Putney by Sofka Zinovieff (pbk)

Review by Susan Osborne, 6 August 2019 Sofka Zinovieff’s Putney is a subtle novel which explores the fallout of sexual abuse all wrapped up in an engrossing piece of storytelling, accessible enough to offer an absorbing, intelligent summer read. When young composer Ralph visits the Putney home of a successful novelist keen to see his…

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio

Translated by Ann Goldstein Review by Gill Davies, 30 July 2019 It is 1975, somewhere in the south of Italy. A thirteen year old girl drags a suitcase and a bag of shoes up the stairs of a tenement building in an unknown town. She is about to meet  – and live with – people…

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

Reviewed by Harriet He wished that he could just once hear his sister play a solo again. Or help his sister pin up the hem on a dress she’d made. Or have a goodnight peck on the cheek from his mother – the most intimacy she could manage. They were not a family who touched.…

The Body Lies by Jo Baker

Reviewed by Gill Davies The prelude to the main events of the novel is a random, terrifying sexual assault on the central character. She is a young writer, with a well-received debut novel, living in south London in a small flat with her husband Mark, a teacher. She is working in a bookshop, trying to…

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster It’s been six years since Elizabeth Gilbert’s last work of fiction, The Signature of All Things (reviewed by Harriet, here), a warm, playful doorstopper telling the eventful life story of Alma Whittaker, a fictional nineteenth-century botanist whose staid existence in her father’s Philadelphia home unexpectedly opens outward through marriage, an adventure…

Tragedy, Farce and the Future: the Red Circle Minis

Reviewed by Karen Langley As I’ve explained in my Bookbuzz feature, the Red Circle Minis are three slim volumes of original writing published by Red Circle Authors. Each book is by a writer who’s either Japanese or living in Japan, but the works are being issued in English initially as an attempt to widen the…

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

Translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce Reviewed by Annabel Since I discovered the feelgood novels by French author Antoine Laurain, brought to us in translation by Gallic Books, I’ve seized upon each new release upon publication. Vintage 1954 is his seventh, his first new work since French Rhapsody, which I reviewed for Shiny here,…

The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz

Translated by Roger Allen Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth On the rare occasions that someone uncovers unpublished work by a deceased writer, publishing takes an archeological turn. An unpublished manuscript, like a mummified pharaoh or a Stone Age tool, can prove to be a gift from beyond the grave – for literature lovers and no doubt…

Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies The day my review copy of Cari Mora arrived I spent the afternoon strolling on Morecambe’s splendid promenade. The view across the Bay from the Naples of the North is elevating even in dull weather. Hitting Morrisons for a light shop, as you do, I was overwhelmed at the entrance by…

The Cracks in our Armour by Anna Gavalda

Translated by Alison Anderson Reviewed by Harriet Way back in the early days of Shiny (issue 5 to be exact) I reviewed Anna Gavalda’s slender novel Billie. As I said in that review, I was first introduced to Gavalda in a French class, where we were reading and translating her celebrated novel Ensemble, C’est Tout,…

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…