Fiction

Sisterly duty: The Painter’s Daughters, by Emily Howes, reviewed

24 February 2024 9:00 am

In a celebrated portrait of his daughters, Thomas Gainsborough shows the older child protecting her sister from harm. The roles would be dramatically reversed in later life

Wishful thinking: Leaving, by Roxana Robinson, reviewed

24 February 2024 9:00 am

Two former college sweethearts meet by chance in their sixties and fall in love again. But the trouble it causes makes a happy ending impossible

Reluctant servant of the Raj: Burma Sahib, by Paul Theroux, reviewed

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Few personal details survive about Eric Blair’s life as a policeman in Burma, making his years in the East fertile ground for the novelist

Extremes of passion: What Will Survive of Us, by Howard Jacobson, reviewed

10 February 2024 9:00 am

On first meeting, Sam and Lily both suffer a coup de foudre and embark on an affair involving submission and sado-masochism. But where will it lead?

Heartbreak in the workplace: Green Dot, by Madeleine Gray, reviewed

10 February 2024 9:00 am

Hera is 24, bisexual and usually dates women. But her infatuation with Arthur, an older, married journalist in her office, grows all-consuming

Progressives vs. bigots: How I Won a Nobel Prize, by Julius Taranto, reviewed

10 February 2024 9:00 am

When a quantum physicist and her partner reluctantly move to a university staffed by cancelled luminaries the scene is set for a darkly comic clash of ideologies

The perils of Prague: Parasol Against the Axe, by Helen Oyeyemi, reviewed

10 February 2024 9:00 am

Three women with a criminal past meet for a weekend hen party – but any hopes of enjoying themselves are soon dashed

Escape into fantasy: My Heavenly Favourite, by Lucas Rijneveld, reviewed

27 January 2024 9:00 am

The 14-year-old daughter of a Dutch farmer is pursued by a paedophile vet and tries hard to combat the abuse by imagining she’s a bird

Secrets of the dorm: Come and Get It, by Kiley Reid, reviewed

27 January 2024 9:00 am

An academic who also writes a column for a teen magazine eavesdrops on the conversations of rich university students and reproduces them for readers to sneer at

A redemptive fable: Night Watch, by Jayne Anne Phillips, reviewed

20 January 2024 9:00 am

Set in the Appalachian Mountains, the novel centres around a family struggling to survive domestic abuse and abandonment in the aftermath of the American civil war

Musings in lockdown: The Vulnerables, by Sigrid Nunez, reviewed

20 January 2024 9:00 am

Marooned in Manhattan with a stoned student and precocious parrot for company, our elderly narrator despairs of the novel’s future when life is so much stranger than fiction

Refugee lives: The Singularity, by Balsam Karam, reviewed

20 January 2024 9:00 am

The stories of two tragic mothers are interwoven in a haunting novel revolving around war, displacement, despair and the loss of children

Dangerous secrets: Verdigris, by Michele Mari, reviewed

20 January 2024 9:00 am

A lonely teenager on holiday in Italy befriends his grandparents’ elderly gardener and slowly coaxes out his painful memories of betrayals and reprisals during the war

Ménage à trois: Day, by Michael Cunningham, reviewed

13 January 2024 9:00 am

When Dan, his wife Isabel and her brother Robbie decide to spend lockdown together, claustrophobic domesticity develops into a painful love triangle

She’s leaving home: Breakdown, by Cathy Sweeney, reviewed

13 January 2024 9:00 am

One ordinary November day in Dublin, without forethought or planning, a woman walks out on her husband and two teenage children and never comes back

Septuagenarians behaving badly: Stockholm, by Noa Yedlin, reviewed

6 January 2024 9:00 am

Four elderly people conspire, for different reasons, to keep the death of their friend a secret until he’s safely awarded the expected Nobel Prize for Economics

Dark days in Wales: Of Talons and Teeth, by Niall Griffiths, reviewed

6 January 2024 9:00 am

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution a mountain is being hollowed out for mining, and everyone is covered in mud or worse in this memorable and highly original novel

The last battle: The Future, by Naomi Alderman, reviewed

25 November 2023 9:00 am

Sinister preparations for the apocalypse by a few Silicon Valley billionaires must be thwarted in this part-thriller, part-Big Tech critique, part-meditation on doomsday

A multicultural microcosm: Brooklyn Crime Novel, by Jonathan Lethem, reviewed

25 November 2023 9:00 am

Lethem returns to the borough with a tale of violence, neglect and demographic change over the decades, tinged with nostalgia but far from sentimental

Heart of Darkness revisited: The Dimensions of a Cave, by Greg Jackson, reviewed

4 November 2023 9:00 am

Conrad’s classic is updated in this sinister tale of the US government’s involvement in a morally suspect virtual reality programme

Why did Jon Fosse win the Nobel Prize for literature? It’s baffling.

4 November 2023 9:00 am

If Jon Fosse’s novels are experimental, they are experiments in exhausting banality, says Philip Hensher

Books of the year I: a choice of reading in 2023

4 November 2023 9:00 am

Recommendations from Andrew Motion, Jonathan Sumption, A.N. Wilson, Andrea Wulf, Peter Frankopan, Clare Mulley and many others. To be continued next week

In search of utopia: Chevengur, by Andrey Platonov, reviewed

28 October 2023 9:00 am

After crossing the vast steppe, Sasha Dvanov reaches an isolated town where the communist ideal appears to have been achieved. But at what cost?

Escape into the wild: Run to the Western Shore, by Tim Pears, reviewed

28 October 2023 9:00 am

A chieftain’s daughter flees an arranged marriage with the Roman governor of Britain, enlisting the help of slave and risking both their lives

The hell of the antebellum South: Let Us Descend, by Jesmyn Ward, reviewed

21 October 2023 9:00 am

Teenage Annis and her enslaved mother endure beatings and rape as they are marched in chains to New Orleans to be sold to the latest brutal plantation owner