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Fiction and poetry


House of Meetings by Martin Amis
There is the simple-minded accusation that the novel 'lacks authenticity' because the writer has not suffered these horrors first-hand. Had the imagination at work here convinced, though, this wouldn't have been an issue. The problem is that the imagination doesn't work, and nor does the prose style.
Andrew Haydon

Watch Me Disappear by Jill Dawson
Thinking back, Tina and all her friends had their 'dodgy encounter growing up'. The dirty old man. The flasher. It was accepted, a 'giggle with your mates'. Only now does she wonder how these 'encounters' might have featured in the papers the next day if things had turned out different.
Dave Clements

The Seymour Tapes by Tim Lott
The motif underlying the main narrative is that this new technology is a baleful influence on the lives of his characters and, while not perhaps causing dissonance, certainly amplifies it, furnishing alluring temptations which lead the husband, encouraged by his accomplice, to a sticky end.
David Petch

Death of a Superhero by Anthony McCarten
What's really enjoyable about Death of a Superhero is that it is genuinely surprising. In a brave move, the author takes an admittedly hackneyed theme and gives it several unexpected twists.
James Pursaill

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Commensurate with its award-winning profile, and in fulfilment of Smith's eloquent spokesperson's position on her trade, On Beauty is also a novel infused with a vision of what the novel is for. This is both its greatest strength, and its weakness.
Simon Cooke

Playing in the Light by Zoë Wicomb
‘Playing in the light’ is a term used here to describe the actions of coloured people who were pale enough to be ‘generally accepted as a white person’ and so dared to traverse the rigid racial borders with hard-won paperwork to find a place in the privileged world of white South Africa.
Anna Goodall

The Scent of Your Breath by Melissa P.
Melissa P. caused an international stir with her graphic descriptions of the sexual degradations of an eighteen-year-old Catholic schoolgirl. But underneath the pretence of being controversial and shocking, all the cunts and cocaine, there beats a heart just as delicate and conservative as Mary Whitehouse’s.
David Bowden

Giving Up Architecture by Eliza Mood
This novel offers an interesting take on World War II - an exploration of its impact on the lives of two young people in post-war Britain. But where do stories of admirable resilience against the odds turn into a mawkish preoccupation with a destructive period of our history?
Wendy Earle

Poetry: Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales by Inua Ellam; ex chaos by James Wilkes
2 gr8 yung r1trz U shd chek out... These are remarkable debuts by writers in their early and mid-twenties, displaying not only economy of expression but also great lyrical flair and emotional integrity.
Tom Chivers

Everyman by Philip Roth
The fear of Death, Roth shows us, might be the fear of the life we could have, maybe should have led. His ‘unchangeable’ story of man stalked by thoughts of his own demise may be a lesson in ‘how to die’. It is also - perhaps because of this - a lesson in how to live.
Simon Cooke

Seeing by José Saramago
Saramago's premise is as spare, elegant and self-referential as his prose. In an unnamed capital city, over seventy percent of voters cast blank ballots. But Saramago fails to convey the source of the sense of urgency that fills government officials as the scale of the blank ballots becomes apparent.  
Beth James

Tourism by Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal
It's not clear what difficult issue Dhaliwal is confronting. Is it that Britain's Asian youth are torn between the pious repression of their upbringing and the fleshly delights of the West? Is it that gay men can't help but throw themselves at Johal's feet any time he flutters his crotch at them?

David Bowden

Demo by Alison Miller
The reader is reminded on numerous occasions of the tensions between Standard English and other dialects of the British Isles. It is almost as though the reader is being lectured on both contemporary political issues and ways in which to express them through a novel.

Daniel Smith

Poetry: District and Circle by Seamus Heaney
The principle narrative vehicle in much of District and Circle is myth. But whilst in his previous collection, Electric Light, Heaney wears his learning rather awkwardly, here he's found a means of reconciling the classical allusions and nods to his peers with the muscular sound-language that's become his trademark.

Tom Chivers

The Worms Can Carry Me to Heaven by Alan Warner
Throughout the novel it feels as if Warner's intentions have got lost in translation. Significantly, Lolo's most powerful sexual experiences have taken place where there is no meaningful verbal communication. Sadly the lack of coherence in the novel does not translate any unspoken intensity to the reader.

Anna Goodall

The Picture She Took by Fiona Shaw
Nothing Simple by Lia Mills
While set in very different times and places both novels are of the 21st century, but Mills' novel somehow seems more true to the experiences of the people she is writing about.

Wendy Earle

Disobedience by Naomi Alderman
The strength of the book is where Alderman displays her insight into Jewish religion and customs, which adds depth and meaning to the situations of the characters. The novel has more originality and freshness when Alderman allows her own presence to be diminished.

Nathalie Rothschild

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The other problem lies in the perfection of the writing and the book's construction. Its over-cleverness stops one from being swept along. I felt as if I was playing pelminism - even on the second reading, I was flicking backwards and forwards picking up clues.

Penny Matheson

This Human Season by Louise Dean
The novel accurately depicts the lives of people involved with the Troubles during the dirty protests. The humour in adversity is well-judged, but the disappointment is that a rare novel set in this period fails to reflect the proactive role of women involved in the struggle.

Janet Slater

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
'The Book Of Human Folly', the Borges-lite title of Auster's book-within-a-book is, in fact, a sly definition of the overlapping stories that The Brooklyn Follies unveils. Auster presents a cast of variously flawed and sullied characters, who develop throughout the narrative and are finally redeemed at the novel's close.

Dean Nicholas

The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq
His critique is relentlessly literal and forcefully unsubtle. Houellebecq's outrageous naughtiness, nihilistic misery and crude sexiness appeal to the inner teenager.

Michael Savage


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