Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth My first reaction was a desperately deep sigh when I heard that Ian McEwan would be taking on human-like artificial intelligence as the topic for his new novel. AI is standard science fiction fodder, and human-machine relations have been written about, filmed, and otherwise imagined so many times before – from…

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel I’ve followed Fuller’s writing career since her marvellous debut, Our Endless Numbered Days, through her second totally different novel Swimming Lessons (reviewed here and here). Her third novel is different again. On first glance, it appears to be a country house mystery, however, to classify it as such would be to do…

Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson

Reviewed by Harriet Nicola Upson is best known to me, and probably to you, as the author of a series of excellent historical crime novels featuring the well-known novelist and playwright Josephine Tey. Here we have her in quite a different mode: Stanley and Elsie is a novel based in the true life history of…

We, the Survivors by Tash Aw

Reviewed by Rob Spence Malaysian novelist Tash Aw’s fourth novel marks a departure in style for him. Rather than the broad canvas he presented in earlier works such as The Harmony Silk Factory and Five Star Billionaire, here the focus is relentlessly on the life of one man, Ah Hock, and the murder that constitutes…

Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, edited by Lucy Caldwell

Reviewed by Laura Marriott Ireland is going through a golden age of writing: that has never been more apparent. I wanted to capture something of the energy of this explosion, in all its variousness… [Lucy Caldwell] When picking up a collection of short stories, many will choose to do the same as I did and…

Cold For the Bastards of Pizzofalcone by Maurizio de Giovanni

Translated by Antony Shugaar Reviewed by Gill Davies This is the third book in a series of police procedural novels by the successful Italian crime writer Maurizio De Giovanni (also the author of the best-selling Commissario Ricciardi series). This is the first novel by de Giovanni that I have read – and he certainly knows…

Lux by Elizabeth Cook

Reviewed by Julie Barham This is an immensely profound book. It encompasses huge themes – birth and death, self imposed exile and imprisonment, the deep thought of the well known and the hardly known. Bible stories and Tudor history flow through a novel that made me stop and think, consider the big questions of guilt…

Doggerland by Ben Smith

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster There’s no sign of a decline in the popularity of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. If anything, it’s becoming even more prevalent – a symptom of our widespread anxiety about the future of the human race in a time of environmental crisis. Doggerland, the debut novel by Plymouth University creative writing lecturer…

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth In the run-up to its publication, Isabella Hammad’s The Parisian was trumpeted as one of the most significant debuts of the year. There were promises of pure genius and literary stardom, all crystallized in a truly exceptional novel that tackles Palestine in the early decades of the 20th century. On the…

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Reviewed by Gill Davies The cover illustration for the book is an aerial view of a suburban street. A pattern of identical houses with green lawns and tidy spaces symbolises the “America” of myth. It reflects a political fantasy of uniformity of race, class, gender and sexuality. But this is an America of exclusion, that…

The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin

Translated by Euan Cameron Reviewed by Harriet In this magical novel, we are in Japan, many many years ago. The small, unremarkable village of Shimae lies on the banks of the river Kusagawa, which for many years has provided an income for the village. For wonderfully large and beautiful carp can be caught in the…

Crossing by Pajtim Statovci

Translated by David Hackston Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth Crossing is perhaps one of the vaguest book titles I have come across recently, especially given the trend towards sentence-length titles (think Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared). I had my misgivings about it, suspecting an attempt…

Metropolis by Philip Kerr

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Swan Song (For A City) Stephen King once wrote of the ‘Grey Havens’ as a kind of afterlife where fictional characters can relax after their authors die or finish their stories. I had the idea that he got this from Tolkien, but a Wiki search brings up the place as a…

Charlie Savage by Roddy Doyle

Reviewed by Laura Marriott One of the kids wants a tattoo. -He’s only three, I tell the wife. -I’m aware of that, she tells me back. -But he still wants one. -He can’t even say ‘tattoo’, I tell her. -I know, she says. -It’s sweet. Charlie Savage is not a fan of tattoos. He is…

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

Reviewed by Elaine Simpson-Long This book kept popping up I my Twitter feed with recommendations and exhortations to ‘Read this Fantastic Book’. I am rather contrary so I ignored them all until I decided well everyone cannot be wrong, so I gave in and opened my copy. I opened it up. ‘OH NO,’ I scream…

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reviewed by Annabel There was a lot of pre-publishing buzz about Daisy Jones and The Six – it was instantly signed up by Amazon for a TV series with Reese Witherspoon producing. But, in this case, there was no need to worry about the book not being worth the hype, for this book is a…

A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself by William Boyle

 Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies Some novels strike such an authentic note in the beginning that they give you the immediate assurance — the eagerness — to read on. You can’t help being hooked by the individual quality of the writing and the distinctive angle of insight. This is Mo Phelan, a retired porn actress stranded…

Adèle by Leïla Slimani

Translated by Sam Taylor Reviewed by Annabel Slimani’s first novel to be translated into English, Lullaby, took the English-speaking publishing world by storm. It was a literary thriller telling the story of a murderous nanny and what made her that way, (reviewed by Harriet here). It was the must-read book at the time, an instant…

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

Reviewed by Annabel For some, this debut novel was a surprise inclusion on the longlist for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction this year – for a start, it’s a dark comedy, and comedy rarely features in prize longlists. I, however, was delighted to see it there, for it does have a heart and is…

Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth If you asked me about the time I first discovered Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, I could tell you this was when I read the author’s much-praised second novel, Waking Lions. I couldn’t give you the full synopsis of the plot, though: I recall the protagonist being an Israeli neurosurgeon who, on one of…

Little Faith by Nickolas Butler

Reviewed by Harriet This is Nickolas Butler’s third novel. He was widely praised for his first, Shotgun Lovesongs, which was published in 2014, and equally so for his second, The Hearts of Men. Is Little Faith going to be the third success in a row? I would say yes, without a doubt. ‘Powerful’, ‘tender’ ‘gripping’…

Happy Little Bluebirds by Louise Levene (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Louise Levene’s last novel, The Following Girls, was a pitch-perfect satire on ‘70s schoolgirl life whose period detail rang more than a few bells for me. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of that detail in Happy Little Bluebirds, set in Hollywood just over a year before the attack on Pearl…

Music Love Drugs War by Geraldine Quigley

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth The Troubles are exploding – in the best possible sense – onto the literary scene: two decades after the Good Friday Agreement, Anna Burns’s masterfully haunting Milkman was awarded the Booker Prize. However, the novel’s success came with criticisms of its difficulty, with various commentators describing it as everything from ‘impenetrable’…

The Sect Of Angels by Andrea Camilleri

Translated by Stephen Sartarelli Reviewed by Gill Davies In addition to the Inspector Montalbano novels, best known to English readers from the TV adaptations in the BBC4 Saturday night crime slot, Andrea Camilleri has also written historical crime fiction. The Sect of Angels, first published in Italian in 2011, is set in Sicily in the…

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Reviewed by Rob Spence English-language fiction set in colonial Malaya tended in the past to focus on the lives of the Empire types who ruled the roost back then: Somerset Maugham is particularly guilty of this, and even Anthony Burgess’s masterly Malayan Trilogy, peopled as it is with characters drawn from all of the ethnic…