Books, Fiction

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Interview: Michel Faber discusses his new book The Book of Strange New Things

9 Oct 2014

Author explains the deeply personal circumstances surrounding the writing of his last novel

When Michel Faber began writing his latest novel, The Book of Strange New Things, he knew it would be his last. What he didn’t know is that it would end up being not just a farewell to his career as a novelist, but also to his other half, Eva Youren (in…

Ben Lerner – 10:04

23 Dec 20145 stars

‘Like a poem, is neither fiction nor nonfiction, but a flickering between them’

For an avant-garde poet, Ben Lerner’s first novel Leaving the Atocha Station was a surprise commercial success. Self-referential, mordantly funny, it followed a young American poet on a fellowship in Spain, and was animated less by conventional plot…

Rally & Broad

5 Dec 2014

A busy end to a brilliant year for the spoken word event run out of Edinburgh

’We knew we wanted poetry and spoken word, but … even more so,’ says poet and spoken word performer Jenny Lindsay of her and Rachel McCrum’s fast-growing literary platform Rally & Broad, before going on to outline its manifesto-come-shopping list of…

Adam Roberts - Bête

11 Sep 20144 stars

Dryly funny sci-fi novel about food that can talk back to the eater

Imagine if your food could talk back to you? That’s the extremely high-concept opener much-decorated sci-fi author and academic Adam Roberts plays with in his latest novel, opening on a bizarre but starkly amusing sequence in which a cow tries to reason…

Julia Donaldson, James Robertson (trans.) - Room on the Broom in Scots

27 Aug 20144 stars

An already engaging and exciting story becomes even more theatrical when ‘performed’ in a new tongue

The winning combination of Julia Donaldson’s stories and Axel Scheffler’s illustrations has seen their picture books grace the shelves and bedside tables of children the world over. As such, it’s a formula you don’t want to mess with without due…

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2015 Highlights: Books

17 Dec 2014

Featuring: Iain Banks, Kirsty Logan, Curtis Sittenfeld, John Green and, hopefully, George RR Martin

Iain Banks’ death in 2013 has left a tangible absence in the world of Scottish books, and this new volume of poetry – including many previously unpublished poems – will be welcomed by fans of his work. They have been collected by his friend Ken MacLeod…

Philip Teir – The Winter War

12 Dec 20143 stars

Despondent portrait of a divorce, with excellent comic moments

Translated from the original Swedish by Tiina Nunnally, this family drama opens with an acknowledgement of divorce before jumping back to explore the causes. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of four Helsinki family members: fiftysomething…

Porochista Khakpour – The Last Illusion

4 Dec 20143 stars

Take two potentially life-changin­­g events (Y2K and 9/11), throw in an old Persian myth and a delusional illusionist, then add an undertone of behavioural psychology and there, in a nutshell, is The Last Illusion...

Philip Kerr – January Window

10 Nov 20142 stars

Murkiest aspects of Premier League football explored in narrative testing bounds of believeability

Edinburgh born-and-raised crime author Philip Kerr has certainly cottoned on to a worthy and unexplored setting for the genre, amidst the backdrop of English Premier League football. A self-confessed Arsenal fan, he’s taken the murkiest aspects of the…

William Gibson – The Peripheral

7 Nov 20143 stars

'New novel, as impressive, ambitious and layered as it is, might leave you feeling a little lukewarm

Given how swiftly the world and its technological tools keep changing, it might seem foolhardy to attempt any kind of speculative fiction. But if anyone is going to make a decent fist of this with a crystal ball, it was always going to be the author of…

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Favel Parrett – When The Night Comes

6 Nov 20144 stars

Beautifully poignant split narrative following a family's tie to the sea

The split narrative of Favel Parrett's second novel follows the stories of Bo, a chef on board the polar vessel Nella Dan, and Isla, the daughter of the woman with whom he stays in Hobart when the ship docks. Through this simple relationship she…

Flash Fiction: The Trace by Rebecca Monks

23 Oct 2014

A short story from the Edinburgh-based writer

Her pencil snapped under the pressure. The clean lines she had carefully mapped across the page were now coated in the dust which spilled across the portrait, blurring her likeness. She cursed, startling her carer. 'Come on Lizzy, there's no need for…

Preview: David Shrigley – Weak Messages Create Bad Situations

23 Oct 2014

Glasgow-based artist and Turner Prize nominee releases latest book

He’s already released over 20 books but with over 400 new works crammed into its monochrome pages, this heavy tome is David Shrigley’s biggest yet. The Glasgow-based artist and 2013 Turner Prize nominee is one of Scotland’s most celebrated contemporary…

Tim Minchin – Storm

13 Oct 20142 stars

Comic book based beat-poem drips with pointlessness and proves inconsequential

Is there anything Tim Minchin refuses to have a stab at? Already an award-winning musical comedian (he took the Best Newcomer prize at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe), acclaimed composer of musicals (for West End powerhouse Matilda), and hairy actor (taking…

Dawood Ali McCallum – The Final Charge

13 Oct 20143 stars

Engaging fourth novel from human rights expert set in 1950s Kenya

In his fourth novel, human rights expert Dawood Ali McCallum has turned his attention to Kenya, where British doctor Tom Miles is arrested for a war crime alleged to have been committed in 1954 during Kenya’s battle for independence. Centred around…

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Top 5 new book releases this autumn

9 Oct 2014

Including David Nicholls, Ian McEwan, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and Lena Dunham

David Nicholls – Us (Hodder & Stoughton) Flushed by the success of the intensely loveable *3One Day*2 and creditably not put off by the poorness of the film version which followed, David Nicholls here swaps youthful romance for lived-in, mature love…

Marilynne Robinson – Lila

8 Oct 20144 stars

Third novel set in Gilead is moving exploration of existence, love and inevitability of loneliness

Lila is the third of Marilynne Robinson’s novels to be set in the fictional Iowa town of Gilead and tells the story of the ageing Reverend John Ames and his much younger wife. Readers first met this pair in Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel…

Opinion: The Man Booker Prize 2014 shortlist

19 Sep 2014

Award sends the literary world into a frenzy – but is this year’s shortlist worth the hype?

It’s a landmark year in Booker history – the first year that US authors can enter, resulting in either a truly international competition or the end of Western civilisation, depending on who you believe. Actually, the new ruling means all…

Interview: Esther Freud, daughter of Lucien Freud, on her latest novel Mr Mac and Me

11 Sep 2014

The author's latest work takes inspiration from Charles Rennie Mackintosh

‘I don’t think I can have a cogent thought without it coming out through my fingers,’ jokes Esther Freud, wrapping said fingers around a cup of herbal tea. The author is in a tent at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, explaining her borderline…

Kate Mosse - The Taxidermist’s Daughter

11 Sep 20144 stars

Subtle and seductive tale of murder and mystery from the Labyrinth author

The sodden marshes and thunderous skies of the small village of Fishbourne near Chichester – and Kate Mosse’s home – provide a suitably gloomy setting for the Labyrinth author’s new Gothic tale of murder and mystery. Mosse pulls that landscape in…

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Kate Saunders - Five Children On The Western Front

11 Sep 20142 stars

A disappointing sequel to E Nesbitt's wonderful, immersive and humorous Five Children and It series

Five Children and It is the first of a much loved trilogy from writer E Nesbit about five children and the Psammead (sand fairy) who grants wishes. It has since been adapted for TV and film and has inspired various takes on the story including books by…

Samantha Harvey - Dear Thief

11 Sep 20143 stars

Exquisite writing and a poignant story fail to be truly exciting in the long run

The art of letter writing is almost lost, but it's a tool used by Dear Thief's narrator as some form of catharsis. ‘In answer to a question you asked a long time ago,’ she begins, moving off on a journey through friendship, love and betrayal. The…

Interview: Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell on Twitter, mid-life crises and new novel The Bone Clocks

2 Sep 2014

'The temptation is to write versions of Cloud Atlas for the rest of my life – but not as good’

‘I like to think of this as my mid-life crisis novel,’ says David Mitchell. ‘I’m not going to run for office, I’m not going to buy a sports car, I don’t have the stamina for an inappropriate mistress, so I’ve written The Bone Clocks.’ On the phone from…

Matthew Thomas - We Are Not Ourselves

26 Aug 20143 stars

A patchy period narrative following the immigrant American Dream

Eileen Tumulty, raised by hard-drinking Irish parents in 1940s New York, craves a different life. She manages to pursue a nursing career and marries Ed, a brilliant scientist, seeing in him an opportunity for a better life. But Ed isn’t as enamoured…

Alison Moore - He Wants

7 Aug 20144 stars

A short meditation on memory composed of tightly wreathed prose and assured plotting

The best novels are the ones that leave you with a sense of yearning, and in He Wants, Alison Moore proves her mastery of the medium. Lewis Sullivan is a retired RE teacher whose restraint has kept him in the same village his entire life. Only now, with…