Sceptre

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Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: Identity and not belonging

I read Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s debut immediately after Sara Taylor’s The Lauras. Both deal with themes of identity and the parent/child relationship but whereas Taylor’s novel had me foxed as to how to refer to her determinedly androgynous narrator, things are very much more straightforward with Buchanan’s protagonists. After his Canadian father dies en route …

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The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tomm Rachman: Storytelling that pulls you in

I loved The Imperfectionists. Funny, poignant and thoroughly entertaining it was stuffed full of engaging characters caught up in their own lives seemingly oblivious to the fact that the newspaper for which they worked was being pulled inexorably down the tubes by the brave new world of the internet. Expectations were high, then, for Tom …

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Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda: More The Killing than Karin Slaughter

Visitation Street opens in a steamy Brooklyn heat wave. Two fifteen year-old-girls decide to escape their stultifying boredom, floating off into the bay’s greasy waters on a bright pink inflatable raft watched by two young men. Only one girl returns, washed up under the pier and in bad shape. The rest of the novel explores …

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The second novel conundrum

I’ve been circling warily around Andrew Miller’s Costa Prize winning Pure for some time now. Miller’s first novel, Ingenious Pain, is one of my favourite books. Set in the 18th century, its main protagonist, James Dyer, is conceived on an icy night as a result of an adulterous coupling with a stranger. James cannot feel …

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