I'm Freia..., she said. It's spelled the German way. Of the two job interviews, the first was with an up-and-coming design studio in Brighton and it would almost certainly be good for Pulse's career. The second was with a run-down practice based in an old London house and headed by Patrick Lloyd-Lewis, whose wife, Freia, had recently died in unexplained circumstances. The link with the dream of the night before was too much for Pulse to refuse the offer of a job. He couldn't resist the lure of the mystery. Full Review


The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Literary Fiction

William Woolf is a letter detective, working in the Dead Letters Depot in East London. He spends his days deciphering smudged addresses, tracking down mysterious people and reading endless letters of love, guilt, death, hope, and everyday life. Full Review


Lala by Jacek Dehnel and Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

This is the mysterious nature of storytelling: the same start can also mean different endings, and different starts can lead to the same finale. It's all subordinate to the greater narrative, which starts somewhere in Kiev. This beautiful book is exactly that, the mysterious art of storytelling. The wayward meanderings of memory, of tangents and digressions, of side notes and elaborations, but above all that of affection; for both the story and the storyteller. What makes us who we are if not our culture and heritage and in this book our narrator re-lives and re-tells the story of his heritage told to him by his grandmother. Full Review


The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

The Emperor of Shoes is the story of Alex Cohen, the heir to a lucrative shoe factory based in southern China. More idealistic than his profit-obsessed father, and less motivated solely by the bottom line, he's unsure of himself: unsure whether he can continue his father's success. But complications arise when he starts to question how morally sound the business really is, and whether the workers are being given a fair deal. Full Review


The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin and Lisa Hayden (Translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

Innokenty Petrovich Platonov wakes up in a hospital bed with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. He is tended by a single doctor, Doctor Geiger, who gives him a pencil and notebook and encourages him to write down his observations and memories. The notebook is thick, like a novel. How can Innokenty fill it if he cannot remember anything? But slowly the memories start to return, memories of childhood holidays at the beach, of life in the dacha, of the airfield and the aviators...and the seems like some memories may be better left buried. He remembers that he is the same age as the century, born in 1900. But if that is the case, how is he still a young man when the pills by his bedside are dated 1999? Full Review


The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland by Nicolai Houm and Anna Paterson (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Literary Fiction

Jane Ashland is dying. That's a description of a very early scene here – but also, of course, a platitude that can apply to all of us. Jane's life, if anything, is going up and down in levels of pleasure, energy – sobriety – in these pages, but we soon learn that it recently found a very deeply dark down place. Here then, scattered through a timeline-bending narrative, we have her days finding a Lincolnesque lover as a student in New York, glimpses of therapy, a drive to find her ancestors that takes her from rural America to Norway – and a trip there with a new-found friend to watch the musk oxen, of all things. And nowhere in sight is anything like a platitude… Full Review


Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy and Emily Boyce (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

Miguel Bonnefoy's Black Sugar is a sensual epic chronicling three generations of the Otero family. The tale begins with the disappearance of Captain Henry Morgan's treasure and then illustrates the power this treasure holds over people. Multiple people become obsessed with finding this fabled treasure that has become an urban legend in the town in which the story is set. Full Review


The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction

The Zero and the One is an incredibly well written and well crafted book. We meet our narrator, Owen, on the plane to New York for the funeral of his best friend. He is still reeling after recent events, a suicide pact in which his friend died but he lived, and he is going through the motions of the funeral and consoling family whilst still trying to get to grips with his own feelings of grief and guilt. So far, so simple. But this is where the talent of Ryan Ruby steps in and slowly, so slowly, he reveals little tantalising clues that all is not what it seems, a throw-away comment here, a mis-step there, and it becomes clear that Owen is not a reliable narrator. Full Review