Ask Again, Yes

Mary Beth Keane

* A 2019 Notable Book

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

One Part Woman

Perumal Murugan

* A 2019 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

The novel has won various awards and even the translation was nominated for a National Book Award. Murugan himself is from a family of farmers in Kongunadu and is now an established author and academic: he has written ten novels as well as short stories, poetry and non-fiction, and is a professor of Tamil. ‘One Part Woman’ is written in deceptively gentle, flowing prose, but this ‘quiet’ novel by a respectable writer became the focus of violent protest by caste-based and religious Hindu groups [Read more...] in Reviews

Sweet Home

Wendy Erskine

* A 2019 Notable Book

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

A Book of Secrets

Kate Morrison

*A 2019 Notable Book

Reviewed by Rachel Hore

The author claims in her acknowledgements that her purpose in writing about Black Tudors is to give the lie to those myth-makers who use a fantasy all-white English past to feed into far-right white supremacist narratives. Fortunately the fiction does not feel too freighted by this worthy aim. The portrait of Susan as a Black Englishwoman of the period feels to me both individualized and subtly wrought. She has the bearing of a gentlewoman and is largely treated as such. Her respectable marriage also protects her from any who might belittle her. She’s a masterly and believable fictional creation [Read more...] in Reviews

Feminism and the Servant Problem

Laura Schwartz

* A 2019 Notable Book

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

[Schwartz] challenges traditional theories of class and the nature of productive and reproductive labour. Her source materials include memoirs from factory workers and titled ladies, as well as domestic financial records, timetables of household duties, and diaries. There is also correspondence printed in suffrage journals about ‘the servant problem’, with brisk ripostes from servants pointing out the problems they had with some employers [Read more...] in Reviews

A Stranger City

Linda Grant

* A 2019 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

A web of conscious and unconscious interconnections, layered like the often invisible levels of the city’s transport system, links the dead woman with a cross-section of London’s inhabitants. In particular, Chrissie, a young and reckless hospital nurse, who happens to go missing briefly on the same night as DB27; Alan, a film-maker, who makes a TV documentary about them; and Pete, the river-haunting policeman who tries to solve the case [Read more...] in Reviews

Women Talking

Miriam Toews

* A 2019 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The women’s analysis of what has happened to them, their treatment, their own futures and their children’s, and above all how to absorb these events into their own sense of faith, fills most of the book’s pages, and might seem at times dry. But its territory is so horrific, so stark, so outrageous and contemporary that it magnetizes the reader. Toew’s sensitivity, lucidity, lyricism and wit ensure it [Read more...] in Reviews