Fiction

Philip Hensher’s latest novel is a State of the Soul book

15 February 2020 9:00 am

This is a very nuanced and subtle novel by Philip Hensher, which manages the highwire act of treating its characters…

A dark emerald set in the Irish laureate’s fictional tiara: Actress, by Anne Enright, reviewed

15 February 2020 9:00 am

Actress is the novel Anne Enright has been rehearsing since her first collection of stories, The Portable Virgin (1991). It…

The wanderings of Ullis: Low, by Jeet Thayil, reviewed

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

Jeet Thayil’s previous novel, The Book of Chocolate Saints, an account of a fictional Indian artist and poet told in…

Desperate to preserve her sister Jane’s reputation, Cassandra Austen lost her own

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

Poor Cassy. The Miss Austen of this novel’s title is Cassandra, Jane’s elder sister. She was to have married Thomas…

Making mischief: J.M. Coetzee’s The Death of Jesus is one almighty tease

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

Late in this final volume of a tantalising trilogy, we hear that its enigmatic boy hero ‘would never tell you…

Does questioning women about their sex lives constitute harassment?

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

Alert to the combination of a controversial issue and a brilliant writer, Serpent’s Tail have bought This is a Pleasure,…

Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales are among the most harrowing in all literature

18 January 2020 9:00 am

‘I consist of the shards into which the Republic of Kolyma shattered me,’ Varlam Shalamov once told a fellow gulag…

Is it a Rake’s or a Pilgrim’s Progress for Rob Doyle?

18 January 2020 9:00 am

‘To live and die without knowing the psychedelic experience,’ says the narrator of Threshold, ‘is comparable to never having encountered…

Zimbabwe’s chaotic history has at least produced some outstanding fiction

18 January 2020 9:00 am

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s arresting Nervous Conditions appeared in 1988 and was the first novel published in English by a black Zimbabwean…

Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is a long, hard slog

11 January 2020 9:00 am

The Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, who sounds like a sneeze and reads like a fever, is on a mission to…

Bernadine Evaristo shoulders weighty themes lightly: Girl, Woman, Other reviewed

21 December 2019 9:00 am

It’s a slippery word, ‘other’. Taken in one light, it throws up barriers and insists on divisions. It is fearful…

Dave Eggers’s satire on Trump is somewhat heavy-handed: The Captain and the Glory reviewed

14 December 2019 9:00 am

A feckless moron is appointed to the captaincy of a ship, despite having no nautical experience. The Captain has a…

Tame family dramas: Christmas in Austin, by Benjamin Markovits, reviewed

14 December 2019 9:00 am

My partner’s brother once found himself accidentally locked into his flat on Christmas Day, which meant having to spend it…

The good sex award goes to Sarah Hall: Sudden Traveller reviewed

14 December 2019 9:00 am

Sarah Hall should probably stop publishing short stories for a while to give other writers a chance. If she’s not…

Nostalgia for old Ceylon: lush foliage and tender feelings from Romesh Gunesekera

30 November 2019 9:00 am

Empires are born to die; that’s one source of their strange allure. An untenable form of society judders, in technicolor…

Ben Lerner’s much hyped latest novel reads like an audit of contemporary grievances

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Things keep recurring in the novels of Ben Lerner — snatches of conversation, lines of poetry, Lerner himself. But in…

Less radical, less rich: Elizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again is a disappointment

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-prize winning Olive Kitteridge (2008) is the novel I recommend to friends who don’t read much. Talk about…

Dieting to death: a black comedy of boarding school life

9 November 2019 9:00 am

It sounds in bad taste, but Scarlett Thomas has written a riotously enjoyable novel about a boarding school full of…

Our appetite for ‘folk horror’ appears to be insatiable

26 October 2019 9:00 am

This eerie, shortish book apparently had an earlier outing this year, when it purported to be a reissue of a…

Ian McEwan’s anti-Brexit satire is a damp squib

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Kafka wrote a novella, The Metamorphosis, about a man who finds himself transformed into a beetle. Now Ian McEwan has…

Jessie Burton’s The Confession is, frankly, a bit heavy-handed

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Jessie Burton is famous for her million-copy bestselling debut novel The Miniaturist, which she followed with The Muse. Now she’s…

Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House is even better on second reading

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Having a saint in the family is dreadful, They’re often absent, either literally or emotionally, and because they’re always thinking…

As Lyra grows up, Philip Pullman’s materials grow darker

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Two years after Philip Pullman published La Belle Sauvage, the prequel to His Dark Materials trilogy, we have its long-awaited…

An uncanny gift for prophecy — the genius of Michel Houellebecq

28 September 2019 9:00 am

The backdrop of Michel Houellebecq’s novel is by now well established. In this — his eighth — the bleak, essentially…

Haunted by a black cat: Earwig, by Brian Catling, reviewed

28 September 2019 9:00 am

Genuinely surrealist novels are as rare as hen’s teeth. They are a different form from the magic realist, the absurdist,…