Girls Burn Brighter

Shobha Rao

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Devastating is hardly an adequate adjective to describe the horrors visited on the two central characters of Rao’s scorching debut, and by extension uncounted numbers of actual impoverished women and female children in India, some of whose suffering occasionally appears in stories in our newspapers. This saga of cruelty, subjugation, sexual abuse, marital oppression, prostitution and pain of other heart-wrenching kinds also, of course, comes perfectly timed to ride the current wave of female outrage animating voices of resistance in many countries [Read more...] in Reviews

February Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Harper has divided her novel into two strands, one of Falk’s investigation and the other of the women’s hike before Alice left them, as their confidence is sapped by cold and wet and their personalities clash with disastrous results. The idea that anyone in business could send a group of office-based staff out into the bush for several days, even with maps and instructions and food and water to carry, seems extraordinary. The dangers are severe, even before the women’s own problems and enmities are stirred into the mix. But it makes for an ingenious thriller [Read more...] in Reviews

On Smaller Dogs and Larger Life Questions

Kate Figes

Reviewed by Alison Burns

This is a quiet book – unsurprisingly, given what she has been through. In it, Figes explores self-pity, anger, fear, loss, but also the pleasures of both work and purpose-free activity. A beach-hut, purchased with money inherited from her German-Jewish grandmother, provides much-needed retreat-space. We see her navigating her way through all possible appropriate treatment options, including detoxing, and becoming her own expert in the process... As time goes by, however, she begins to worry less about the people she loves [Read more...] in Reviews

Monsieur Ka

Vesna Goldsworthy

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Goldsworthy deftly creates a dark, chilly and foreign world as viewed by the outsider. Alienated both in England and in her very British marriage, Albertine, a richer figure than at first seen, emerges as a loner and a nonconformist. Her intensifying involvement with the Carr family ranges from keeping a written record of M. Ka’s memories of nineteenth-century Russia and escaping the revolution, to a different involvement with his son [Read more...] in Reviews

January Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Tony Kent’s first novel, Killer Intent, is another exciting thriller and includes more hand-to-hand fighting than I’ve read for a long time. Kent, a barrister, is also a boxer and therefore must know what he’s writing about, but his characters’ ability to get up and have another go after being whacked and walloped seems superhuman. His hero, Michael Devlin, is also a barrister but rather an unusual one. He becomes involved in a convoluted assassination plot after a telephone call from the solicitor called to represent a man who’s killed the UK’s most popular politician. If your taste runs to action thrillers packed with conspiracies and plenty of information, this is the novel to cheer your dark winter day [Read more...] in Reviews

Lullaby

Leïla Slimani

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Intimations of madness, of dangerous involvement and detachment, appear very early in the narrative, but the real Louise is invisible to her employers. The reader watches, aghast, as this hapless woman falls to pieces while in charge of someone else’s children. In calm, steady, devastating prose, Slimani tracks the daily life of this sample urban nanny, both at home in the Masses’ flat and out in the city. There are searing scenes in the park (where Louise moves trancelike among other nannies from all over the world), evoking the compromises required by poverty, the solidarity of the underdog and the bleak routines of the lonely and marginalized [Read more...] in Reviews

Protest: Stories of Resistance

* A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

While this is an easy book to dip in and out of, reading it from page one onwards rewards the reader with an overview of the history of British protests, and a sinking feeling as the same issues come up again and again. The poor and dispossessed often protest to their lords and masters about their harsh living conditions; kings and the nobility burden their serfs with extortionate taxes; a legal system is skewed towards the rich and powerful; and men and boys are forced to go to wars they did not start or understand [Read more...] in Reviews