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Top Ten Literary Fiction Books of 2014

We've chosen our top ten literary fiction books of 2014, trying as far as possible to search out the hidden gems about which you might not have heard about during the year. We did include The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell though, not least because we felt that it was our tipping it to win this year's Man Booker which caused it to miss the shortlist. We have a history of blighting author's chances! Here are our selections, in alphabetical order, by author:

Ghost Moon by Ron Butlin


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

The Good Children by Roopa Farooki


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...

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay


Mackenzie and Anikka Lachlan have all they could possibly want. They live in Thirroul, a close New South Wales coastal community, are parents to a lovely little girl and now, in 1948, Mac has come through the war years unscathed due to his job at home on the railways. However in a single moment all their luck changes and Anikka becomes a widow, another grieving shadow. Alongside her neighbours (a war poet who can't write now he's home and the local GP who experienced hell while not being able to bring anyone back from its grasp) Anikka must learn the most difficult lesson: how to go on living. Full review...

The Sixteenth of June by Maya Lang


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...

By Night The Mountain Burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel


Sometimes a novel will startle because it tackles a topic totally unknown to us or tells us of lives previously un-imagined. This is the case with By Night the Mountain Burns. However, what is most remarkable about Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel’s novel is how easy it is to slip into the story of a child growing up on an isolated island in Equatorial Guinea. We are not reading about mysterious 'others'. We’re reading about people like ourselves, who live in a different place which has its own constraints – namely poverty and isolation. Full review...

The Undertaking by Audrey Magee


Peter Faber has decided to become part of the new Nazi initiative. He will marry Katharina Spinell, a woman he won't even meet till their honeymoon. In return he'll receive honeymoon leave from the Russian front while she will secure a widow's pension should anything happen to him, hopefully providing the Reich with one or two more Aryan babies on the way. Peter may not be the son-in-law Katharina's parents envisaged but their disappointment is blunted by their luxurious lifestyle under the patronage of the sinister Dr Weinart. However, this is still wartime and Peter must eventually return to Russia and whatever fate awaits him. Full review...

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell


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...

Land Where I Flee by Prajwal Parajuly


Chitralekha Guraamaa is preparing for her 84th birthday celebrations - her Chaurasi - and her grandchildren (or rather grandadults as they are now) arrive from around the world. They went away in search of a better life but better comes at a cost. Baghwati married beneath her caste, Manasa is resentful of an apparently helpless disabled father-in-law and Agastaya hides a man-sized secret. All have one thing in common: the dread of facing their manipulative, powerful grandmother and their inability to get on with each other. Worlds may collide but let the festivities commence! Full review...

When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett


Little Isla has moved to Hobart, Tasmania from the Australian mainland with her mother and younger brother. Bo is a chef on the Nella Dan, a Danish ship supplying the Antarctic expeditions. Their meeting is just one of life's little moments that carry a greater effect than anyone realises at the time, whether for the better or the worst. Full review...

A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker


Writing on Sendker's previous novel The Art of Hearing Heartbeats for this website, I said 'Sendker is German-born (Hamburg 1960) and worked as American correspondent for Stern (1990 to 95) and then as its Asian correspondent from '95 to '99. He now lives in Berlin. This probably gives him enough global insight to write about a US-born high flyer with an Asian heritage heading off to Burma to find out the truth of her father's disappearance. It probably also gives him the language skills to do it in English without recourse to a translator.' Full review...


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