Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Reviewed by Harriet Asymmetry is defined as ‘lack of equality or equivalence between parts’, a definition that applies both to a theme of this brilliant debut novel and to its structure. As anyone who’s read a review of the book will know, it’s divided into three parts, the first two of which appear to be…

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox

Reviewed by Annabel When Knox’s debut Sirens, which I reviewed here, was published in January 2017, it caused ripples. Here was a perfectly formed first novel, a crime thriller with a disgraced detective at its heart set in the nighttime economy of Manchester. I described it as ‘The Wire meets Line of Duty in Manchester’. It remained the…

From the Archives: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

One of a series of reviews republished from the Shiny Archive of Issue 1 to celebrate our 4th birthday Reviewed by Simon Thomas At some point, Helen Oyeyemi will stop being notable for her youth – but, at 29 and with five novels under her belt, that day has not yet come. What should perhaps…

Happiness by Aminatta Forna

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin “You know how it is with white people. You say it’s race, they tell you you are mistaken. Then they say it’s because of your race when you say it is not.” So says one of the characters in Happiness. So it is with great caution that I, from my white…

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Reviewed by Annabel They say that in Tangier, the local hustlers have clocked all the new arrivals within hours – this is what I was told when I visited Tangier in the 1980s. Every day we stepped outside our hotel, we were met by young men eager to show us the city – via their…

A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey

Reviewed by Harriet A Long Way from Home, as the title implies, is a novel of a journey in more than one sense. An actual physical journey takes up the central portion of the book, which is divided into three related parts, but it’s also a journey to self-knowledge, with all that implies, for one…

All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J Church

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster Elizabeth J. Church’s debut novel, The Atomic Weight of Love (reviewed here), was about an 87-year-old amateur ornithologist whose husband was one of the creators of the atomic bomb. I could see some of its themes – the difficulty of a woman choosing her own path and making it fit into…

The Unbeliever by Oggy Boytchev

Reviewed by Annabel We’re delighted to be the final stop on the short blog tour to celebrate the publication of this book. Oggy (Ognian) Boytchev grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Bulgaria. He developed an interest in spies and spy novels as a child, after hearing propaganda on the radio of a convicted spy’s…

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

Reviewed by Helen Skinner It’s 1941 and Britain is at war. Emmeline Lake has always wanted to be a journalist and is thrilled when she sees an advertisement in the newspaper for a job at the London Evening Chronicle. This could be her opportunity to become a Lady War Correspondent. How exciting! To her delight, Emmy…

The Ropewalker and A People Without a Past by Jaan Kross

Translated by Merike Lepasaar Beecher Reviewed by Gill Davies Thanks to the wonderful Maclehose Press I have discovered another writer in translation who deserves to be much better known. Up to now, according to Wikipedia, only four novels and one collection of stories by Jaan Kross have been published in English translations. The two novels…

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

Reviewed by Annabel After the searing, taboo-breaking storyline of O’Neil’s second novel, Asking For It (reviewed here), a young adult story about consent, teenage sex-shaming and the fallout from it, Almost Love, O’Neill’s first adult novel, could seem almost underwhelming in comparison. But this is a slow-burn drama, written for a different audience. There’s not…

Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani

Reviewed by Terence Jagger This is a tricky book to read, though I enjoyed much of it. It is funny and observant, but painful too. Kimani has a strong view on the total evil of colonialism and its creatures, and this unalloyed negativity and cynicism can be corrosive, however justified much of his criticism is.…

The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies At the close of James Joyce’s moving and magisterial story ‘The Dead’ the reader learns that ‘snow was general all over Ireland… falling faintly through the universe … on all the living and the dead’, and the settling, drifting whiteness is given its full emotional force in a tale of imprisoned…

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Reviewed by Harriet We’ve reviewed two of Laura Lippman’s novels in Shiny, here and here. One was a police procedural and the other a standalone – Lippman’s output is fairly evenly divided between the two. She’s known as a crime writer, but if that’s not your genre of choice, don’t dismiss her novels, which rise…

The Extremist by Nadia Dalbuono

Reviewed by Marina Sofia You might be forgiven for expecting this book set in Italy to be translated from Italian, given the Italian sounding name of the author. In fact, Nadia Dalbuono has studied in the UK, worked for many years as a TV consultant and documentary maker for Channel 4 and ITV, and writes…

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Reviewed by Harriet I forget everything between footsteps. ‘Anna!’ I finish shouting, snapping my mouth shut in surprise. My mind has gone blank. I don’t know who Anna is or why I’m calling her name. I don’t even know how I got here. I’m standing in a forest, shielding my eyes from the spitting rain.…

Home by Amanda Berriman

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin This is a heartbreaking ache of a book: it explores some harrowing themes, opens doors to experiences we should all be aware of, and is gripping and terrifyingly tense. But there’s a joy glowing at the heart of Home that elevates it above your average tear-jerker or page-turner. A joy that…

Daphne by Will Boast

Reviewed by Annabel The vogue for using ancient myth to inspire contemporary novels continues unabated. Last year, Kamila Shamsie updated the story of Antigone in Home Fire, in which a family is riven by politics. Now living in the US, English author Will Boast uses the myth of Daphne to drive his debut novel.You don’t…

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Command the Mermaid Speak Last year a monster emerged from London’s sewers. The ‘fatberg’ – as the city’s waste disposal experts called it – was a giant composite of body waste, disposable nappies, antiseptic wipes, pet gravel, shopping trolleys and God knows what else that ends up in the tunnels underneath the…