Top Ten General Fiction Books of 2014

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We've been looking out for the quirky, the unusual, but - above all - the best general fiction books from 2014. Here they are in alphabetical order by author:

The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

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Rachel wasn't ready to drop dead at thirty-five. It's been a year since - a year she's spent trapped in some sort of netherworld that allows her brief, tantalising glimpses of the lives of those she's left behind. There's no apparent rhyme or reason to the glimpses, and Rachel wishes they were more often and lasted longer. Full review...

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel

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Katie and her friends in Elephant Beach, Long Island are going to make the most of summer 1972. High school is behind them, there's booze to be drunk and weed to be smoked. There's also a lot to contend with. This is a working class community, ignored and disenfranchised by those with the money and influence to help. Also the Vietnam War rages on, producing local heroes like Luke and Mitch. For some of the young people the future is a blank canvas, for others their future is foreseen or foreshortened. As for Katie's hopes and dreams, they all revolve around the hope of a date with Luke. Full review...

Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister

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Twins Isis and Osiris are now in their 90s, living together in Little Egypt, the English manor house where they were born and brought up. Their names are a clue to their parents' near fetish for everything Egyptian. In fact this near fetish leads their parents to Egypt itself, in search of a big discovery back in the 1920s, demonstrating more enthusiasm than savvy. Having left the twins in the care of the housekeeper, they never return. Isis and Osiris are now bound to the house, tied not by love or memories but dark secrets that won't let go. Full review...

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

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Arthur Winthrop leads a prestigious Vermont boarding school (sufficiently posh for him to be a headmaster, not a principal). Like his father before him, and his father’s father before that, it is what was always expected of him. The right thing to do. What is not the right thing to do, however, is to be caught wandering, naked, through Central Park in the middle of winter. Under questioning from the police, Arthur is keen to talk. Not about this episode, perhaps, but about other things on his mind. Like his interaction with a young student that has crossed the boundaries of an acceptable student-teacher relationship. It’s as if the flood gates have been opened and there’s no way to shut them now before everything has come gushing out. Full review...

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

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Maud is a little forgetful as the rows of cooling cups of tea will attest. She also has a cupboard full of peaches for some reason but not to worry. She has a family who love her and rally round, a home help and her great friend Elizabeth. Come to think of it, Elizabeth seems to be missing and the notes that Maud writes herself each day keep reminding her of this. The problem is that no one will listen to her, let alone believe her. It also reminds Maud of something else; another disappearance a long, long time ago. Full review...

The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

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1727: The Marshalsea prison is hell on Earth and a Damoclesian sword over the heads of prospective debtors. Tom Hawkins, gambler and bon viveur, has always stayed one step ahead of it until, ironically, the day of his big win. He's mugged, his winnings are stolen and Tom's hurled into the depths of Sheol itself. Is it as bad as he thought? Worse! Not only does he have to survive the cruel and brutal deprivations but a murderer walks the prison's corridors. Full review...

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

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A young teacher is kidnapped leaving her family distraught. Wealthy and influential, they call in the big guns to find their daughter, but is there more to the story, and indeed to the family, than meets the eye? Full review...

Mambo In Chinatown by Jean Kwok

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The daughter of an immigrant noodle maker, who lives with her father and younger sister in a one room apartment in Chinatown, is not the sort of person you might imagine as a skilled and elegant dancer. And, indeed, Charlie isn’t any of those things as we meet her. By day she washes pots in her father’s restaurant, by night she encourages her sister Lisa to succeed in school and succeed in a way that Charlie herself wasn’t able to. But she dreams of more, and when an entry level job at a dance school is advertised, she suddenly wants it more than anything she’s ever wanted, ever. Full review...

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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To understand Lydia’s death, we need to understand Lydia, and to understand Lydia we need to understand Lydia’s parents. Marilyn, who wanted more from her life than to play the dutiful housewife, who goes to college to study and realise her dreams, not to meet a man (her own mother’s dream for her), goes ahead and, well, she meets a man. That man is James, whose credentials for teaching American history are up for debate, but who nonetheless manages to overcome his background to secure a role doing just that. They settle down and have Nath, then Lydia, then a little while later, Hannah. An unusual family for 1970s Ohio, but a happy one. The children are bright, the home is cosy. Full review...

Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes

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Hitler Youth Ronaldo! Which way to the street? With these words a very misguided Nazi Fuhrer asks for his first directions in the Berlin of 2011. Mistakenly believing the lad to be a party junior member with his own name on his football shirt, he also thinks for a while it is still 1945. He's soon informed of the truth, but still makes some unfortunate conclusions – that the street kiosks selling Turkish language newspapers are a sign of a Soviet-beating alliance between the two countries, that people eat granola bars because the war still leads to a bread shortage, and that people making an ironic speech bubble with their fingers in the air is all that is left of the Hitler salute. But yes, after a long hiatus neither he nor our author is particularly concerned with explaining, that man is back – and if he has his way he's going to be just as popular this time round… Full review...

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