Books, Fiction

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Kerry Hudson - Thirst

11 Jul 20144 stars

A fizzing, breathless love story from a terrifically talented storyteller

It’s been two years since Kerry Hudson’s fantastic debut – the epically named Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma – shook readers and critics from the cushy, Booker-induced, middle-class coma of the preceding years. And her…

Simon Sylvester - The Visitors

16 May 20144 stars

The Twitter storyteller's debut novel is is as dark, sad and enchanting as any fireside folk tale

Flo sits on the headland of her island home, watching her new neighbours boat their belongings over the water to a rundown islet shack. She can’t quite put her finger on it but there is something strange about the pair of them; of course, what with all…

Linda Grant - Upstairs at the Party

27 Jun 20144 stars

Compelling tale of lifelong fascination and obsession

It’s the early 1970s and a glamorous androgynous couple known as Evie / Stevie appear on campus. To students experimenting with radical ideas, the pair symbolise all that lies in the future, until tragedy intervenes. For Adele, Evie becomes a lifelong…

Carys Bray - A Song For Issy Bradley

20 Jun 20144 stars

Bay's debut is an intimate examination of grief and the Mormon faith, with a surprisingly funny edge

Deftly juggling five characters' perspectives, Carys Bray's first novel is an intimate portrait of grief and faith – but it's also sharply funny.

Interview: Liam Murray Bell discusses his new novel The Busker

2 Apr 2014

The author of So It Is tackles the music industry, Occupy and homelessness in his latest novel

Would you rather be a musician or a writer? I’m happy being a writer because I don’t think I was quite cut out to be a musician to be quite honest. I was in a band as a teenager – it was myself and another singer but I was the sort of ‘Bez’ character…

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Neil DA Stewart - The Glasgow Coma Scale

11 Jul 20143 stars

A confidently-written debut novel depicting a classic odd couple pairing without resorting to cliche

As she makes her way along Sauchiehall Street one afternoon, call centre manager Lynne is astonished to encounter Angus, her old art teacher (and long-time object of her desire), begging for change in a doorway. Despite his protestations, she insists on…

Interview: Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and new novel Landline

24 Jun 2014

I tend to write about my anxieties – what I'm afraid will happen. I write a story working it out'

Thanks to hit novels Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, Nebraska-based Rainbow Rowell (her real name) is currently one of the best-loved authors in young adult literature. But, while she certainly knows how to capture the acute agony and ecstasy of teenage…

Nikesh Shukla: Meatspace

20 Jun 20142 stars

An entertaining critique of digital culture that fails to follow through its central plotline

Meatspace is very much concerned with the internet, and the ways it affects our social lives. Shukla explores this through the character of Kitab, a semi-successful writer who soon finds his online life in tatters after his namesake tracks him down…

Maggie Shipstead - Astonish Me

20 May 20143 stars

An impressive and compelling glimpse into the demanding world of professional ballet

Maggie Shipstead’s acclaimed debut novel, Seating Arrangements, was a personal highlight of 2013. A taut, deftly plotted satire of wealth and family, it skewered New England society while also creating enough depth and humour to keep the narrative…

Interview: Doug Johnstone, author of The Dead Beat

16 May 2014

Johnstone's sixth novel covers obituaries, the death of print journalism and mental health issues

'I always feel that if you're going to write a novel, you've got to be obsessed with what you're writing about,' says Doug Johnstone. 'This is a handful of obsessions that came together.' The Dead Beat's obsessions include: obituaries ('they're like…

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Emma Healey - Elizabeth is Missing

16 May 20144 stars

A warm, funny and sometimes truly chilling tale of dementia from a promising storyteller

82-year-old Maud has dementia – and it's progressing fast. So when her friend Elizabeth goes missing, she does everything she can to remember that she has to find her. But in searching for Elizabeth, she uncovers buried memories from her girlhood…

Joseph O'Connor - The Thrill of it All

16 May 20144 stars

Tales of teenage dreams, friendship and a real love of music

It's intriguing to read an artist's well-documented life from their point of view, especially one whose career ended in controversy. Joseph O'Connor has created his own reality in Robert Goulding, the underdog of a fictional rock band called the…

Flash Fiction: Norman by Ruth Thomas

29 Apr 2014

The newest instalment in our series of ultra-short stories

Celeste spent Monday morning at the Job Centre: she’d lost her job as a barista and now there she was, sitting opposite someone called SHEILA MORRISON, filling in forms. There were a lot of sections to complete, and she wasn’t even sure she’d qualify…

Danny Wallace – Who is Tom Ditto?

29 Apr 20144 stars

The writer and broadcaster’s second novel fits with his previous form in social experimentation

Writer, broadcaster and comedy accomplice Danny Wallace has undertaken various social experiments in the past: he’s started his own cult, attempted to found a country from his flat and tried saying ‘yes’ to everything for a year. His second work of…

Ned Beauman - Glow

29 Apr 20144 stars

An addictive modern conspiracy thriller about a new mind-altering substance

Ned Beauman's third novel begins with a rave in a launderette where Raf is introduced to a new drug called Glow. Everyone wants Glow, including Cherish, a beautiful Burmese woman who Raf all too briefly meets. The next day Raf discovers that his best…

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Emma Jane Unsworth - Animals

29 Apr 20144 stars

A gripping, raucous read from one of Britain’s most promising young writers

In Emma Jane Unsworth’s gloriously debauched and wonderfully touching second novel, semi-reformed party girl Laura is torn between a bacchanalian existence with Holly Golightly-on-speed best friend Tyler and her upcoming marriage to boringly stable…

BJ Novak - One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

22 Apr 20144 stars

An impressive debut collection from the writer/producer/star of America's The Office

It's tempting to approach One More Thing as an attempt to cash in on BJ Novak's celebrity status. After all, how many writers get their own photograph on the cover of their debut book – a short story collection, no less. Novak, best known as Ryan from…

Simon Wroe - Chop Chop

22 Apr 20144 stars

An authentic and gradually sinister look at life in a busy kitchen

Told from the perspective of a novice commis chef, known only to us as 'monocle', Chop Chop exposes the closed world of the restaurant kitchen. An English lit graduate with literary aspirations, Monocle is an outsider in the hard-working, masculine…

Neil Williamson - The Moon King

22 Apr 20144 stars

A lunar-fixated fable with quality storytelling and a rich setting

The moon can lend magic to any story, and in this one writer Neil Williamson has literally tethered it to his island city of Glassholm. In this land the months are marked by its wax and wane, and the effect on the citizenry is a sort of mass-bipolar…

Anne Donovan - Gone Are The Leaves

22 Apr 20143 stars

A lyrical and poetic historical novel from the author of Buddha Da

Set in the castle of a Scottish laird and his French wife, Anne Donovan's third novel tracks the fate of two young people in the gentry's employment: Deirdre, apprentice to her seamstress mother; and Feilamort, an orphaned choir boy. With their…

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Teju Cole - Every Day is For the Thief

4 Apr 20144 stars

A powerful blend of fiction, memoir and travelogue set in modern Nigeria

Returning home for the first time in 15 years, the unnamed narrator of Teju Cole's novel Every Day is for the Thief plunges into the chaos and exhausting inefficiency of a Nigeria plagued by corruption. Bribes are disguised as tips while extortion and…

Peter Buwalda - Bonita Avenue

4 Apr 20144 stars

A compelling tale that grips from its innocuous start to its pitch-black conclusion

University Rector, judo champion and famed mathematician Siem Sigerius is slowly being driven mad with suspicions that his step-daughter's boyfriend may be pimping her out on an internet porn site. The boyfriend, meanwhile, is barely managing to control…

Daniela Sacerdoti - Take Me Home

28 Mar 20143 stars

A predictable chick-lit romance develops into a moving study in grief

Take Me Home begins like a predictable romantic comedy: the ditzy heroine Inary, the token sensible flatmate and the best-friend love interest. Then there’s a dramatic shift: bland London is left behind for the atmospheric hills of Glen Avich and…

Keir Alexander - The Ruby Slippers

28 Mar 20143 stars

A simple message and some good characterisation survive Alexander's soap opera plotting

The seemingly unconnected cast of characters living in Manhattan in Keir Alexander's multi-narrative novel are gradually drawn together by a pair of ruby slippers. Originally worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, they are discovered in old Rosa’s…

Cilla & Rolf Börjlind - Spring Tide

28 Mar 20144 stars

An impressive thriller with sinister villains, surprising twists and likeable protagonists

When police college student Olivia Rönning is offered an old unsolved murder case as a class assignment, she can't resist it, and any plans she had for the summer break are soon put on hold as she is drawn into a complex mystery involving a pregnant…