Lullaby

Leïla Slimani

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Intimations of madness, of dangerous involvement and detachment, appear very early in the narrative, but the real Louise is invisible to her employers. The reader watches, aghast, as this hapless woman falls to pieces while in charge of someone else’s children. In calm, steady, devastating prose, Slimani tracks the daily life of this sample urban nanny, both at home in the Masses’ flat and out in the city. There are searing scenes in the park (where Louise moves trancelike among other nannies from all over the world), evoking the compromises required by poverty, the solidarity of the underdog and the bleak routines of the lonely and marginalized [Read more...] in Reviews

Asymmetry

Lisa Halliday

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

There’s a wide span of material here, geographically, culturally, in terms of age and gender too. But Halliday – who won the 2017 Whiting Award for Fiction – writes in a fresh, unobtrusive manner and seems easily capable of the stretch. Each of her three leading characters emerges with a credible, compelling perspective but most beguiling of her creations, inevitably, is droll, worldly-wise Ezra, reminiscent of Roth and Bellow amongst others, blessed with a tireless fund of jokes and cultural references ...[Reviews]

The Red Beach Hut

Lynn Michell

*A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Coles

Lynn Michell captures the gentleness and purity of both characters, and their innocent yearning for something to fill their separate emotional vacuums. So far so good – we have been privy to the pure side of their relationship, their intentions, but it is not long before we view how the world sees them, and labels them, and impugns the worst of motives to them. For this is the theme of the novel, it is about how the world leaps with speed to judge [Read more...] in Reviews

A Secret Sisterhood

Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney

* A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

The authors chose these examples from a long list of author friends, such as Winifred Holtby and Vera Brittain, Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. These examples of ‘hidden friendships’ are interesting and well described – and they all have an undercurrent of subversion or naughtiness about them. As Margaret Atwood says in her foreword, ‘It was a received opinion throughout the last two millennia, up to and including much of the twentieth century, that… to write seriously was immodest for a woman’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Protest: Stories of Resistance

* A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

While this is an easy book to dip in and out of, reading it from page one onwards rewards the reader with an overview of the history of British protests, and a sinking feeling as the same issues come up again and again. The poor and dispossessed often protest to their lords and masters about their harsh living conditions; kings and the nobility burden their serfs with extortionate taxes; a legal system is skewed towards the rich and powerful; and men and boys are forced to go to wars they did not start or understand [Read more...] in Reviews

Towards Mellbreak

Marie-Elsa Bragg

* A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Towards Mellbreak is suffused with love for these people and their place. You see and feel the rain ‘lathered onto the fells, clinging to the clouds like froth’, the snowdrops ‘spread across the lawn, as if a stream had come through’, the mourners crammed into the farm kitchen ‘like a bucket of coals’. It is such an intimate portrait that you don’t want to leave them [Read more...]

Behold the Dreamers

Imbolo Mbue

*A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

As the shadow of the coming crisis intensifies, so other problems develop for Neni and Jende. The birth of their second child Timba compounds their financial difficulties while their individual and joint relationships with the Edwards become ever more tangled. Yet Mbue – a Cameroonian herself –notably inclines away from the predictable [Read more...] in Revews