Book Review

Fiction

Marcus's collection explores profound themes of guilt and sexuality in a unique experimental style by Stuart Kelly

Marcus's collection explores profound themes of guilt and sexuality in a unique experimental style

by Stuart Kelly on April 16, 2014

Ben Marcus is one of the most stunningly original and profoundly unsettling writers of his generation. His subtle kinks of syntax, his daring choices of individual words and combinations of them, which seem a quarter tone out but somehow wholly right, the reiterated concerns – a pervading sense of guilt, the surrealism of sexuality, dangerous but necessary generational relationships – do not make for easy reading...more

Chaos and corruption prove a rich source of material for Teju Cole's fictionalised travelogue of Nigeria by Bernardine Evaristo

Chaos and corruption prove a rich source of material for Teju Cole's fictionalised travelogue of Nigeria

by Bernardine Evaristo on April 13, 2014

Nigeria is one of the world's most complex, chaotic and corrupt countries, but it also has an incredibly dynamic, assertive and enterprising population. Put these qualities together and it's clear to see why so many Nigerians have written so well about their homeland...more

The real-life shooting of cross-dressing gamine Jenny Bonnet is explored in this helter-skelter murder-mystery set in the rooming houses and bars of 1876 San Francisco by Sadie Jones

The real-life shooting of cross-dressing gamine Jenny Bonnet is explored in this helter-skelter murder-mystery set in the rooming houses and bars of 1876 San Francisco

by Sadie Jones on April 12, 2014

Exotic dancers, pimps, whores and a cross-dressing, bicycle-riding gamine who makes a living catching frogs for the cooking pots of restaurant kitchens. This is the cast of Emma Donoghue's eighth novel, a tale set in the rooming houses and bars of San Francisco in 1876...more

Set against the backgdrop of conflict in Belfast, Patterson explores the life paths and friendships of three friends over three decades, from teen torments and triumphs to middle age by Stuart Neville

Set against the backgdrop of conflict in Belfast, Patterson explores the life paths and friendships of three friends over three decades, from teen torments and triumphs to middle age

by Stuart Neville on April 12, 2014

Good Vibrations, the Terri Hooley biopic co-scripted by Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry, is one of the best films ever made about the Troubles, precisely because it isn't about the Troubles. Instead, it's about people trying to make decent lives for themselves in spite of the conflict, and comes closer to reflecting reality for the vast majority of Northern Ireland's citizens than any other movie I can think of...more

Steven Poole enjoys an intelligent, noisy novel about a bioterrorist's love of music by Steven Poole

Steven Poole enjoys an intelligent, noisy novel about a bioterrorist's love of music

by Steven Poole on April 11, 2014

Some years ago, a kindly editor asked me to review the latest novel by the celebrated American writer Richard Powers. Having attempted the first 30 or so pages numerous times, I eventually gave up and pleaded that I found the thing literally unreadable...more

Gladys Mitchell's Mrs Lestrange Bradley is a cackling, leering, hooting delight – a boon to the country house murder mystery by Nicholas Lezard

Gladys Mitchell's Mrs Lestrange Bradley is a cackling, leering, hooting delight – a boon to the country house murder mystery

by Nicholas Lezard on April 8, 2014

When Raymond Chandler remarked in "The Simple Art of Murder" that the likes of Dashiell Hammett had taken murder out of the vicarage garden and given it back to the people who were really good at it, you could see why he thought it necessary: bookshelves everywhere had been groaning under sub-Agatha Christie detective stories, which, if they didn't involve vicarages, featured country houses instead...more

Jenn Ashworth enjoys a tricksy debut about fiction, truth and commitment, which is more than in-jokes for the publishing crowd by Jenn Ashworth

Jenn Ashworth enjoys a tricksy debut about fiction, truth and commitment, which is more than in-jokes for the publishing crowd

by Jenn Ashworth on April 3, 2014

"There is nothing so undignified as an editor who writes," says the narrator of My Biggest Lie, the debut novel of editor-turned-writer Luke Brown. Liam, like his creator, is an editor from the north, transplanted to the world of the London literati...more

McDermid's addition to the Jane Austen Project may be funny and beautifully written, but surely it's time to rework a less fashionable author by Jenny Colgan

McDermid's addition to the Jane Austen Project may be funny and beautifully written, but surely it's time to rework a less fashionable author

by Jenny Colgan on March 26, 2014

Aha! A new Val McDermid, set at the Edinburgh festival. As it's against the law to write a book about the Edinburgh festival without someone discovering a dead standup comedian bobbing about in the Water of Leith, and as McDermid excels at crime fiction, I was tempted to bolt the door and gobble the book down in one sitting...more

The 'masterpiece for the age of the selfie' continues by Anthony Cummins

The 'masterpiece for the age of the selfie' continues

by Anthony Cummins on March 22, 2014

Don't let his status as highbrow crush du jour put you off: like WG Sebald in the 1990s and Roberto Bolaño in the 2000s, Karl Ove Knausgaard is a writer strong enough to survive the hype. Sebald wrote about the Holocaust; Bolaño drew on a real-life murder epidemic in a Mexican factory town; Knausgaard writes about Knausgaard...more

Helen Oyeyemi plays with myth and fairytale by Alex Clark

Helen Oyeyemi plays with myth and fairytale

by Alex Clark on March 21, 2014

Helen Oyeyemi's novels are characterised by the playful incorporation of myth, folklore and fairytale, ranging widely over the territories and cultures in which those endlessly recirculating, subtly mutating narratives become embedded...more

Non-Fiction

Ingrid D Rowland explores celebrated visits to Pompeii, from Freud's to Hillary Clinton's by Emily Gowers

Ingrid D Rowland explores celebrated visits to Pompeii, from Freud's to Hillary Clinton's

by Emily Gowers on April 9, 2014

In 1962, Atomic pizzas and Amalfi lemonade, along with espresso-makers and Sophia Loren, nourished many a foreigner's thrilling encounter with a newly prosperous, speed-loving Italy. Pompeii and Herculaneum were obligatory stops on the modern Grand Tour, and for at least one small American girl the first visit was formative – even if Pompeii was shut that day...more

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