“Lightin’ Hopkins is my muse, has been for years, it’s music deeply rooted in the part of the country I come from, and with Lightnin’ there are always moments of defiance." Attica Locke
Etgar Keret: Something weird

Etgar Keret: Something weird

Fly Already, Etgar Keret’s first story collection for seven years, hits a familiarly outlandish and infectious groove. The title story relates a potential suicide jump as witnessed by a young boy whose innocent, excited observations to his father are set against a backdrop of grief, guilt, recovery and misunderstanding. It...
At sea

At sea

They knew they were lost because they had been travelling for several hours but still had not arrived. When the sun’s disc broke above the sea, they saw nothing to raise their hopes, no sign of an island in any direction. At midday, still with no land in sight, someone...
America, are you listening?

America, are you listening?

Heaven, My Home is Attica Locke’s follow-up to her award-winning novel Bluebird, Bluebird. I’m pleased to report that the second instalment in the Highway 59 series is just as compelling as the first. Texas Ranger Darren Mathews is a fascinating character who is constantly having to balance his often conflicting...
Write what you want to forget

Write what you want to forget

What do you do with the things that cannot be expressed? Where do you put the things you cannot say? What do you do when words don’t work? In the opening pages of The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson cites Wittgenstein: “the inexpressible is contained – inexpressibly – in the expressed.” This...
Sanam Maher: The real Qandeel?

Sanam Maher: The real Qandeel?

Qandeel Baloch was the social-media siren who teased and titillated Pakistani society with her pouty posts and racy videos, empowering young women and outraging religious elders at every turn. Her highlights reel is well known: the failed audition on Pakistan Idol – all shrill voice, shocking pink leggings and fake...
Melanie Cantor: No regrets

Melanie Cantor: No regrets

 Well what would you do if you found out you had 90 days to live? Death and Other Happy Endings is nothing like as grim as that sounds. I was reminded of the opening to that Richard Curtis movie in which we see a sequence of people all arriving...
Mia Couto: Singular dualities

Mia Couto: Singular dualities

Mia Couto’s Woman of the Ashes is the first novel in a trilogy centred around the 1895 overthrow of southern Mozambique’s last emperor, Ngungunyane. As warring factions threaten to divide the country an unforeseen love affair unfolds between 15-year-old village girl Imani and exiled Portuguese sergeant Germano de Melo. Imani...
Tishani Doshi: Shifting tides

Tishani Doshi: Shifting tides

 There is nothing small about Tishani Doshi’s tightly wrought second novel Small Days and Nights – just as there is nothing small about India. Whether writing about its people, the scale of the challenges facing a country of epic unequal proportions, or simply describing the natural world on a...
Wayétu Moore: Liberia then and now

Wayétu Moore: Liberia then and now

Wayétu Moore’s She Would Be King is a vibrant historical novel about the tumultuous founding of Liberia, shot through with fantastical elements rooted in African fable. The heroine referenced in the title is wild, red-haired Gbessa [pronounced ‘Bessah’], who is cast from her Vai village because she was cursed at...
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Louisa Treger: Unconventional lives

Louisa Treger: Unconventional lives

Set in Italy, England and Rhodesia, Louisa Treger’s The Dragon Lady is a work of historical fiction based on the life story of a truly remarkable, yet little known woman named Virginia Courtauld. It is a sumptuous tale of murder and intrigue, which spans several decades following the First World War, but is largely focused...
Nowhere, or wherever you are

Nowhere, or wherever you are

I wanted to be a writer when I was little. There was no question of it; I knew loads of words, and it hadn’t crossed my mind that there was anything more to it than putting them together on a blank (or blank-ish) surface. I was a writer. I wasn’t prepared to wake up one...
Fungus

Fungus

The skinny guy fell to the café floor. His stomach hurt more than he thought it ever possibly could. A series of involuntary spasms shook his body. “This is what it must be like when you’re going to die,” he thought. “But this can’t be the end. I’m too young, and it’s too embarrassing to...
Capital Crime: Debut festival of the year

Capital Crime: Debut festival of the year

Like so many of life’s wonders, Capital Crime was conceived in the back of a New York taxi cab. The idea came to David Headley and Adam Hamdy while they were attending Thriller Fest. A world-class city like London needed its own high-profile crime fiction festival and they were going to be the ones who...
Corsets of conventionality

Corsets of conventionality

Zofia Nałkowska (1884–1954) was one of the most important Polish writers of the first half of the twentieth century, prominent in public life and a figure of European significance, whose major works have been translated into English only since 2000. She was a pioneer of psychological modernism. Apart from novels, short stories and plays, Nałkowska...
Laura Lippman: From all sides

Laura Lippman: From all sides

Set in mid-1960s Baltimore, Laura Lippman’s latest standalone Lady in the Lake is a compassionate snapshot of a city in cultural and political flux. Though most of the focus is on Maddie Schwartz’s transformation from a Jewish housewife living in an upscale neighbourhood to a hardened newspaper reporter residing in a downtown flat, Lippman constantly...
The future of Palestine

The future of Palestine

It is of more than passing interest that, during the premiership of Herbert Henry Asquith, the British did not seek to acquire Palestine. It was certainly not the government’s priority. Palestine was a land of relative insignificance that could be dealt with once the war was over. Under Asquith, the prevalent official British view was...
Dim background figures

Dim background figures

Among the bold colours and radically liberating shapes that conjured up so indelibly the world of the Bloomsbury Group painters, between the layers of meaning and style of the new women writers, under the shadows or glaring light of history, and at a tantalising distance, both flirtatious and cautionary, from the figures who dominated early...
The next best death

The next best death

Death came for Eiolf early one bright summer morning. Before he had got as far as his office. Before he had got as far as putting on the water for his coffee and dumping his heavy shoulder bag. As usual, he was one of the first to arrive. It was the last time he would...
Heart to heart

Heart to heart

It’s August in Tunisia, I come across this scene. Before the wrought-iron window frame, in full sunlight, you can come and see what’s happening now as well as what has happened, you can sit and wait for the sounds to return, for the smells, the gestures, the words to revive and it’s suddenly all so...