American fiction

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The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage: Entirely deserving of its Stoner comparison

First published in 1967 and now reissued as a rediscovered classic, Thomas Savage’s novel comes lauded to the skies by the likes of Nicholas Shakespeare, who claims it’s better than Stoner, and Annie Proulx, who rates it sufficiently to have written a lengthy afterword. It also came with a health warning from its publicist who …

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This Living and Immortal Thing by Austin Duffy: Of mice and men

Hospital dramas abound on TV – Holby City, Gray’s Anatomy, ER, House – they’re not quite as ubiquitous as crime but it seems odd that they’re notable by their absence from fiction given their enduring popularity. Its setting was partly what attracted me to Austin Duffy’s novel; that and the fact that he’s a practising …

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My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout: Loneliness and how to survive it

Sometimes you want to tell everyone you know just how good an author is, press their books into as many hands as possible. I’ve felt that way about Elizabeth Strout’s writing for some time. My proof copy’s jacket proclaims her  ‘the greatest American writer you’ve never heard of’. That may be less true than it …

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Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce: A startlingly accomplished debut

I have a weakness for debuts. There’s always the hope that I’m about to be introduced to an author who will make their mark or take me somewhere I haven’t been before. It’s not unusual, either, for a writer’s first novel to be their best. Perhaps it’s all that time spent perfecting the writing, none …

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A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin: Saving some for later

Lucia Berlin’s short story collection seem to be everywhere at the moment – her beautiful face shines out from broadsheet reviews, her book sits at the front of every bookshop I’ve been in recently – yet her work isn’t new. She died in 2004 having written intermittently over a long period stretching back to the …

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The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida: A smart, funny tale of identity and adventure

I noticed The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty being talked about recently on Twitter by someone whose taste I admire. The title seemed familiar and I wish I could tell you that it was because it’s from one of Rumi’s poems – revealed half-way through the novel – but I have to admit it was already …

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