Happiness

Aminatta Forna

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

This is a story of wide and significant scope that spans continents and decades, even though it unspools itself mainly in the UK in the twenty-first century. And there’s more to it than mammals or birds, or wildlife or gardens. This is also a book about war and trauma, about refugees and immigrants, survival and the unexpected by-products of suffering. And last, but far from least, it’s a love story. [Read more...] in Reviews

Soviet Milk

Nora Ikstena

* 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

Lullaby

Leïla Slimani

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Intimations of madness, of dangerous involvement and detachment, appear very early in the narrative, but the real Louise is invisible to her employers. The reader watches, aghast, as this hapless woman falls to pieces while in charge of someone else’s children. In calm, steady, devastating prose, Slimani tracks the daily life of this sample urban nanny, both at home in the Masses’ flat and out in the city. There are searing scenes in the park (where Louise moves trancelike among other nannies from all over the world), evoking the compromises required by poverty, the solidarity of the underdog and the bleak routines of the lonely and marginalized [Read more...] in Reviews

Asymmetry

Lisa Halliday

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

There’s a wide span of material here, geographically, culturally, in terms of age and gender too. But Halliday – who won the 2017 Whiting Award for Fiction – writes in a fresh, unobtrusive manner and seems easily capable of the stretch. Each of her three leading characters emerges with a credible, compelling perspective but most beguiling of her creations, inevitably, is droll, worldly-wise Ezra, reminiscent of Roth and Bellow amongst others, blessed with a tireless fund of jokes and cultural references ...[Reviews]

Deviation

Luce d’Eramo

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

D’Eramo’s account of the work camps, of the Munich refuge where escapees and other lost souls gathered, of confronting her captors, of joining the strike efforts at IG Farben, of traveling on a transport back from Italy to Germany after choosing to be recaptured – all these episodes are full of grim detail and personalities, recorded with an unblinking gaze. The author’s intellectual curiosity is inexhaustible, her self-scrutiny relentless [Read more...] in Reviews

November Crime Round-Up

N.J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

The primary relationship in Lesley Kara’s impressive first novel, The Rumour, is between a mother and her adult daughter living close to each other in a seaside town in Essex. Jo, who works for an estate agent, has recently moved to the town to be close to her divorced mother and to provide a safer environment for her mixed-race child, Alfie. She is horrified to hear a rumour that a notorious child murderer now lives in the area under an assumed name. Jo passes on the rumour, as a way of getting closer to the women she hopes will become her friends, and then suffers agonies of guilt as suspicion falls on first one individual and then another. The truth is both shocking and convincing [Read more...] in Reviews

Evening in Paradise

Lucia Berlin

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Many of these stories are set in places far from Manhattan: Chile, New Mexico, Mexico City, or the Western mining towns of Berlin’s childhood. They chart the growth of Berlin’s sensibility. From the action-packed account of two seven-year-olds selling ‘chances’ in their neighbourhood (El Paso, 1943) to a Gothic tale of sexual assault in Chile, to story after story of husbands and wives and lovers, such is the immediacy that we are with Berlin every step of the way as she shows without blinking the path from innocence to experience [Read more...] in Reviews