The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin I can’t remember seeing a more perfect cover for a book in a while. Everything you need to know about The Water Cure is there. The obscure water hiding all manner of unknowable things. The girl vulnerable, head lifted, neck exposed. The fleshiness, with the female body at the centre of everything. The…

Interview with Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing

Interview by Lucy Unwin Jesmyn Ward is certainly highly decorated. At a recent reading, the roll call of her awards felt like they’d fill the full hour; shortlisting for The Women’s Prize for Fiction tagged to the end of an already weighty list. But this Mississippi author was once rejected by book agents who thought her literary…

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…

Interview with Amanda Berriman, author of Home

Interview by Lucy Unwin Lucy: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, could you explain a little bit about your original aim with Home? Amanda: I was trying to explore what ‘home’ is to different people and how it can look one way, but be something else. With the comparisons between Jesika…

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…

Peach by Emma Glass

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin There are moments when Peach is stunningly realistic; the raw sensations capture a pure essence of trauma. But this is far from a realistic book. To read and enjoy it you need to be prepared to embrace the bizarre, the surreal and the downright ridiculous. It’s a book of impressions, and…

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin This is the most grittily realistic book I’ve read in a while — it just happens to be a ghost story. Somehow, despite its fantastical content, Sing, Unburied, Sing feels distinctly believable. The plot is simple; it’s a road trip, there and back again. Thirteen-year-old Jojo, and his little sister Kayla,…

We that are Young by Preti Taneja

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin We That Are Young is ambitious. So very ambitious, and so very good. Most strikingly it’s a thorough and impressive academic exercise, but it’s also a great story, engrossingly told, a refreshing study of female sexuality and the male perception of it, and a Trainspotting-esque seminal moment in literature for young,…

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi pbk

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin There is no question, this book is stunning: in its scope, its ambition, in what it can teach us and in the skill on display. In Homegoing, a portrait of a West African family in 1754 feels as true to life as dialogue between kids at a California pool party today.…

An Interview with Nicole Krauss

Interview by Lucy Unwin Right until the moment our interview ends, and Nicole Krauss melts with a hug and a kind word into a wonderful dissolvable sweetness, she is hard, formidable, icy. Not bitchy or brash, or any other pejorative descriptor of female inaccessibility, but poised and controlled, intellectually precise and unyielding, pushing right up…

Swing Time Zadie Smith

Swing Time by Zadie Smith (pbk)

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin Great dancers make the most complicated moves look effortless, and great writers have you swinging through their work like a dance. Zadie Smith skips easily from London, to New York, to West Africa in her latest novel, without missing a beat. She tells the stories of myriad women, through the eyes…

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (pbk)

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin This is not a historical novel. Not just because the facts of slavery in pre-Civil War America are strained through the wonderful, allegorical, imagination of an expert story-teller (the railroad of the title is not the metaphor of history books, but real steam trains in real tunnels). But also because it’s…

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize winning debut The God Of Small Things was a sensuous, atmospheric, emotionally powerful book. India’s caste system was the motivator of the plot, and a backdrop of Keralan Communism bled through it. The book was saturated with politics, but it mainly served to inspire, sustain and contextualise…

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin That the Bechdel Test for movies even exists has to be one of the more depressing minor details of modern times. If you’ve never come across it, it’s a way of evaluating a film’s representation of women using these criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it,…

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin The first thing to say about The End We Start From is it’s not a standard book of fictional prose. The story is told through beautifully-crafted sentences, isolated like islands on the page. Shots of consciousness, captured like polaroids. Each scene is built from just a handful of these, and there…

Q&A with Megan Hunter about The End We Start From

Interview by Lucy Unwin Lucy: This is a very unusual book: it may be a novel, but it has the sensibility of poetry. People won’t have had a chance to look at it yet, and in fact the few reader reviews I’ve seen so far all seem to start with “I’m not quite sure what…

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin No book could be simultaneously more timely and more timeless than this future classic. The Nix is fun, joyous, exciting and tender; full of both the outrage, anger and giddy momentum of political change and subtle layers of sympathy for the characters at the heart of it. It is inescapably apt…