October Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

May is a terrific character, all too aware of pain and fear but refusing to let either deflect her from what she knows is right. She is realistic in her ambitions, except when she puts herself in physical danger in the hunt for vicious thugs. But her setting is absolutely convincing. Poor in comparison with the Coroner himself, she is still much better off than many of the people she deals with in Poplar, whose lives are dreadful [Read more...] in Reviews

Away from the Dead

Karen Jennings

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

The collection closes with ‘Resurrection’, the tale of a young father immobilized by the stresses of everyday life and his wife and son’s attempts to cure him. In between are more tales of ordinary Africans, scratching out a living while waiting for the changes promised by the end of apartheid to reach them [Read more...] in Reviews

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Richard Flanagan

WINNER OF THE 2014 MANN BOOKER PRIZE

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Bracketing the dark heart of the novel, which pulls no punches in its descriptions of the conditions and the suffering, are the non-chronological pre- and post-war experiences of its central character, Tasmanian-born Dorrigo Evans, a surgeon by profession and a major during the war. Among a large group of Australian soldiers who surrender to the Japanese, Dorrigo finds himself the ‘big fella’ in charge of the troops at one of the hellish camps. Thus is borne in on him in particular the impossible dilemmas of good and evil, life and death, guilt and responsibility, honour and shame that are the towering themes of this searching novel [Read more...] in Reviews

The Undertaker’s Daughter

Kate Mayfield

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

From the first moment that she sneaked into the forbidden rooms to look at a newly embalmed corpse, Kate was fascinated by her father’s profession and since the family lived above the shop, she had plenty of opportunity to see, or rather spy on what happened to dead bodies both before they were embalmed, and afterwards, lying in their best clothes and thick face paint in their open coffins, ready for the ritual viewing [Read more...] in Reviews

Us

David Nicholls

Reviewed by Caroline Sanderson

It would be difficult not to enjoy a David Nicholls novel. His stories have ‘Like Me’ stamped all over them. I am among the legions who liked One Day; gulping it down, and not seeing that plot twist coming. So what about Us? [Read more...] in Reviews

The Woman in the Picture

Katharine McMahon

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Katharine McMahon’s historical fiction doesn’t evade the formula of an exceptional woman in an unusual era, rather embraces it fully, using honest emotional responses and full-bodied description to enliven her attractive heroines whose determination can border on the feminist. Evelyn is no exception. McMahon depicts a woman in the vanguard who is simultaneously passionate and self-doubting, aware and also lonely [Read more...] in Reviews

A Conversation with Karen Jay Fowler

Until full-blown success arrived, Karen Joy Fowler certainly weathered her share of literary failure, but also built a solid reputation for herself as an unusual, thoughtful and inventive writer. It took her two and a half years of constant rejection to sell her first novel, Sarah Canary, published in 1991. This was an experience she found both bewildering and instructional. Some twenty-five rejection letters and at least one change of agent left her wondering what to make of the book’s excellent reviews, prize nominations and citation as one of the New York Times’s notable books of the year. ‘If the book was so good, why had no one bought it ? And if it was not so good, why say it was ?’ [Read more...] in Authors and extracts