American fiction

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The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit: An accomplished, unconventional first novel

I was attracted to TaraShea Nesbit’s debut as much for its location as for its subject. My attention’s snagged by anything set against the stunning landscape of the American Southwest – recommendations gratefully received. It looked like it might be a handy antidote to the cerebral Orfeo but turned out to be very much more …

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Orfeo by Richard Powers: A journey through a very modern underworld

This is the third novel I’ve read by Richard Powers – The Echo Maker and Generosity were the first two. Both deal with complex issues in erudite, meticulously crafted prose: The Echo Maker looks at identity and neurology through the plight of Mark Schluter who suffers from Capgras syndrome – an inability to recognise the …

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The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt: An astonishing piece of work

Where to start with Siri Hustvedt’s new novel? Perhaps with a warning that it’s not an easy read. If it’s good old linear narrative you’re after best look elsewhere. The Blazing World is made up of a collection of documents relating to Harriet Burden – interviews; written statements from her friend, her lover and her …

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Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill: A long time coming but well worth the wait

Dept. of Speculation is Jenny Offill’s second novel. Her first, Last Things, was published way back in 1999, so long ago that I confess I have no memory of it except that I know that it must have been good as it’s still on my shelves having survived the series of charity shop culls over …

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The Lives of Stella Bain by Anita Shreve: Commercial or literary fiction, and does it matter?

There’ve been a few exchanges in my booky little Twitter corner recently about commercial and literary fiction, how one is thought to be more worthy of serious attention than the other. I haven’t been joining in partly because I’m not sure what I think about it. I do know that my own reading would be …

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The Virgins by Pamela Erens: When things aren’t quite what they seem

Pamela Erens’ second novel comes with not one but two glowing quotes from John Irving’s New York Times Book Review piece on the cover. I’m amazed that even the New York Times can persuade an author of Irving’s lofty stature to review a book but clearly they have an impressive literary editor. It’s set in …

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