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…

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reviewed by Annabel There was a lot of pre-publishing buzz about Daisy Jones and The Six – it was instantly signed up by Amazon for a TV series with Reese Witherspoon producing. But, in this case, there was no need to worry about the book not being worth the hype, for this book is a…

A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself by William Boyle

 Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies Some novels strike such an authentic note in the beginning that they give you the immediate assurance — the eagerness — to read on. You can’t help being hooked by the individual quality of the writing and the distinctive angle of insight. This is Mo Phelan, a retired porn actress stranded…

Adèle by Leïla Slimani

Translated by Sam Taylor Reviewed by Annabel Slimani’s first novel to be translated into English, Lullaby, took the English-speaking publishing world by storm. It was a literary thriller telling the story of a murderous nanny and what made her that way, (reviewed by Harriet here). It was the must-read book at the time, an instant…

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

Reviewed by Annabel For some, this debut novel was a surprise inclusion on the longlist for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction this year – for a start, it’s a dark comedy, and comedy rarely features in prize longlists. I, however, was delighted to see it there, for it does have a heart and is…

Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth If you asked me about the time I first discovered Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, I could tell you this was when I read the author’s much-praised second novel, Waking Lions. I couldn’t give you the full synopsis of the plot, though: I recall the protagonist being an Israeli neurosurgeon who, on one of…

Little Faith by Nickolas Butler

Reviewed by Harriet This is Nickolas Butler’s third novel. He was widely praised for his first, Shotgun Lovesongs, which was published in 2014, and equally so for his second, The Hearts of Men. Is Little Faith going to be the third success in a row? I would say yes, without a doubt. ‘Powerful’, ‘tender’ ‘gripping’…

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…

Music Love Drugs War by Geraldine Quigley

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth The Troubles are exploding – in the best possible sense – onto the literary scene: two decades after the Good Friday Agreement, Anna Burns’s masterfully haunting Milkman was awarded the Booker Prize. However, the novel’s success came with criticisms of its difficulty, with various commentators describing it as everything from ‘impenetrable’…

The Sect Of Angels by Andrea Camilleri

Translated by Stephen Sartarelli Reviewed by Gill Davies In addition to the Inspector Montalbano novels, best known to English readers from the TV adaptations in the BBC4 Saturday night crime slot, Andrea Camilleri has also written historical crime fiction. The Sect of Angels, first published in Italian in 2011, is set in Sicily in the…

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Reviewed by Rob Spence English-language fiction set in colonial Malaya tended in the past to focus on the lives of the Empire types who ruled the roost back then: Somerset Maugham is particularly guilty of this, and even Anthony Burgess’s masterly Malayan Trilogy, peopled as it is with characters drawn from all of the ethnic…

Picnic in the Storm by Yukiko Motoya

Translated by Asa Yoneda Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth The title of Yukiko Motoya’s short story collection Picnic in the Storm could easily be a description of the author’s literary life. In her native Japan, Motoya is reaping prize after prize, yet the young writer writes about the ordinary and everyday with an ease and a…

Girl Balancing by Helen Dunmore (pbk)

Reviewed by Harriet It was a great loss to the world of fiction when Helen Dunmore sadly died in 2017. Fortunately for her admirers, of which I am happy to be one, she left a legacy of short stories, some never before published, which have now appeared in one volume. Her son, who edited this…

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…

Winterman by Alex Walters

Reviewed by Rob Spence East Anglia has quite a lot of previous when it comes to crime fiction: Colin Watson’s chronicles of Flaxborough, James Runcie’s Grantchester mysteries, and Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey series all make use of the particular topography of the fen country. Looming over them all of course is Dorothy Sayers’s The Nine…

Vox by Christina Dalcher (pbk)

Reviewed by Lindsay Bamfield Dr Jean McClellan is a leading neurolinguistics scientist working on a cure for Wernicke’s aphasia, the devastating language disorder that can result from brain injury. But for the last year she has not been allowed to work – because she is a woman. The oppressive Pure Movement is in power and…

Graceland by Bethan Roberts

Reviewed by Annabel When I saw that Bethan Roberts’s new book had Elvis on the cover, I was instantly intrigued. Having followed Bethan’s career for some years, (she hails from the town where I live), I wondered what Graceland would be about. Her last novel, Mother Island (reviewed here with Q&A here) was a tale…

To Kill the Truth by Sam Bourne

Reviewed by Rob Spence We live in an age of fake news, propagated by politicians, celebrities and media organisations. Perhaps we always have – from the tricks of Elizabethan propaganda to the Zinoviev letter, there has always existed a tendency to invent, inflate and distort the truth, to present “alternative facts” as Kellyanne Conway characterised…

Slow Motion Ghosts by Jeff Noon

Reviewed by Annabel I first discovered Jeff Noon’s weird take on our world when his debut novel Vurt was picked up by a major publisher after being an indie original that went on to win the Arthur C Clarke Award in 1994. In Vurt, its sequel Pollen, prequel Nymphomation, and Automated Alice which shares some…

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Reviewed by Annabel I’ll say it up front, Jane Harper’s third novel, The Lost Man, was totally unputdownable! Not having read her first two, The Dry and Force of Nature (which Gill reviewed for Shiny here), I will have to return to them and catch up. They featured a Melbourne detective, Aaron Falk, but The Lost…