Book review – fiction

Chaos among the commodes in Nina Stibbe’s old folks’ home

28 May 2016 9:00 am

A card in a shop window — ‘non-unionised, auxiliary nurses sought… 35p per hour. Ideal for outgoing compassionate females’ —…

Francesca Simon’s dark novel The Monstrous Child tells the story of Hel, Queen of the Underworld — like Proserpina, only monstrous

Sinister summer reading for children

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Martin Stewart’s Riverkeep (Penguin, £7.99) has a list of books and writers on the cover: Moby-Dick, The Wizard of Oz,…

Don DeLillo foresees the imminent death of death

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Cults, the desert, natural disasters. Artists, bankers, terrorists. Cash machines, food packaging, secret installations. Mediaspeak and scientific jargon. Crowds and…

Lizzie Bennet is catapulted to America

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Eligible is a page-turning romantic comedy which is very funny and entirely ridiculous: each of the short…

Disgusted of London - A.L. Kennedy's Serious Sweet reviewed

14 May 2016 9:00 am

Twenty-four long hours, two lonely people, one city in decline. This is the premise of A.L. Kennedy’s new novel Serious…

Andrey Kurkov’s The Bickford Fuse is a satirical masterpiece

14 May 2016 9:00 am

Whimsy, satire and deadpan humour: welcome to the world of Andrey Kurkov. If you know Kurkov’s work, The Bickford Fuse…

A bleak future — without cabbages or kings

7 May 2016 9:00 am

One happy aspect of Lionel Shriver’s peek into the near future (the novel opens in 2029) is the number of…

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…