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

Light from Other Stars

Erika Swyler

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Nedda Papas, eleven years old and a science nerd, has grown up in a small Florida community called Easter, the child of a not-so-happy marriage that has faltered as a result of grief and secrecy. Her father Theo is a scientist, and so is her mother Betheen, but Betheen has turned to baking (which is also, essentially, a series of chemistry experiments) in recent years. Nedda’s father has been experimenting with entropy via a machine called Crucible, and on the day of the Challenger space disaster, close to Easter, Crucible finally springs to life, exerting an influence over Easter generally, and certain individuals in particular, that will break hearts and propel some of the characters far into the future [Read more...] in Reviews

A Stranger City

Linda Grant

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

The Unpassing

Chia-Chia Lin

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Atmospheric is scarcely an adequate term to describe the intensity of Lin’s evocation of the fabric of this family’s life. Clothing, terrible food, the flimsy home, its accumulated junk, the detritus in the attic – all of it is conveyed in near-palpable detail, piling on the bleakness of the novel’s mood. Even when rare good moments occur, like an evening spent in the home of a generous neighbor, Gavin is incapable of experiencing enjoyment [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