Bloomsbury Books

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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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Show Them a Good Time by Nicole Flattery: An idiosyncratic collection

I’d heard good things about Nicole Flattery’s Show Them a Good Time well before publication, not in a shouty in-your-face, can’t-get-away-from-it kind of way but enough to snag my attention. Then I spotted Jon McGregor’s and Sally Rooney’s comments, both clearly smitten with Flattery’s writing. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it …

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Loyalties by Delphine de Vigan (transl. George Miller): Silence is not always golden

I read Delphine de Vigan’s Based on a True Story around this time last year and knew it would be one of my books of the year. I was delighted, then, when I spotted Loyalties on the publishing horizon. It tells the story of a young boy, caught up in the fallout from a bitter …

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Land of the Living by Georgina Harding: War and its aftermath reprised

A new Georgina Harding is always something to celebrate for me. I’m a great fan of her elegant yet lyrical writing and her quiet perceptiveness. Her last novel, The Gun Room, explored the legacy of war through a photographer and the unwelcome fame endured by one of his subjects. Land of the Living revisits the …

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