The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Translated by Sam Garrett Reviewed by Alice Farrant Two venturesome women on a journey through the land of their fathers and mothers. A wrong turn. A bad decision.[1] The Death of Murat Idrissi is a tale of the migrant dilemma; the desperate measures someone will go to escape, but also the struggle to belong. In…

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Reviewed by Alice Farrant Helen Franklin is self-repressed, restricting herself from all that is pleasurable or happy. She merely exists alongside Prague, parallel to its beauty. When suddenly, she is given a manuscript of accounts all linked to a spectre named Melmoth, she is forced to look back to the events that built her self-imposed…

Things We Nearly Knew by Jim Powell (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Jim Powell’s Things We Nearly Knew is a slice of American smalltown life seen through the eyes of an unnamed bartender. I enjoyed Powell’s second novel, Trading Futures, a couple of years back, admiring its narrator’s waspishly funny inner monologue. His new novel is infused with a gentler humour, the themes…

Dark Water by Elizabeth Lowry

Reviewed by Anne Goodwin Twenty-one-year-old Hiram Carver, assistant surgeon on the USS Orbis in 1833, senses something special about William Borden when he first sees him on board. The sailor exudes a quiet dignity that his upper-class superior officers seem to lack. So when he hears the story of Borden’s heroism in saving the lives…

Middle England by Jonathan Coe

Reviewed by Annabel By the time I’d finished reading Coe’s latest novel, it was about a fortnight after publication and by this time he (and his publisher Penguin Viking) could claim a big publicity success. There had been spreads about the book and Coe in all the broadsheet arts pages, reviews in the latest issues…

Berta Isla by Javier Marías

Translated by Margaret Jull Costa Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth I’m not one for classic spy stories: I don’t care if the martinis come shaken or stirred, and as much as I love anything set in the 70s, I gave the much-praised TV adaptation of le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl a miss. But Javier Mariás’s…

The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies At times crime fiction seems a genre so powerful that it sucks in and revitalises other forms. At others, literary fiction appears to piggyback expediently on the thriller or whodunit to expand its popularity – that is to say, its market. It must be a good few years now since…

Little by Edward Carey

Reviewed by Simon The name Madame Tussaud is familiar to most of us – particularly to anybody who has been a tourist in London, and visited the waxwork museum that bears her name. You can also, it turns out, witness branches of Madame Tussaud’s in Amsterdam, Beijing, Bangkok, Berlin, Blackpool, Hollywood, Hong Kong, Las Vegas,…

Childhood by Gerard Reve

Translated by Sam Garrett Reviewed by Harriet Gerard Reve (1923-2006) was a Dutch writer – according to Wikipedia, one of the ‘Great Three’ of Dutch postwar literature. I have to admit to never having heard of him, but if the two novellas contained in this attractive hardback from Pushkin are anything to go by, it…

Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies A short walk from my ergonomic study chair is my Chandler bookshelf. It includes some Philip Marlowe fiction not by Chandler: Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, A Celebration, a story anthology put out by Bloomsbury in 1989, and Robert B. Parker’s hypothetical completion job on an abortive Chandler fragment, its working…

Love is Blind by William Boyd

Reviewed by Harriet Sebastian Faulks has called William Boyd ‘the finest storyteller of his generation’, and it’s hard to argue with that. The stories he tells are mostly those of people’s lives – for example, in Any Human Heart, and The New Confessions, his central character’s life was told from his earliest beginnings to his…

If Cats Disappeared From the World by Genki Kawamura

Translated by Eric Selland Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth Who doesn’t deal with the devil every now and again? Or perhaps a god from your chosen religion, for the more saintly among us? Or just any form of non-supernatural, psychological trading in the privacy of your own mind? At risk of branding myself as the resident…

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Reviewed by David Harris This was the first time I’d read a book by Novik. Her Temeraire series and Uprooted (reviewed for Shiny by Sakura here) have received lots of praise so I was pleased to have an opportunity to review this new standalone story. Set in the snowy Eastern European forests long ago, Spinning…

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Reviewed by David Harris Skinny Pete went to sleep, underfed and bony Skinny Pete went to sleep, and died a death so lonely. The enemy aren’t the Villains, nomads, scavengers, insomniacs, Ice-Hermits, Megafauna, nightwalker, hiburnal rodents or flesh eating cold slime – it’s the Winter. This is a standalone volume from Jasper Fforde, not part…

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth What happens when the walls around someone collapse – in this case, both literally and metaphorically? One take is that when you’re left without shelter under the open sky, you may have lost your security but have gained a clearer view on life instead. This is the premise for Barbara Kingsolver’s…

The Flame – Leonard Cohen

Reviewed by Rob Spence For a while in the mid sixties to the early seventies, the singer-songwriter reigned supreme in popular music. Dylan, of course, was the pioneer, followed by James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and the rest of the hipperati of Laurel Canyon and beyond. Riding on the first wave, Leonard Cohen, recruited…

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen Reviewed by Rob Spence The strap line chosen by the publishers for the cover of this massive novel is instructive: “None of us are ever finished. Everyone is always a work in progress.” Despite its Dickensian length, Murakami’s eighteenth work of fiction has the feel of the unfinished…

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Reviewed by Harriet ‘Don’t let your imagination run away with you, Miss Armstrong. You have an unfortunate tendency to do that. Iris isn’t real’. But how can she not be? Juliet thought. She’s me. Kate Atkinson’s last two novels, Life after Life  and A God in Ruins (reviewed here) were both set in the years…

The Second Rider by Alex Beer

Translated by Tim Mohr Reviewed by Gill Davies The Second Rider is the first novel in a projected new series by the Austrian writer, Alex Beer. It is set in Vienna in winter 1919. The World War may be over but its horrors persist for the wounded, the hungry, the sick, the homeless and unemployed.…

Hippie by Paulo Coelho

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth Hippie is the newest addition to Coelho’s bibliography, but to say that it is something new from Coelho would be lying. Coelho’s previous autobiographical novels are all set on journeys: The Pilgrimage describes the author’s spiritual awakening on his 500-mile hike to Santiago de Compostela, The Valkyries tells the story of…

Two debut novels from Salt

Reviewed by Annabel Salt Publishing, based in Cromer, Norfolk hit the headlines earlier this year In May. They were in danger of folding, and urged readers in a Twitter campaign to buy #JustOneBook via their online shop or indie book stores to keep them from going under. It worked, raising over £16,000 from 1700 orders and…

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

Reviewed by Harriet Have you ever wondered how the children of a witch and a vampire might turn out? Well, wonder no longer as you can now see them in the persons of Becca and Philip, the two year old twins of Diana Bishop and her husband Matthew Clermont. No idea what I’m talking about?…

By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts

Reviewed by David Harris Roberts seems to have been very busy lately so I’m glad he managed to include a return to the world of The Real-Town Murders, one of my favourite books of 2017. R!-Town is a futuristic version of Reading (the town on the Thames, not the bookish activity) though the futuristicness is less embodied in…