“Deep curiosity, deep listening, that’s what we have to give to each other. Reading is a form of deep listening, isn’t it? Staying with something, and being affected by it." Maggie Gee
Chloe Lane: To any lengths

Chloe Lane: To any lengths

Twenty-six-year-old Erin Moore has just been dumped by her gallery-owner boss after his wife discovered them in a compromising clinch in a store cupboard. She heads north from Auckland to spend the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend at the old family farmstead, where her mother Helen, terminally ill with motor neurone...
Ellen Hawley: Hard-earned love

Ellen Hawley: Hard-earned love

As any art director, editor or marketer would insist, a book should always be judged by its cover. What made Other People Manage so pickupable for me, was the immediate association with books by Anne Tyler, Carol Shields, Alice Munro, Suzanne Berne… you get the picture. Physically, and thematically, this...
Caryl Lewis: Storms and wonders and cultures on the edge

Caryl Lewis: Storms and wonders and cultures on the edge

Sister and brother Nefyn and Joseph, both in their mid-twenties, have lived alone in an isolated cottage on a clifftop on the coast of West Wales for a decade since their fisherman father was lost in a sea storm. Nefyn has a close affinity to the workings of the tides,...
Lara Williams: Lost at sea

Lara Williams: Lost at sea

Lara Williams’ second novel The Odyssey is a biting satire about a generation cast adrift by the gig economy. Its narrator Ingrid joined the crew of a luxury cruise ship to flee from a failed marriage, and is buffeted between ever-changing roles within a mind-numbing micro-economy which sees her faking...
Maggie Gee: Being human

Maggie Gee: Being human

Hot on the heels of the release of a 20th anniversary edition of her Orange Prize-shortlisted The White Family, Maggie Gee’s latest novel The Red Children is a sequel of sorts. But the sometimes stark realism of the earlier book, which was motivated by her grief, anger and shame over...
Christina Patterson: Five lives

Christina Patterson: Five lives

When her brother Tom died suddenly at the age of 57, it fell to Christina Patterson, as the last surviving member of the immediate family, to clear out his house. She diligently sorted through the papers Tom had gathered, including all manner of diaries, letters and photographs left by their...
Love's old sweet song

Love’s old sweet song

Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod’s roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented...
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from Border Zone

from Border Zone

John Agard has been broadening the limits of British poetry for the past 40 years. His ninth Bloodaxe collection, Border Zone, explores a far-reaching canvas of British/Caribbean transatlantic connections, sweeping across centuries and continents. It’s a diverse collection in which the thought-provokingly mischievous, bawdy, elegiac and satirical rub shoulders with the sequence The Plants Are Staying Put –...
Stage dive

Stage dive

“The troubadour’s spirit is to not chase anything. You simply go about your business and wait for the world to spin slowly on its axis until eventually it comes back around and finds you – still there, waiting patiently,” writes journalist Nick Duerden in his new book Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop...
Have you ever met the Greeks? They bear the most vital, wondrous gifts…

Have you ever met the Greeks? They bear the most vital, wondrous gifts…

Nearly two and a half thousand years ago, a very old man slept in a bare prison cell. He was not alone, however. An old friend was watching over him, reluctant to wake him up to the day that would mark the end of his life. It is a cameo of extraordinary tenderness and humanity,...
It started with a chair

It started with a chair

I’d been swimming in the Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath and was walking home along the lane, stomping colour back into my toes, when I bumped into a lifeguard friend who I hadn’t seen for a few weeks. When she isn’t at the pond, she’s usually making giant sculptures, weaving willow into stunning shapes. But...
Serving up justice

Serving up justice

An Enid Blyton Secret Seven story about a jewel thief with, in my eight-year-old eyes, the cleverest twist, marked the beginning of my lifelong fascination with crime. So it is probably no surprise that I became a Scenes of Crime Officer with the police, spent over twenty years as a police and crime journalist and...
The train

The train

The train to Paris, which had been expected at 2:37 p.m., pulled in five minutes behind schedule. Albert Le Prince didn’t see his younger brother, Louis, very often anymore. Louis had moved away from France over twenty years ago – and if that wasn’t enough, lately he had been consumed by his work on a...
Frontists, Stalinist and murderers

Frontists, Stalinist and murderers

Frentista, estalinista, asesina loca. Una palabra detrás de otra, un conjunto de palabras elaboradas en una ecuación implacable. Sílabas sonoras, perfectas, que iban organizando una cadena armónica que resonaba igual que una recurrente letanía. So begins the next chapter, and I know it’s going to cause me trouble. The first sentence is just four words:...
Eve

Eve

Colm Tóibín’s first collection of poetry Vinegar Hill, written over several decades, explores sexuality, religion and belonging through a modern lens, across themes including politics, queer love, reflections on literary and artistic greats, living through Covid, memory, mortality and a fading past. Here he gives voice to a rueful Eve as she looks back on...
Mixed up by design

Mixed up by design

The disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from an island in the Outer Hebrides in 1900, which became known as the Flannan Isles Vanishing, inspired Emma Stonex’ debut novel The Lamplighters. How and why did three men just disappear? The mystery has never been solved, and it’s been great fodder for films and books ever since....
Feeding the imagination

Feeding the imagination

Writing a novel about a vampire wasn’t a conscious decision. Before I knew what Woman, Eating would be about, I knew that I wanted to explore the experience of being of mixed Asian and British descent in England. One day, quite suddenly, Lydia – the protagonist of Woman, Eating – was just there in my...