Book review – fiction

Frankenstein’s monster is more frightening than ever

17 March 2018 9:00 am

On the wall of her tumbledown house in central Baghdad, an elderly Christian widow named Elishva has a beloved icon…

Jessie Greengrass’s Sight is unashamedly philosophical

10 March 2018 9:00 am

The precarious stasis of late pregnancy offers the narrator of Jessie Greengrass’s exceptional first novel a space — albeit an…

Shadows of the past are ominously present in a trio of memorable first novels

10 March 2018 9:00 am

The Shangri-Las’ song ‘Past, Present and Future’ divides a life into three, Beethoven-underpinned phases: before, during and after. Each section…

You deserve a prize if you manage to finish Jim Crace’s latest novel

3 March 2018 9:00 am

This remorselessly slow-moving, hazily allegorical drama about ageing and xenophobia is Jim Crace’s 12th book, and the first to appear…

The Charlie Hebdo attacks form a backdrop to a complicated love triangle in C.K. Stead’s latest novel

17 February 2018 9:00 am

There has been much debate recently about what exactly constitutes ‘literary’ fiction. If the term means beguiling, gorgeously crafted novels…

Denis Johnson: where pain and comedy collide

3 February 2018 9:00 am

The death of Denis Johnson last May marked the loss of a great original who catalogued the lives of junkies,…

Trying hard to be somebody in Trump’s America

3 February 2018 9:00 am

For Horace Hopper, the half-breed protagonist of Willy Vlautin’s bleak new novel, essential truths come slowly, and usually too late…

Crime and puzzlement in Tony White’s Oulipo-inspired novel

3 February 2018 9:00 am

Tony White’s latest novel begins for all the world like a police procedural, following the delightfully named sleuth Rex King…

For Julian Barnes, the only story is a love story — and it’s inevitably sad

27 January 2018 9:00 am

The story, as it emerges, feels both familiar and inevitable. A bored 19-year-old student, on his university holidays in mid-century…

Michelle de Kretser: the modern Australian Jane Austen

27 January 2018 9:00 am

Twenty-odd pages into Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come, I pounded the table and bellowed an Australian-accented ‘fuck yeah!’…

An 80th birthday party causes no end of trouble in Barney Norris’s latest novel

20 January 2018 9:00 am

‘People live in the space between the realities of their lives and the hopes they have for them,’ muses the…

Jenny Erpenbeck finds a novel way to tackle the migrant problem

20 January 2018 9:00 am

The title of Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go Went Gone, and the autumnal tone of its beginning — a classics professor retires,…

Drugs and drag queens in New York’s vanished clubland

25 November 2017 9:00 am

In 2014 Michael Alig, impresario, party promoter and drug provider, was released on parole after 17 years in prison for…

Susie Boyt neatly skewers the self-help trends

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Grief is not being able to eat a small boiled egg. ‘Could you face an egg?’ the widowed Jean asks…

More menace – and magic – on the moors

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney was one of the surprise stand-outs of last year, and a worthy winner of the…

The enigma of Enric Marco

11 November 2017 9:00 am

Enric Marco has had a remarkable life. A prominent Catalan union activist, a brave resistance fighter in the Spanish Civil…

More secrets and symbols

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Being reflexively snotty about Dan Brown’s writing is like slagging off Donald Trump’s spelling: it just entrenches everyone’s position. In…

How to be good

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Suffering, wrote Auden, takes place ‘while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along’. His…

(image: istock)

A choice of first novels

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Black Rock White City (Melville House, £16.99) is ostensibly about a spate of sinister graffiti in a Melbourne hospital. ‘The…

(image: iStock)

Unearthly powers

21 October 2017 9:00 am

This delightfully good-humoured novel is the sort of genre scramble that doesn’t often work: there’s a bit of 1990s family…

Philip Pullman (image: Getty)

Three daemons in a boat

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Philip Pullman’s new k, the prequel to his Northern Lights series — the one north Oxford academics very much prefer…

Victorian house (image: istock)

Something scary in the attic

21 October 2017 9:00 am

How do you like your ghosts? Supernatural fiction is arguably the hardest to get right. Ideally it should terrify, but…

That’s no lady

7 October 2017 9:00 am

Did I enjoy this novel? Yes! Nevertheless, it dismayed me. How could John Banville, whom I’ve admired so much ever…

Well of sorrows

2 September 2017 9:00 am

The Red-haired Woman is shorter than Orhan Pamuk’s best-known novels, and is, in comparison, pared down, written with deliberate simplicity…

Stage fright

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Patrick McGrath is a master of novels about post-traumatic fragmentation and dissolution, set amid gothic gloom. His childhood years spent…