Picador Books

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart: ‘I’d do anything for you’

I’m not sure how much of Douglas Stuart’s debut is autobiographical but the first paragraph of his acknowledgements page suggests more than a smidgeon. Given that’s the page I often visit before reading a novel, Shuggie Bain was even more poignant for me than it would otherwise have been. Set in ’80s Glasgow, Stuart’s book …

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Writers & Lovers by Lilly King: A novel to slip into and forget the world

I remember enjoying Lily King’s Father of the Rain very much but the bestselling Euphoria, based on a brief episode in the life of Margaret Mead, didn’t appeal. King’s name stayed with me as one to look out for and when I saw Writers & Lovers described as ‘gorgeous’ by the splendid Elizabeth Strout I …

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The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood: Love, jealousy and betrayal in the Bauhaus

Naomi Wood’s The Hiding Game has been on my radar since I discovered it was about the Bauhaus, the German art school whose designs I’ve long admired. It’s one of a multitude of books published to celebrate the movement’s centenary this year. I still have my eye on Theresia Enzensberger’s Blueprint which looks promising but …

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The Braid by Letitia Colombani (transl. Louise Rogers Lalaurie): Take three women

Letitia Colombani’s The Braid is one of those elegantly structured novellas that manages to pack a great deal into fewer than two hundred pages. Three women’s stories intersect in a way that none of them can imagine when the book begins. They will remain unknown to each other yet each will have played a crucial …

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Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin: An unexpected treat

I owe my short story conversion largely to Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women. There’d been others along the way but it was Berlin’s collection that sealed the deal. Given that she died in 2004, I’d assumed that was it and so was delighted when Evening in Paradise turned up. Comprising twenty-two stories, this …

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Acts of Infidelity by Lena Andersson (transl. Saskia Vogel): Balancing the emotional books

I reviewed Lena Andersson’s sharply observed, witty novella Wilful Disregard here a couple of years ago. It’s a study in obsession that has you squirming in your seat. Acts of Infidelity sees its main protagonist, Ester Nillson, once again in the grips of monomania, this time for Olof who is performing in her play, Threesome, about …

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Things We Nearly Knew by Jim Powell: The enigma of other people

There’s nothing like getting your reading year off to a good start. Jim Powell’s Things We Nearly Knew continues 2018’s satisfying trend for me with its slice of American smalltown life seen through the eyes of an unnamed bartender. I’d enjoyed Powell’s second novel, Trading Futures, a couple of years back, admiring its narrator’s waspishly …

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Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grøndahl (translated by the author): A meditation on grief, love and friendship

I remember reading Jens Christian Grøndahl’s Lucca when it was published in the UK in 2003, too long ago to recall the detail of its story but an impression of quietly elegant prose stuck which is what attracted me to Often I Am Happy. Its premise is also an intriguing one: recently widowed, Ellinor stands …

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