"Money won’t save us. Things won’t save us. We’ve failed our moral responsibility to be stewards of this planet. I hope this epiphany arrives, and I hope it leads to change." Rumaan Alam
Ellery Lloyd: Cracks in the mirror

Ellery Lloyd: Cracks in the mirror

People Like Her, by husband-and-wife team Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos writing as Ellery Lloyd, is a razor-sharp psychological thriller that picks at the dark edges of our obsession with social media and the peculiar world of online influencers. Emmy Jackson is an Instagram sensation as @the_mamabare, telling the world...
Bryan Washington: Neighbourhoods

Bryan Washington: Neighbourhoods

Bryan Washington’s debut story collection, Lot, a sweeping overview of Houston’s ethnically diverse communities that dips in and out of the life of a gay, mixed-race restaurant worker, was the winner of the 2020 Dylan Thomas Prize and won plaudits from everyone from Ann Patchett and Kiley Reid to Barack...
Rumaan Alam: This is how civilisation ends

Rumaan Alam: This is how civilisation ends

“I woke up this morning and the world already feels safer!” declared a friend on Facebook the day after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris swept to victory in the US election. Hah! Wait till you read Leave the World Behind, I thought, perhaps a little too sceptically, you’ll soon change...
Mannequins and monsters

Mannequins and monsters

Edward Carey’s The Swallowed Man follows the adventures of Pinocchio’s creator Geppetto after he is stranded in the belly of a sea beast. As the woodcarver ekes out a frugal existence, living on his memories and imagination, the tale becomes a magical meditation on fatherly love, loss and regret, and...
William Boyd: Melting in the dark

William Boyd: Melting in the dark

In swinging Britain in the summer of 1968, three characters are leading troubled lives. Sexually conflicted producer Talbot Kydd is overseeing an archly arthouse movie in Brighton while sneaking away from his wife to a secret London flat and pondering a possible future with a scaffolder named Gary; his star,...
Antoine Laurain: Imagined reality

Antoine Laurain: Imagined reality

Antoine Laurain’s briskly comic new novel The Readers’ Room takes readers inside the rarefied world of a Parisian publishing house, and revolves around a reclusive debut author known as Camille Désencres whose murder mystery Sugar Flowers has made the Prix Goncourt shortlist. Things take a dark turn when ‘Camille’ emails her...
Multitasking

Multitasking

Catherine Steadman is a woman of many parts. A celebrated actress, novelist and screenwriter, best known as Lady Mary’s love rival Mabel Lane Fox in Downton Abbey, her two novels to date, both tightly wound psychological thrillers, have been huge bestsellers. We catch up with her as her second novel...
Cathy Rentzenbrink: Book whisperer

Cathy Rentzenbrink: Book whisperer

“When I make a friend I wonder what sits on their bookshelves,” writes Cathy Rentzenbrink, ex-bookseller, bestselling author and amiable bookworm. I smile as I read this. Yes, me too. These last few months of lockdown, forcing so many of us to work from home and Zoom with colleagues, has...
Nicola Maye Goldberg: Room for doubt

Nicola Maye Goldberg: Room for doubt

Nicola Maye Goldberg’s Nothing Can Hurt You is a literary thriller that revolves around the murder of a young female student by her boyfriend, but rather than investigate the crime, she deftly examines its repercussions on a broad spectrum of people, from those directly affected to a wider society habituated...
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Fiction at work

Fiction at work

‘Workplace’ is a vague, literal term. It’s too broad to conjure an image, though it might summon a feeling. (For some: not here again, for others: here we go!). Nowadays my workplace is also my dinner table, the place where I wrapped Christmas presents I’m yet to give. But old, paused office life was fertile,...
Gints Zilbalodis: Doing it all

Gints Zilbalodis: Doing it all

Latvian prodigy Gints Zilbalodis’ critically acclaimed debut animated feature Away is a stunning, dialogue-free film about a boy travelling across an island on a motorcycle, trying to escape a dark spirit and return home. Along the way, he makes a series of connections with different animals and reflects on how he may have ended up...
Pictures behind the story

Pictures behind the story

All photographs are packed with stories. They surround us, littering our screens and walls with narrative and memory. Time embalmed. But for each of us, some images are packed fuller than others. Alighting upon a particular combination of light and shade, colour and form, a person we love(d), a fleeting delight – our attention is...
A big thing or a small

A big thing or a small

Frances Quinn’s debut novel The Smallest Man is inspired by the real-life story of Jeffrey Hudson, who became ‘court dwarf’ and a true friend to Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I. Spanning two decades that changed England forever, it’s a heartening tale of being different, but bold enough to follow your dreams. Where...
'La lengua': interpreters the colonial age

‘La lengua’: interpreters the colonial age

In August 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain, hoping to find a westwards trading route to Asia. With him were two interpreters, fluent in various European and Middle Eastern languages. Columbus himself, who was originally from Genoa in Italy, also spoke several European languages. Even within Spain, a multitude of languages coexisted, many of...
A grammar of emotions

A grammar of emotions

“Tragedy as a collective historical fact is at the core of Salvadoran identity,” wrote Horacio Castellanos Moya for the World Policy Journal in 2018, citing “the tragedy of the Civil War, the tragedy of the 2001 earthquake, and the current and most perverse tragedy of them all: the gangs, or maras.” More than thirty years...
Journeys of the mind

Journeys of the mind

From the strange workings of the brain, life in a care home in France, to the privileged girls of a boarding school in America via a trip to Bosnia to face up to the past, there is plenty for you to lose yourself in as 2021 cranks into gear. With Delphine de Vigan a cult...
The rhinoceros in the room

The rhinoceros in the room

In one of the most famous duels of elephantine minds, Bertrand Russell would challenge Ludwig Wittgenstein to concede that there was no rhinoceros in the Cambridge room that served as their legendary battleground (in a different version of the story, Russell claimed that the pachyderm to be located was a hippopotamus). The question, under ongoing...
Looking ahead by looking behind

Looking ahead by looking behind

“Where did you go to, if I may ask?” said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode along. “To look ahead,” said he. “And what brought you back in the nick of time?” “Looking behind,” said he. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit   2020 has been without a doubt, and without exception, an unexpected journey to the...
Travels around one's father

Travels around one’s father

Carlo and Renzo Piano’s Atlantis: A Journey in Search of Beauty is an audaciously ambitious, unfailingly beguiling book. It is intimate and deliberately public all at once, vigorously peripatetic and languidly philosophical, a complex offspring of the tradition of ancient travelogues of ignorance and knowledge after the model of Herodotus, Pausanias, Ptolemy, Scylax and Hanno,...