Armadillos

P.K. Lynch

*A 2016 Notable Book

Reviewed by Lesley Glaister

Brought up in poverty and misery, Aggie escapes her abusive father and sets off into the world with absolutely nothing, living on her wits and the protective instincts borne of her brutal background. The novel grips right from the start both because it’s a cracking story and because Aggie is such an immediately sympathetic character. Although she lies, steals and cheats almost as a reflex, it is impossible not to root for her as she hustles her way through real dangers [Read more...] in Reviews

A House Full of Daughters

Juliet Nicolson

*A 2016 Notable Book

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

This beautifully written history is the kind of ‘herstory’ that, in the 1970s, women fighting for equality demanded. But it is also a remarkably candid personal memoir of the author’s own and her mother’s life. She does not hesitate to reveal that her grandfather, Harold Nicolson, was a snob, an anti-Semite and a racist; that her father, Nigel, married despite his lifelong conviction that sex was ‘nasty, something one was obliged to do only occasionally, almost like going to the loo’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Under the Rose

Julia O’Faolain

*A 2016 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

In ‘Daughters of Passion’, convent girls share a flat in Camden Town. So far, so Edna O’Brien, you might think – then a boyfriend describes the coldness of one of them as ‘like eating Baked Alaska’ (beneath her cold crust he’d counted on finding lava’). In ‘Oh My Monsters!’, a cynical good-time girl berates her sister, who just wants her to be ‘normal’: ‘I have an impulse to die when I make love,’ she reports. ‘That’s why I keep the Nembutal in the garage’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Work Like Any Other

Virginia Reeves

*A 2016 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Reeves’s writing is spare yet vivid and accomplished. Her simple storyline is enhanced by the dreamy quality of imaginings which flit in and out of Roscoe’s consciousness like the birds admired and identified by Marie. Whether inventing scenarios which allow him to drift away from grim circumstances, or entertaining dialogues with Marie, when in truth she has abandoned him, these enhanced realities introduce a different dimension. They are, in part, Roscoe’s fantasy versions of the past and the future, his exteriorized hopes and fears; also a means of punishment, sometimes an expression of naïve belief [Read more...] in Reviews

The Portable Veblen

Elizabeth McKenzie

*A 2016 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Veblen, who has Norwegian ancestry and is a fan of her namesake Thorstein Veblen, the anti-consumerist economist and socialist (famed for the idea of ‘conspicuous consumption’), has grown up anxious, finding comfort in strangeness, solitary pursuits, nature and in particular squirrels, with whom she converses [Read more...] in Reviews

My Name is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout

*A 2016 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Lucy’s love for her mother – who never kissed her nor could express her feelings for her child directly – is palpable. Yet it is accompanied by profound anguish. Lucy may have escaped from her childhood home (unlike her two siblings), has begun a writing career, married a seemingly-sympatico husband and had two children on whom she lavishes the kind of affection she never knew, yet she remains wounded, searching, at times terrified [Read more...] in Reviews

Light Box: Stories

K.J. Orr

*A 2016 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Psychologically as well as geographically, Orr’s characters are out to find something, escape something, work something out. Each story, with its arresting descriptive precision (‘gunmetal’ parking bays, ‘the small golden explosions’ of champagne), presents an encounter, a compromise or a series of small shocks, in the course of which something internal shifts or settles [Read more...] in Reviews