wed 07/12/2022

fiction

Holding, ITV review - Graham Norton’s novel moves seamlessly to the small screen

The terrain Holding occupies is well travelled, but this new ITV four-part drama travels over it really well. The landmarks are familiar: a quiet rural community, a cop with an unhealthy lifestyle and a secret sorrow, a feud between rival lovers of...

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Salley Vickers: The Gardener review - nature has other ideas

A garden is a space defined by its limits. Whatever its contents in terms of style and species, and however manicured or apparently wild its appearance, what distinguishes a garden from its equivalent quantity of uncultivated land is its enclosure...

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Extract: My Pen is the Wing of a Bird, New Fiction by Afghan Women

"My pen is the wing of a bird; it will tell you those thoughts we are not allowed to think, those dreams we are not allowed to dream." Batool Haidari’s words give this bold collection of stories its title and epigraph. She is one of 18 writers from...

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Tessa Hadley: Free Love review - the Sixties, the suburbs and the hippie dream

Free Love opens in 1967 and remains within that heady era throughout; no flashbacks, no spanning of generations as in Hadley's wonderful novels The Past or Late in the Day. Phyllis, aged 40, is a suburban housewife, C of E, deeply apolitical and a...

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Best of 2021: Books

“Duck! Here comes another year.” We can, I think, all empathise with the motions and emotions of Ogden Nash’s new year poem, “Good Riddance, But Now What?” Before, however, we bid a troublesome year farewell, we look back at the year in fiction and...

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Lucie Elven: The Weak Spot review - a cryptic modern fable

For most of us, fluttering our eyelids to convince a loved one to cook dinner is harmless meddling. Complimenting our boss on their new coat before asking for a promotion is necessary cunning. For the characters in Lucie Elven’s debut novel The Weak...

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Devin Jacobsen: Breath Like the Wind at Dawn review – the disturbances of the Civil War

How do you imagine the wind at dawn? Biting, brisk, peremptory – a kind of summons as another day begins? For Les Tamplin, wife-beater, sheriff, father to three sons, it is a detective, deathly wind, "the wind that cannot be stopped" which...

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Ruth Ozeki: The Book of Form and Emptiness review - where the objects speak

“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” Ruth Ozeki’s latest novel takes its name from a Buddhist heart sutra that meditates on reality and questions of human existence. It’s a big question for a big book. A Zen priest as well as a teacher, writer,...

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Jonathan Franzen: Crossroads review - can goodness ever be its own reward?

It’s Christmas 1971 in New Prospect, a suburb of Chicago, and pastor Russ Hildebrandt has plans for time alone with Frances, an attractive young widow who’s just moved back into town.Important facts become quickly apparent: Russ resents his long-...

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Sarah Hall: Burntcoat review - love after the end of the world

Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat is one of those new books with the unsettling quality of describing or approximating a great moment in history and its aftermath, as the reader is still living through it. This could be trite, but Hall manages to make it...

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Colson Whitehead: Harlem Shuffle review - period piece speaks to the present

More than once, reading Colson Whitehead’s latest novel Harlem Shuffle, the brilliant Josh and Benny Safdie movie Uncut Gems from 2019 came to mind, which was unexpected. For one, Whitehead’s book takes place on the other side of Central Park, far...

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Sebastian Faulks: Snow Country review - insects under a stone

Historical fiction – perhaps all fiction – presents its authors with the problem of how to convey contextual information that is external to the plot but necessary to the reader’s understanding of it.Some authors supply an omniscient third-person...

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