Clock Dance

Anne Tyler

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Her mother had always behaved wilfully, then sought forgiveness with disarming songs and smiles. Her husband had turned out to be rigid and unimaginative, quite unlike Willa’s kindly father. By the time she acquires a second husband, Peter, her optimism has quite gone: ‘Marriage was often a matter of dexterity, in Willa’s experience’ [Read more...] in Reviews

A Place for Us

Fatima Farheen Mirza

Reviewed by Alison Burns

The great achievement of this novel – as of Vikram Seth’s witty and bounteous classic, A Suitable Boy – is that it traces family troubles that could happen to anybody, while showing how these are compounded where there is a clash of cultures. Particularly well handled in Mirza’s seemingly effortless narrative are the stories and rituals from the Muslim tradition, which Layla’s three children learn at her knees and return to with longing all their lives [Read more...] in Reviews

Mr Peacock’s Possessions

Lydia Syson

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

The story is narrated by Lizzie Peacock and Kalala, one of the Pacific Islanders. Lizzie, a strong character, believes her father’s every word, never imagining that he might make a mistake. And indeed, Mr Peacock is a clever man but also selfish and self-absorbed. Convinced he is destined for better things, he is happy to leave his Samoan business behind no matter what privations his family might suffer on the island [Read more...] in Reviews

May Crime Round-Up

N.J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Bauer is one of those writers adored by critics and prize judges. Her first novel, Blacklands, won the Gold Dagger and was remarkable for the way she recreated the mind of her child hero. Jack is an even more impressive creation. Bauer has a clear understanding of the way children make their own reality bearable and her account of the way he and his sisters live is both shocking and immensely moving, as well as full of warmth and humour [Read more...] in Reviews

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


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