Fiction

Death and dishonour: The Promise, by Damon Galgut, reviewed

31 July 2021 9:00 am

If death is not an event in life, as Wittgenstein observed, it’s a curious way to structure a novel. But…

The book as narrator: The Pages, by Hugo Hamilton, reviewed

31 July 2021 9:00 am

It is a truism that a book needs readers in order to have a meaningful existence. Hugo Hamilton’s The Pages…

Terence’s stamp: The Art of Living, by Stephen Bayley, reviewed

24 July 2021 9:00 am

Rumours reach me that the libel report for Stephen Bayley’s forthcoming biography of Terence Conran was longer than the book…

The man who made Manhattan: The Great Mistake, by Jonathan Lee, reviewed

24 July 2021 9:00 am

What makes a city? The collective labour of millions packed into its history; the constant forgetting of incomers who arrive…

The young bride’s tale: China Room, by Sunjeev Sahota, reviewed

24 July 2021 9:00 am

Sunjeev Sahota’s novels present an unvarnished image of British Asian lives. Ours Are the Streets chronicles a suicide bomber’s radicalisation,…

A matter of life or death: Should We Stay or Shall We Go, by Lionel Shriver, reviewed

17 July 2021 9:00 am

Leave or remain? That’s the question hanging like a cartoon sledgehammer over Lionel Shriver’s 17th novel. Although she makes merry…

Studies in vulnerability: A Shock, by Keith Ridgway, reviewed

10 July 2021 9:00 am

Keith Ridgway’s seventh book is a sultry, steamy shock of a novel, not least because nine years ago, despite the…

Life’s a bitch: Animal, by Lisa Taddeo, reviewed

10 July 2021 9:00 am

Lisa Taddeo’s debut Three Women was touted as groundbreaking. In reality it was a limp, occasionally overwritten account of the…

Leni Riefenstahl is missing: The Dictator’s Muse, by Nigel Farndale, reviewed

3 July 2021 9:00 am

Leni Riefenstahl was a film-maker of genius whose name is everlastingly associated with her film about the German chancellor, Triumph…

Return to LA Confidential: Widespread Panic, by James Ellroy, reviewed

3 July 2021 9:00 am

Even by James Ellroy’s standards, the narrator of his latest novel is not a man much given to the quiet…

Sweet and sour: Barcelona Dreaming, by Rupert Thomson, reviewed

3 July 2021 9:00 am

I’ve never been to Barcelona, but Rupert Thomson makes it feel like an old friend. The hot, airless nights and…

O father, where art thou? Fox Fires, by Wyl Menmuir, reviewed

19 June 2021 9:00 am

Wyl Menmuir’s first novel, The Many, was a surprise inclusion on the 2016 Booker Prize longlist. It drew praise for…

A smart take on literary London: Dead Souls, by Sam Riviere, reviewed

12 June 2021 9:00 am

Sam Riviere has established himself as a seriously good poet who doesn’t take himself too seriously: his first collection, 81…

Journey to the Moon: The Things We’ve Seen, by Agustín Fernández Mallo, reviewed

12 June 2021 9:00 am

‘Peace — slept for 14 hours. The roar of the sea slashing the rocks — is there any more soothing…

A Danubian Narnia: Nostalgia, by Mircea Cartarescu, reviewed

5 June 2021 9:00 am

Mircea Cartarescu likens his native Romania to a Latin American country stranded in eastern Europe. Certainly, his writing delivers not…

And then there were five: The High House, by Jessie Greengrass, reviewed

5 June 2021 9:00 am

In 2009 Margaret Atwood published The Year of the Flood, set in the aftermath of a waterless flood, a flu-like…

A draining experience: Insignificance, by James Clammer, reviewed

29 May 2021 9:00 am

Spare a thought for the white van man. It’s not yet nine on a summer’s morning and already Joseph, a…

Brave new virtual world: The Startup Wife, by Tahmima Anam, reviewed

29 May 2021 9:00 am

Welcome to Utopia — not an idyllic arcadia but a secretive tech incubator in a Manhattan office block. Here a…

An impossible guest: Second Place, by Rachel Cusk, reviewed

29 May 2021 9:00 am

A great writer must be prepared to risk ridiculousness — not ridicule, although that may follow, but the possibility that…

Bird-brained: Brood, by Jackie Polzin, reviewed

29 May 2021 9:00 am

This is not a novel about four chickens of various character — Gloria, Miss Hennepin County, Gam Gam and Darkness…

A campus novel with a difference: The Netanyahus, by Joshua Cohen, reviewed

22 May 2021 9:00 am

Dr Benzion Netanyahu’s reputation precedes him. ‘A true genius, who also happens to be a major statesman and political hero,’…

Haunted by the past: Last Days in Cleaver Square, by Patrick McGrath, reviewed

22 May 2021 9:00 am

At the risk of encroaching on Spectator Competition territory, what is the least surprising thing for any given narrator in…

Cairo in crisis: The Republic of False Truths, by Alaa Al Aswany, reviewed

15 May 2021 9:00 am

Certain novels complicate the very notion of literary enjoyment. This, by the author of the international bestseller The Yacoubian Building,…

A funny time to be Irish: The Rules of Revelation, by Lisa McInerney, reviewed

15 May 2021 9:00 am

Lisa McInerney likes the rule of three. Three novels set in Cork structured around sex, drugs and rock’n’roll and, within…

The first Cambridge spy: A Fine Madness, by Alan Judd, reviewed

15 May 2021 9:00 am

For his 15th novel, the espionage writer Alan Judd turns his hand to the mystery of Christopher Marlowe’s death. The…