A Conversation with Karen Jay Fowler

Until full-blown success arrived, Karen Joy Fowler certainly weathered her share of literary failure, but also built a solid reputation for herself as an unusual, thoughtful and inventive writer. It took her two and a half years of constant rejection to sell her first novel, Sarah Canary, published in 1991. This was an experience she found both bewildering and instructional. Some twenty-five rejection letters and at least one change of agent left her wondering what to make of the book’s excellent reviews, prize nominations and citation as one of the New York Times’s notable books of the year. ‘If the book was so good, why had no one bought it ? And if it was not so good, why say it was ?’ [Read more...] in Authors and extracts

Paul Sidey

It is with great sadness that bookoxygen reports the death of reviewer Paul Sidey. Paul’s career in publishing was long and very distinguished. He spent over three decades working at publisher Hutchinson where his authors included Ruth Rendell and Sir Richard Attenborough. Paul contributed some wonderful and witty reviews to this site and they can be found by using the website’s search engine.

September Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Grace is investigating the disappearance of Polly Sinclair, after a night of post-exam celebrating in her university town. Various suspects present themselves, and there is always the possibility that Polly has simply gone off on her own without a word to her housemate or her parents. When another student is found murdered and her body grotesquely positioned for maximum effect, everyone loses the ability to believe in that comfortable illusion [Read more...] in Reviews

After Before

Jemma Wayne

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

The inscrutable Emily and her flashbacks to the Rwandan genocide provide the dark heart of the novel. Her fear during the vicious Hutu attacks is palpable and her restless need to keep on the move is unsettling. Emily thinks she has left the massacres behind in Africa but such trauma will not be quelled by force of will and must be dealt with. In the twentieth anniversary year of the genocide, she is a window through which these terrible events can be observed and remembered [Read more...] in Reviews

We Are Not Ourselves

Matthew Thomas

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Moving gracefully, vividly across the years, Thomas employs a realistic but not wholly linear mode. His narrative proceeds in slices – microscope slides, perhaps – of life. A current preoccupation, a professional dilemma, a moment of crisis – these snapshot episodes are fully visited but not always returned to in subsequent chapters. The effect is to light up a personality through flashbulb instances that accumulate into a composite character portrait [Read more...] in Reviews

Herring Girl

Debbie Taylor

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Ben, who lives in North Shields, at the mouth of the Tyne, is twelve-years-old and has always felt he was born in the wrong body. With puberty beckoning he is becoming increasingly desperate to avoid the changes that will bring. He finds a friend in Laura, a transsexual, who not only gives him tips on how to pass as a girl but also introduces him to Mary, a psychologist who specializes in past life regression. Through sessions with Mary, Ben discovers a past life as Annie, a sixteen-year-old herring girl who lived in the same area more than a hundred years before [Read more...] in Reviews

So The Path Does Not Die

Pede Hollist

Reviewed by Alison Burns

‘Finaba Marah could tell from the length of Baramusu’s stride, her erect shoulders and granite stare, that her grandmother had come for serious business…’
Female circumcision is the background theme of this warm-hearted story about a young woman from Sierra Leone who makes a new life for herself in Washington, DC [Read more...] in Reviews