Kiare Ladner

* A 2021 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

When Sabine moves to a nightshift job, putting together potted summaries of crime reports, Meggie contrives to join her. In their seedy new night-time world, she meets co-workers Earl, Lizard, Sherry and Prawn, with whom she soon shares booze- and drug-fuelled sessions after being up all night. Sometimes Sabine joins them. Meggie has a boyfriend, Graham, but can’t commit to moving in with him. Instead, she travels deeper into the night world, exploring her sexuality in an all-women bar and getting off with strangers [Read more...] in Reviews

Second-Class Citizen

Buchi Emecheta

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

The reality of life in London proves less than grand. Second-Class Citizen by the late Buchi Emecheta (first published in 1974, and now reissued as a Penguin Modern Classic) chronicles Adah’s steady disillusionment. Housing is overcrowded and overpriced, and local attitudes are often hostile, whether it is the ‘Sorry No Coloureds’ of the British, or the reverse snobbery of her Nigerian housemates who, coming (as she sees it) from the servant classes, mock her for her social pretensions [Read more...] in Reviews

Cut Out

Michèle Roberts

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Denis’s journey from the present to Cleménce’s past and back is presented in alternate chapters interleaved with vivid descriptions of photographs of Matisse at work on his cut-outs, taken by one of the story’s subsidiary characters. Like so much else in this novel, these imaginary photographs sound extraordinarily convincing – familiar, even, to anyone who has studied Matisse, seen the archive or visited exhibitions of his work [Read more...] in Reviews

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Emily Austin

Reviewed by Amy Wu

Due to her passiveness and disengagement with life, Gilda frequently gets into mishaps and misunderstandings. She barely answers texts from her girlfriend Eleanor. She snacks on crackers at the church and pairs them with cheese, not realizing immediately they are communion wafers: “I googled the cracker brand and learned that I paired marble Cracker Barrel cheese with God’s transubstantiated body.” [Read more...] in Reviews

The Premonition

Michael Lewis

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

What I take from it, apart from knowing more about viruses in general and Covid-19 in particular, and his extraordinary characters, is that our societies need to value real, evidence-based knowledge higher than anything else because it is beyond price. We need to listen to those mavericks and oddballs who are too modest and interested in their arcane subjects to thrust themselves on to public stages. We need to challenge group think and what Lewis unforgettably describes as ‘bureaucrats who suffer from malignant obedience’. We need to be less frightened of getting something wrong than doing nothing at all [Read more...] in Reviews

The Balkan Trilogy

Olivia Manning

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

The novels are autobiographical and thus offer us a riveting insider’s view of the confusion in Eastern Europe in the first year of the Second World War – and the insider, herself an outsider, is Harriet. Woven into the day-by-day unsettling upheavals of the politics and practicalities of war is the story of Harriet’s marriage, her growing understanding of the man she has so suddenly married and revelations about the unforseeable complexities of love [Read more...] in Reviews

How Beautiful We Were

Imbolo Mbue

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Mbue switches viewpoints between genders and generations, allowing the restrained eloquence of her characters – whether children or grandparents, male or female, single or in a group – to express the beliefs and ways of the Kosawans. For all their pain, theirs is a world of immense grace and natural order, grounded in meaning derived from a spiritual, social, familial and healing credo. This culture and morality stands in blazing contrast to the rapaciousness and self-interest of the oil company, and the government that protects it [Read more...] in Reviews