The First Bad Man

Miranda July

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The central character is Cheryl Glickman, middle-aged, obsessive/compulsive, a put-upon worker in a charity that makes money selling safety videos for women in role-play format that double as workout routines. The charity’s founders pretend to philanthropy while living lives of unbounded exploitation and self-centred meanness. The receptionist at the medical practice Cheryl attends for her globus hystericus doubles as a therapist herself. The homeless man who plays the part of Cheryl’s landscaper is far from what he seems. And Cheryl herself, in her head at least, takes the parts of sexual partner and mother into realms which bear only the most vestigial relationship with reality [Read more...] in Reviews

The Ice Twins

S.K. Tremayne

Reviewed by Alison Burns

As Meredith attempts to settle her daughter into school and secretly consults a child psychiatrist, the local children are scared out of their wits by Kirstie-Lydia’s behaviour. They don’t need to be told what a ghost looks like: they can see her. Meanwhile, Angus is endeavouring to keep family life on the rails and food on the table, while watching his wife fall to pieces [Read more...] in Reviews

January Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Ferdinand von Schirach’s The Girl Who Wasn’t There, which has been beautifully translated from the German by Anthea Bell, features a main character named Sebastian von Eschburg, who witnessed violence at far too young an age. The first experience was watching his father kill and gralloch (disembowel) a deer; the second was finding his father’s headless body. For the rest of Sebastian’s life, he struggles to create art that will make sense of the gap between what is seen and what it means. This is a chillingly alluring excursion into psychology and suffering [Read more...] in Reviews

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Emma Hooper

Reviewed by Alison Burns

In a tone reminiscent of Carol Shields’s much-loved novel The Stone Diaries – and, in one remarkable passage, of Ann Michaels’s searing Holocaust novel Fugitive Pieces – the young, Canadian-born but UK-resident author and musician Emma Hooper binds together the story of her characters’ childhood, wartime experiences and adulthood in a plaited narrative that makes everything simultaneously immediate. The effect is incredibly touching [Read more...] in Reviews

On the Wilder Shores of Love

Lesley Blanch

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

After her husband left her for the film star Jean Seberg, Lesley became A Traveller. ‘As long as I can remember I have been possessed by a burning craving for far horizons.’ Asia beckoned. As always, travelling ‘heavy’, with ten or twelve suitcases (‘It’s worth it for me and tant pis for other people’) she would set off to distant and uncomfortable countries with such indispensable belongings as her favourite icon, a Sheffield plate teapot, candlesticks and quilts [Read more...] in Reviews

And so farewell…to 2014 in books

So what’s ahead for 2015? More terrific books, that’s a definite. How do we know? Because some reviews are already on the stocks. Two hot tips: The First Bad Man by Miranda July and The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Both will blow your socks off. In addition, Anne Tyler, S.K. Tremayne, Emma Hooper and much more, including of course our world-beating monthly crime column from N.J. Cooper. Plus individual focuses on small presses, some brand new, some already well established [Read more...] in Reviews

The Stray American

Wendy Brandmark

Reviewed by Siân Miles

It is a mark of the author’s skill and stylish restraint that not until the penultimate page do readers discover what the story is really about and what her protagonist is actually running to and from. The revelation is both moving and richly comical. Brandmark also achieves a fine balance, recording the laudable and the less desirable in US and UK cultural traits [Read more...] in Reviews