Last Letter Home

Rachel Hore

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

As the war gathers pace, life changes for everyone, with even Ivor’s family finding their luxurious life slipping away. Sarah works hard gardening under the watchful eye of the government inspectors who want every patch of earth to produce food for the country. Hore echoes the burgeoning relationship between Sarah and Paul in the modern day sections with Briony and the man she falls in love with. It adds interest to both relationships, showing that while the world may have changed, the complications of love relationships span the decades [Read more...] in Reviews

Ordinary People

Diana Evans

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

Tales of couples in conflict are played out against the south London background of urban beauty and ugliness, toddler play groups and knife crime, sandwich dilemmas in Prêt A Manger, retail therapy in Top Shop, hauntings, snowfall, and visits from Rentokil. Issues of cultural identity nag at the characters: when Melissa explains to her seven year old daughter Ria that Ria is ‘a quarter Nigerian, a quarter English and half-Jamaican’, Ria replies that she wants to be ‘completely Jamaican too... I want to be all of them’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Tangerine

Christine Mangan

Reviewed by Alison Burns

The book opens in Spain, as an ill and unstable young woman recovering in a sanatorium remembers Tangiers. She remembers another unnamed woman; and she thinks she remembers the body of an unnamed man being dragged from the sea. What follows is a carefully plotted but somewhat mechanical semi-Gothic horror story about obsession, identity theft and cold-blooded manipulative revenge [Read more...] in Reviews

Two Sisters

Åsne Seierstad

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

On October 17, 2013 two teenage Somali sisters left their parental home near Oslo in Norway, apparently on their way to school. A few hours later, their bemused parents received an email explaining that their daughters were in fact en route to Syria to join Islamic State. ‘Muslims are under attack from all quarters,’ they wrote, ‘and we need to do something. We want so much to help Muslims, and the only way we can do that is by being with them in both suffering and joy...it is haqq and we must go’ [Read more...] in Reviews

March Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Roz Watkins’s first novel, The Devil’s Dice, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger award and introduces DI Meg Dalton of the Peak District. She is an appealing character, although her lack of physical fitness would seem to make her an unlikely police officer. She worries about her size and unhealthy diet, her beleaguered and incompetent mother and bedridden grandmother, and, of course, her work, which is made even harder by the presence of a misogynist and mocking colleague [Read more...] in Reviews

Soviet Milk

Nora Ikstena

Reviewed by Rachel Hore

Although the oppression of life under Communism infuses this tender tale, Soviet Milk is principally a story about individual character, not politics. There’s no doubt that the mother is a wounded soul, who struggles and fails to be happy, but the author offers no pat answers about why. She is so delicately and warmly evoked, however, that the reader is stirred to empathy rather than impatience [Read more...] in Reviews

Happiness

Aminatta Forna

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

This is a story of wide and significant scope that spans continents and decades, even though it unspools itself mainly in the UK in the twenty-first century. And there’s more to it than mammals or birds, or wildlife or gardens. This is also a book about war and trauma, about refugees and immigrants, survival and the unexpected by-products of suffering. And last, but far from least, it’s a love story. [Read more...] in Reviews