Bloomsbury Books

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Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (transl. by the author): ’Solitude: it’s become my trade’

Four years ago, I was sent a book by Jhumpa Lahiri which had intrigued me when I saw it listed as a translated work. In Other Words is her account of a passion for the Italian language so intense she uprooted her family from the US so that she could immerse herself in it. The …

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There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura (transl. Polly Barton): Giving it your all

I’ve often wondered why more fiction isn’t about work given how much of our lives most of us spend doing it which is what drew me to Kikuko Tsumura’s There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job, her first novel to be published here in the UK. Having experienced harassment in her first job, Tsumura …

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The Seduction by Joanna Briscoe: Manipulation, obsession and dark secrets

Many years ago, I was commissioned to write a reading guide for Joanna Briscoe’s Sleep with Me. Its perceptive exploration of desire and manipulation in a three-cornered relationship read like a modern take on Simone de Beauvoir’s She Came to Stay but with the page-turning pace of a thriller. I loved it. Hopes were high …

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How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa: ‘They’d had to begin all over again, as if the life they led before didn’t count’

It was that title that attracted me to this collection of stories about immigrants and refugees, cleverly exemplifying the many idiosyncratic challenges English throws at those for whom it’s a second language. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Laotian writer Souvankham Thammavongsa is a poet whose own facility for language is demonstrated throughout this …

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A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson: Trouble in paradise

I’d enjoyed all three books by Polly Samson I’d read before A Theatre for Dreamers arrived, including her cleverly linked collection of short stories, Perfect Lives. I reviewed her last novel, The Kindness, here back in 2015 which feels like an age ago now. She writes the kind of absorbing, character-driven fiction that can offer …

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This is Happiness by Niall Williams: On the cusp of change

Regular readers may recall that I’ve a penchant for Irish writing, a liking for the lyrical yet pared back style of William Trevor, Colm Tóibin and John McGahern which characterises so much of the fiction I’ve read from that part of the world. Not Niall Williams’ work, though, if This is Happiness is anything to …

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The Other Americans by Laila Lalami: Modern America in the Mojave

Given my weakness for small town American novels and an immigration theme I had a shrewd idea I’d enjoy Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans just from its title. It explores the fallout from a hit and run accident which kills Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant who had been running his restaurant in the Californian desert …

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