The Man Who Saw Everything

Deborah Levy

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

It all begins at that famous zebra crossing in Abbey Road, London, in 1988, when a young man named Saul Adler bends to his girlfriend Jennifer Moreau’s will and allows himself to be photographed on the crossing, dressed up like John Lennon. The event does not pass without incident. Firstly, Saul is knocked down by a car. His injuries are only glancing, allowing the couple to go back to her place and make love. But then Saul proposes to Jennifer, and not only does she reject him but she ends the relationship too [Read more...] in Reviews

Idaho

Emily Ruskovich

Reviewed by Alison Burns

In passages of extraordinarily convincing interiority, Ruskovich shows Ann doggedly, lovingly, half-guiltily, trying to imagine how the crime happened, and why. By now, it is clear to her that Wade is suffering from early-onset dementia, like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him. She has become habituated to her husband’s sudden outbursts of corrective violence, during which he seems to forget that she is human [Read more...] in Reviews

Sweet Home

Wendy Erskine

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Erskine’s voice is as specific and local as James Kelman’s and her tales are as memorably engaging as those of William Trevor or Muriel Spark. In a freewheeling, deceptively simple style, she follows the thoughts and survival techniques of ordinary men and women in run-down neighbourhoods going nowhere [Read more...] in Reviews

Ask Again, Yes

Mary Beth Keane

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Keane’s quiet capability embraces a three-generational plot, multiple character perspectives and some complicated topics, notably mental health and addiction. Her empathy extends easily to Anne who, after reaching a shattering crisis, is incarcerated in a secure facility. Anne’s struggle to regain control of herself and a degree of normalcy in her interactions with her family are one facet of the story. Another is Kate’s response to this challenge and how it feeds into to the amelioration of another threat [Read more...] in Reviews

Soviet Milk

Nora Ikstena

* Shortlisted for the EBRD prize
* A 2018 Notable Book

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

Picnic in the Storm

Yukiko Motoya

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Yukiko Motoya has been mentioned in dispatches for some time as a startling new voice in fiction. Her stories mix an almost deadpan ordinariness with entertaining flights of fancy that should lift the sternest critic off her feet. Magritte meets Murakami in tale after tale of the oddest things happening in the very path of daily life [Read more...] in Reviews

Severance

Ling Ma

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Ma has referred to her book as ‘an apocalyptic office novel’ and its critique of capitalism, done slyly yet tellingly, is a central ingredient in her fusion of narrative themes. There’s suspense too in the gothic, survivalist scenes, complete with maggot-infested corpses. There’s contemplative analysis in Candace’s musing on the oddities of her world and her place in it. There’s a battle of wills, between our steely heroine and the autocratic leader of the survivalists. And there’s the sardonic take on routine, work, wage slavery and consumerism [Read more...] in Reviews