July Crime Round-Up

N.J.Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Lex is a new mother just returning to work, full of the familiar difficulties of leaking breasts, guilt, and anxiety. She loves her daughter but hates being a mother. Unlike most such women, she is a specialist in the neat and violent extermination of her country’s enemies. Her husband has no idea, believing she works in some dreary data-processing part of the government, and her closest colleague and sometime lover thinks he’s a prat [Read more...] in Reviews

Jessica Mann

It is with great regret that we learned recently of the death of writer and bookoxygen reviewer Jessica Mann. Jessica lived a life in literature, writing more than twenty crime novels, plus insightful books of non-fiction, reviews and more. She specialized in non-fiction for this website and her pithy, empathetic and women-centred work can be found by entering her name in the search engine. We will miss her greatly.

Elsewhere, Home

Leila Aboulela

Reviewed by Alison Burns

The earliest story here, ‘The Museum’ (1999), won the first Caine Prize for African Writing, and is alone worth the cover price of this volume. It is a study of awkwardness, as two young people – Shadia from Khartoum, Bryan from Peterhead, both studying for an MSc in Statistics – take the first steps towards a mixed-class as well as mixed-race friendship [Read more...] in Reviews

Convenience Store Woman

Sayaka Murata

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Keiko is drilled in how to greet her customers (‘Irasshaimase! Good morning! accompanied by a compulsory smile), how to stock the shelves with products determined by season, weather and time of day, and how to conduct herself generally. This will be her world for the next eighteen years, ruled by snack food innovations, terms of address, sartorial style, employment conventions, cleanliness standards, and the music of store life – cash registers, customers, footfall.
A model employee, Keiko learns a great deal more from her environment. Observing her peers, she trains herself to mimic the pitch of their voices and emulate their fashion taste, earning approval by buying clothes from the same stores. Functioning well at work, she also holds up the acquaintanceship of a few girlfriends, to whom she lies about her health to explain away her continued lowly work status [Read more...] in Reviews

June Crime Round-Up

N.J.Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Porter provides a superb account of two of the great international crises of the time: migration and the terrible activities of those rootless, inadequate, resentful people who are sucked into extremism and encouraged to act out all their own emotional distress in the physical torture of their victims. Horrifying and yet exciting, Firefly is one of the most impressive thrillers of the year [Read more...] in Reviews

Clock Dance

Anne Tyler

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Her mother had always behaved wilfully, then sought forgiveness with disarming songs and smiles. Her husband had turned out to be rigid and unimaginative, quite unlike Willa’s kindly father. By the time she acquires a second husband, Peter, her optimism has quite gone: ‘Marriage was often a matter of dexterity, in Willa’s experience’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Mr Peacock’s Possessions

Lydia Syson

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

The story is narrated by Lizzie Peacock and Kalala, one of the Pacific Islanders. Lizzie, a strong character, believes her father’s every word, never imagining that he might make a mistake. And indeed, Mr Peacock is a clever man but also selfish and self-absorbed. Convinced he is destined for better things, he is happy to leave his Samoan business behind no matter what privations his family might suffer on the island [Read more...] in Reviews