Book review – fiction

Marina Lewycka’s Granny steals the show

7 May 2016 9:00 am

Marina Lewycka’s latest happy-go-lucky tale of migrant folk in Britain takes a remark by the modernist architect Berthold Lubetkin as…

Losers in the game of life

7 May 2016 9:00 am

Mysteries abound here — enigmas of identity and betrayal, long-buried secret transactions leading to quests — for a lost child,…

Training the horse from hell

30 April 2016 9:00 am

There were moments while reading this sprawling, ambitious novel when I thought I was reading a masterpiece. But at other…

Sex, violence and anticlimax in 16 (very short) chapters

23 April 2016 9:00 am

‘Now I am a mother and a married woman, but not long ago I led a life of crime,’ begins…

From Jekyll back to Hyde: the changing face of Begbie

23 April 2016 9:00 am

Irvine Welsh’s 1993 debut novel Train-spotting flicked a hearty V-sign in the face of alarm-clock Britain. ‘Ah choose no tae…

The Cauliflower®: Nicola Barker’s divine comedy

16 April 2016 9:00 am

Nicola Barker is both prodigiously talented and admirably fearless. I have loved her books. But for some time I had…

All That Man Is: a novel view of masculinity

16 April 2016 9:00 am

‘Insufficiency’ is a favourite David Szalay word. The narrator of his previous novel, Spring, suffered from ‘insufficiency of feeling’; in…

When London burned like rotten sticks

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Spectator readers know Andrew Taylor from his reviews of crime fiction. Many will also know him as an admirable writer…

The Sunlight Pilgrims: a chilling tale of the new Ice Age

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Every second novel is fated to be measured against its predecessor; and that comparison is particularly hard when the debut…

Sex behind the scenes at Sofia’s National Palace of Culture

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Garth Greenwell’s debut novel is as dreary and oppressive as the Soviet-era apartment buildings among which it takes place. But…

Riots and gang warfare provide the spark for the best latest thrillers

9 April 2016 9:00 am

All it takes is a spark. In her compelling new thriller, Ten Days (Canongate, £14.99), Gillian Slovo tracks the progress…

Death and retribution in Beersheba

2 April 2016 9:00 am

Nordic noir is passé. Now we have Israeli noir. Waking Lions is a mordant thriller written by a clinical psychologist…

South Africa’s Heart of Darkness

2 April 2016 9:00 am

Trencherman was first published in Afrikaans in 2006 and translated into English for a South African readership shortly afterwards, but…

Hot Milk’s heroine has snaky curls and a basilisk stare

26 March 2016 9:00 am

With ‘both arms stretched out like a starfish, her long hair floating like seaweed at the sides of her body’,…

Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen reminds me of Nabokov

26 March 2016 9:00 am

Eileen is an accomplished, disturbing and creepily funny first novel by Ottessa Moshfegh, the latest darling of the Paris Review,…

How to Measure a Cow — and escape the shadows of the past

26 March 2016 9:00 am

Margaret Forster, who died on 8 February, excelled at writing about complex relationships between women. Even old friends, she demonstrated,…

A Girl in Exile: Ismail Kadare’s novel is full of absence

26 March 2016 9:00 am

My last review for The Spectator was of Julian Barnes’s biographical novel about Shostakovitch. A Girl in Exile also depicts…

A senile Putin becomes a parody of his own parody

19 March 2016 9:00 am

The decrepitude of old age is a piteous sight and subject. In his second book Michael Honig — a doctor-turned-novelist…

Karl Ove Knausgaard describes nothing happening — wonderfully

12 March 2016 9:00 am

It is hard to explain the contents of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s vast series My Struggle because not much happens. Or…

First novel choice: the American connection

12 March 2016 9:00 am

At the beginning of this year I underwent a complete literary detox: an absolute, cold-turkey abstention from cutting-edge fiction of…

Is China Miéville becoming a bit too inscrutable?

12 March 2016 9:00 am

China Miéville’s work is invariably clever, inevitably dense and usually interwoven with hard-left political and social concerns, but its author…

Neil Jordan: as seductive a novelist as film-maker

12 March 2016 9:00 am

The first and most important thing to say about The Drowned Detective is that it’s a very good novel and…

David Quantick’s The Mule: lost in the world of translation

12 March 2016 9:00 am

For those who read the weekly music press during the 1980s, David Quantick’s was a name you could rely on.…

A mother-son relationship that made me feel sick

12 March 2016 9:00 am

A boy, a car, a journey, a question: the first sentence of Elizabeth Day’s new novel goes like this: From…

Anthony Quinn’s Freya: an engaging costume drama

5 March 2016 9:00 am

The name Freya is derived from the old Norse word for ‘spouse’, perhaps Odin’s. As a goddess she is variously…