The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland

Nicolai Houm

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

While we laugh with and at Jane, and while she can be maddening (for goodness sake, Jane, give up the cigarettes!) our hearts go out to her, because she is feisty and bold and has clearly suffered a heartbreaking trauma which has caused her agonies. Like a limb returning to life after becoming ‘dead’ or numb from our sitting too long in an awkward position, Jane’s rejoining the land of the living is exquisitely painful [Read more...] in Reviews

The Water Cure

Sophie Mackintosh

Reviewed by Alison Burns

We learn that Lia self-harms and that her sister Grace is pregnant; and that the house was once full of sick women who came to be saved (the girls have read the entries in the Welcome Book, which recount unspeakable abuses and the methods resorted to for survival). And then, into this strange protected world, full of prohibitions and surrounded by a barbed-wire boundary, come men: three of them, two adults and a boy [Read more...] in Reviews

The Storm

Arif Anwar

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

While this is a story of generations, of fathers and their offspring, and of relationships – some unsuccessful – between sympathetic parties, there’s a streak of spirituality and mystery to the tale too. One of the most memorable of its set pieces spans the two-day furlough taken by Ichiro (a Christian) and a Buddhist friend/fellow soldier who travel into the Burmese hinterland, to find a valley of temples. There, they spend an enlightening night with a monk of European heritage, who also appears in another crucial, distant chapter of the story. The monk’s simple yet profound lesson, and the symbol he sketches on the ground as the three men part, will shape both of the Japanese men’s futures, and the fortunes of others too [Read more...] in Reviews

April Crime Round-Up

N.J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

John Fairfax, who used to write as William Brodrick, puts his experience as both a friar and a barrister to good use in this sequel to Summary Justice. Once again his sleuth is William Benson, a barrister on parole after a life sentence for murder. Not surprisingly he finds it hard to get solicitors to send him briefs, and his finances are precarious in the extreme when a man accused of murdering his estranged wife insists on having him as counsel at the trial [Read more...] in Reviews

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

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

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