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…

All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Both Melissa Harrison’s previous novels are notable for their vividly evocative descriptions of the English countryside, the kind of thing readers are treated to in the very best nature writing. All Among the Barley goes several steps further with a powerful piece of storytelling set in the early ‘30s when a…

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…

White Houses by Amy Bloom

Reviewed by Susan Osborne I’ve yet to read anything by Amy Bloom that I’ve not loved. Her writing is both deft and empathetic, pressing all my literary buttons. Spanning a weekend in April 1945, shortly after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, White Houses tells the story of his wife Eleanor and Lorena Hickok, the…

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Emily Ruskovich’s Idaho is an impressive debut, both in its writing and its treatment of a difficult subject: the murder of a young child in the most shocking of circumstances. It comes garlanded with praise from the likes of Andrea Barrett, Chinelo Okparanta and Claire Fuller, all thoroughly deserved. One hot…

The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne This novel is unlikely to appeal to everyone although we should all read it. It’s about assisted suicide, one of the great moral dilemmas of the twenty-first century Western world where medicine has advanced in leaps and bounds but not the ethical framework for dealing with its unintended consequences. Steven Amsterdam’s…

Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Ron Rash hails from the Appalachians and it’s there that he sets his award-winning novels with their smalltown mountain backdrop similar to Kent Haruf’s Holt, Colorado. He’s also a poet, more evident in this new novel than in previous books I’ve read by him. Above the Waterfall is about Les Clary,…