Newest Literary Fiction Reviews

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Train Man by Andrew Mulligan

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

I came to this book thinking I knew just what to expect, even though it is the author's debut in the adult novel market (hence the more mature name – he used to be an Andy). I thought it simple to sum up, the tale of a middle-aged man who knows too much about train travel having his life turned around in the most pleasant way. I hadn't opened it when I'd shelved it alongside Chris Cleave, and David Nicholls. I expected some whimsy, some warmth and some affirmative loveliness.

More fool me. Full Review

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A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther

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

Enid Campbell was a woman who, on the face of it, had everything. Leading the life of an aristocrat – full of inherited wealth and splendour, glamourous locales and high expectations. Only Enid's life has been plagued by mental illness – undiagnosed, untreated and threatening both Enid and those close to her. After losing custody of her children, Enid sells her son to her sister for £500 – but is this an act of greed, or an act of desperation? Exploring the true story of her own grandmother, Eleanor Anstruther has found the perfect subject for an explosive, moving and beautifully well written debut. Full Review

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The Choke by Sofie Laguna

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

There's a dull, dispiriting pang of disappointment that comes when you try something everyone else loves and find out that you're really not into it. Coffee. Ice skating. A new Netflix series. Books are like that, but doubly so. Full Review

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Equator by Antonin Varenne and Sam Taylor (translator)

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

It strikes me that nobody can speak well of the Wild West outside the walls of a theme park. Our agent to see how bad it was here is Pete Ferguson, who bristles at the indignity of white man against Native 'Indian', who spends days being physically sick while indulging in a buffalo hunt, and who hates the way man – and woman, of course – can turn against fellow man at the bat of an eyelid. But this book is about so much more than the 1870s USA, and the attendant problems with gold rushes, pioneer spirits and racial genocide. He finds himself trying to find this book's version of Utopia, namely the Equator, where everything is upside down, people walk on their heads with rocks in their pockets to keep them on the ground to counter the anti-gravity, and where, who knows, things might actually be better. But that equator is a long way away – and there's a whole adventure full of Mexico and Latin America between him and it… Full Review

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Nights of the Creaking Bed by Toni Kan

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

Nights of the Creaking Bed is a collection of short stories by Toni Kan. The series of stories tell of the lives and lusts of an assortment of characters living in and around Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria, in this collection, is imbued with its very own heart of darkness. Danger stalks the shadows and people are killed for nothing more than a wrong look. Kan writes with a vitality and passion that allows these cynical stories to achieve a glimmer of hope. Full Review

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The Resurrection of Jesus by Yancey Williams

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

In March 1990 two police officers entered Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They left with thirteen famous paintings by Rembrandt, Degas and Vermeer. The frames remain empty to this day: whilst there might have been rumours about the whereabouts of the paintings, even promises that the case was about to be solved, the paintings are still missing. Yancey Williams has a theory, which he delaborates on in his novel The Resurrection of Jesus, and whilst his suspects might seem unlikely, who's to say that he's wrong? Forget the assertions that it was down to the Mafia and meet Jésus Ángel Escobar and Hiram Johnny Walker Quicksilver. Full Review

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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

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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

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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

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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


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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

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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

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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

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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

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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


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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

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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

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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


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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