"Grief feels like love. Sometimes you press on that tender spot, because it’s as close as you can get to the person who is otherwise gone.” – Kate Brody
Kate Brody: Missing people, muddled lives

Kate Brody: Missing people, muddled lives

Kate Brody’s pacy debut thriller is a novel of our times. A missing woman, social media conspiracy theories, mental health issues, suspicion, trust, self-harm and family trauma are woven together to give us a troubling, riveting and sharply written noir set on America’s East Coast. What’s the worst that can...
No I won't 'calm down' about Greta Gerwig

No I won’t ‘calm down’ about Greta Gerwig

On my desktop is an unfinished essay, a file called Greta Gerwig Won’t Win. I’ve been trying to write about Gerwig for some time, but I only started this version recently – post-Golden Globes, Oscars rumours simmering. I thought Gerwig would be nominated for directing but have no chance of...
Ami Rao: All life is here

Ami Rao: All life is here

Ami Rao’s Boundary Road is an inventively structured, deftly observed and uncompromisingly raw snapshot of contemporary multicultural London in which two young passengers on the Number 13 bus from central to north London have fleeting encounter whilst lost in their own pasts. Aron is making a new start as an...
We and our cats

We and our cats

I am writing this now in my home in rural Ibaraki, just north of Tokyo, which I share with my husband and our three cats. We bought this old house ten years ago, did a major renovation on it, and moved in just over eight years ago. As we were...
Liminal spaces and impossible things

Liminal spaces and impossible things

I’ve been obsessed with and seduced by the notion of liminal space since childhood. It began with The Chronicles of Narnia. As an eight-year-old I devoured The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and, long after the story started to fade the obsession with wardrobes remained. My paternal grandmother lived...
Making sense of the past and present

Making sense of the past and present

Anjum Hasan’s latest novel History’s Angel is an intimate portrait of contemporary Delhi seen through the eyes of a timid schoolteacher who is struggling to square his love of history with the questionable values, indifference and rising hostility that surround him as a Muslim in Narendra Modi’s India. She tells...
Embracing the unknown

Embracing the unknown

Gina Chung’s near-future debut novel Sea Change is narrated by 30-year-old Korean American aquarium worker Ro, whose menial job is uplifted by taking care of a magnificent, genetically mutated giant octopus called Dolores. Dolores was brought to the aquarium by Ro’s father two decades earlier, lifted from a highly polluted...
Getting on: Later-life female friendship

Getting on: Later-life female friendship

‘The first time I saw you, do you know what I thought?’ Janet steels herself. ‘I thought, that woman looks like she ploughs her own furrow. You stood out from everyone else – no one else in our street strides around with their pockets clanking with tools. I couldn’t take...
Fairies and angels, the old nest, purple emperors

Fairies and angels, the old nest, purple emperors

1 JULY:  I was joking to a friend the other day that after a year watching kingfishers I’d be well equipped to start looking for fairies, or even angels. I felt there were similarities in that they might be all around us but most people have never seen one. I...
The weeping woman

The weeping woman

The Lienzo de Tlaxcala, an Indigenous 16th-century chronicle of the conquest of Mexico, frequently depicts a young woman with black hair. Dressed in a long skirt and a richly patterned blouse, she stands at the right-hand side of conquistador Hernán Cortés. She seems to be listening intently. Sometimes her finger...
Latest entries
Barmaids and landladies in fiction

Barmaids and landladies in fiction

My new psychological thriller What We Did in the Storm is set on the beautiful Isles of Scilly, pitching dark secrets and even darker deeds against stunning scenery. My lead character happens to be a barmaid working on the island, so I blithely suggested compiling a Top Ten list of fictional barmaids and landladies. Easy,...
The essential art of rewriting

The essential art of rewriting

I am always nervous about giving advice to aspiring novelists. My instinct is not to advise at all but to ask them, quite earnestly, if they are sure that this is what they want to do. If the answer is “I think so…” then I am tempted to steer them towards a different course. The...
O is for Oblomov

O is for Oblomov

Oblomov is the infamous anti-hero of the Russian writer Ivan Goncharov’s eponymous novel, published in 1859. He is best known for being an incorrigible slacker. We first encounter him wrapped in his threadbare Oriental dressing gown, refusing to get out of bed. His eyes glide wearily across the dusty objects in his derelict bedchamber. Around...
Locked-room mysteries

Locked-room mysteries

Back in the day, a ‘locked-room mystery’ meant exactly that – a murder behind not only closed, but locked doors, ostensibly impossible to commit, and thus a mechanical conundrum to unpick. Think Gaston Leroux’s Le mystère de la chambre jaune (1907), or even Arthur Conan Doyle’s personal favourite of all his Sherlock Holmes stories, ‘The Adventure...
At the museum

At the museum

The glass door slid open without a hitch. That was only natural, the woman realized. They were automatic doors. She glanced around the main entrance. The building was immaculate, and looked to have been designed with considerable attention to architectural aesthetics. It reminded her of a hospital. Whiteness and curves. She wondered whether people associated...
A fresh start

A fresh start

Dinah Glover arrived in Tokyo to take up residence in a block ambitiously named Maison du Parc. The building was surrounded by concrete and clad in more concrete, pink and stuccoed. It was long and squat, like the egg casing of a huge insect. Dinah had come on a work visa sponsored by Saitama Denki...
A summer night

A summer night

I WAS APPROACHING ST. VITUS CATHEDRAL from the Old Castle Stairs. Night had fallen, and the first stars were appearing in a clear sky. The chancel – a black silhouette of columns, flying buttresses and pinnacles – rose before me. The castle’s courtyard opened up to my left. The place was deserted and so quiet,...
The sparks of an obsession

The sparks of an obsession

I WAS EIGHT WHEN I REALISED that stories were not simply magic; that they didn’t arrive into the world already formed. Like puppies or babies or films. Two months before that birthday, the very first non-Congress government had swept to power in India, and with it, the end of the Emergency which had suspended civil...
Connecting with lost souls

Connecting with lost souls

My third novel Hazardous Spirits is set in Edinburgh in 1923. The story follows Evelyn Hazard, whose husband Robert wakes up one day and announces that he can speak to the spirits of the dead. Like many strange tales, the idea for this novel originated during an unusual blind date. I arrived late to the...
Arianespace

Arianespace

IT’S THE LAST ONE IN THE VILLAGE. RUMOUR HAS IT she’s outlived most and chased away the rest, that’s how they talk about her in these parts, where her first name is all that’s needed: Ariane. According to the police report, she is ninety-two years old, and what I hope, as I park my car...
from Please Do Not Touch This Exhibit

from Please Do Not Touch This Exhibit

When I started writing the poems in Please Do Not Touch This Exhibit, it had been four years since my first IVF appointment. I wrote the collection over the following two years, not knowing what the end would be; I’d aimed to finish the book by winter 2022, realising I might be pregnant by then,...
A semblance of order

A semblance of order

Ana Sampson’s latest poetry anthology Gods and Monsters, illustrated by Chris Riddell and with a foreword by Natalie Haynes, draws together classic and brand-new mythological poems from around the world. With retellings and reimaginings of Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Norse, Celtic, Aztec, Japanese and Inuit myths, it includes poems from Neil Gaiman, W.B. Yeats, Kae Tempest,...