Top Ten Literary Fiction Books of 2015

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Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume

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Every Tuesday he goes into town. This particular Tuesday he sees an advert for a rescue dog that's been badly treated by its previous owner. Somewhere the ad strikes a resonance and he adopts the dog, calling it Oneeye (yes, one word, just like that). Gradually over shared meals a friendship grows and develops over the seasons as the spill of spring turns to summer's simmer, through the falter of autumn and on to withering winter. Full review...

Where my Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks

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In the early 1980’s, on a small island off the South of France, a Doctor named Robert Hendricks confronts his life – memories of wars, work, loves, and losses. As his history is explored and questioned by his host, Hendricks recalls days in Scottish universities, Italian trenches, mental asylums and windswept beaches. Links to the past are uncovered, and the raw wounds they expose take Hendricks on a search for sanity and raises the question – is life comprised of events themselves, or the way in which an individual chooses to remember them? Full review...

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

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It's always a privilege when you're given an advance reading copy of something – and a real 'block' when you read the small print that says 'not for resale or quotation'. Fair comment on the resale bit, but when you get something as brilliant as The Loney being required not to quote is just plain unfair. Full review...

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

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On December 3rd 1976 a group of armed men go to Bob Marley's Jamaican home in Hope Road on a mission to kill 'The Singer'. No one will be arrested for it but that doesn't mean their lives afterwards will be normal. This is a total fictionalisation of their story and therefore the story of the people of the Jamaican ghettoes: the politics, the unrest, the gang warfare and the death. Full review...

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain, Emily Boyce (translator) and Jane Aitken (translator)

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Meet Laure. She's a widow in her 40s, who is entering her Parisian apartment building one night when she's mugged, and her handbag stolen. Meet Laurent, a middle-aged bookseller, who happens upon the handbag the following morning in the street, just before the binmen take it away, never to be seen again. More or less snubbed when trying to hand it to the police as lost property, he decides to take it upon himself to reunite the bag with its rightful owner. He has no idea their names are so intimately linked, and despite a lot of things being in the bag (including the titular notebook) there is no cash, no phone and no ID documentation at all. What's more – and what looks like making the idea even more fruitless – he has no idea that Laure has fallen into a coma as a result of the mugging… Full review...

The Crossing by Andrew Miller

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Tim and Maud seem, to everyone around them, mismatched. She, quite literally, falls into his life, and they build a life – jobs, a house, a boat, then a child. Tim needs Maud, needs her to complete him, wants desperately to complete her, to help her. But what if Maud is already complete? What if she doesn’t need help? When tragedy strikes, Maud will find herself miles away from anyone, on a journey that will change everything, and test her to the utmost. Full review...

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

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Sophie Stark wasn't born Sophie Stark - that's the person she decided to become. She didn't know that she wanted to become a film director either, but that is what she evolved into as she fought being the one who was different, as she tried to fit in but found that making movies actually drove her away from people. She was a genius when it came to making movies, but genius scythes through other people in pursuit of perfection, leaving disaster casually in its wake and Sophie was no exception to that rule. Full review...

Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker

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Paul Leibovitz was a journalist. That was before. Before he had a small child, who did not survive as long as he should have. Before the end of the marriage that did not survive the loss of a child. Now Leibovitz himself, merely survives. He lives in a kind of self-imposed exile on Lamma, third largest of the Hong Kong islands, a place of greenery and solitude. Full review...

Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf by Norah Vincent

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Back in 1999, when The Hours won the Pulitzer Prize, Michael Cunningham set a precedent for depicting Woolf's later life and suicide. Nicole Kidman won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Woolf in the film version of the novel; she is best remembered for wearing a prosthetic nose. Fast forward 15 years. In 2014–2015 alone, three major novels about Virginia Woolf have been published. That confluence, especially in a year that does not mark a significant anniversary, speaks to a continuing interest in Woolf's life and writings. Full review...

The Complex Chemistry of Loss by Ian Walthew

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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...

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