August 2, 2019

Buzz: Follow up to the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning The Underground Railroad.

Light vs Dark, Good vs Evil, Hope vs Despair. It’s rare to meet such absolutes in modern fiction, but The Nickel Boys deals in extremes. It opens with two contrasting images. A little boy gets the “best gift of his life on Christmas day 1962.” A record that never leaves the turntable, gaining scratches, pops and crackles as marks of devotion: Martin Luther King at Zion Hill. An innocent young Elwood Curtis listens with love, and he internalises the optimism and idealism, the grit and stoicism: "Throw us in jail and we will still love you… But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double vict...

January 10, 2019

The stark, brooding beauty of Skye looms over The Story Keeper, setting the tone for an atmospheric and dark tale, where the line between reality and superstition is tantalisingly blurred.

In 1857 Audrey Hart arrives on the island; ostensibly to help collect the folk and fairy tales of the highland communities, but also to escape a story of her own and learn more about her mother, who died long ago on the island. But soon after she arrives, she discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach.

The pages keep on turning, as all the wonderful, historical detail is wrapped up in a clever and satisfying whodunnit. But my favourite aspect of the book was discovering, alongside Audrey, the tales and superstitions that form the background of so much of our culture. Mazzola references the real-life contemporaries to the fictional Audrey; the Brothers Grimm. The twisted tales uncovered in ...

April 3, 2018

Buzz: Second novel from the author of bestseller, and Irish Novel Prize winner, My Name Is Leon.

That feeling you sometimes get looking out to sea: a mix of calm and melancholy. Wistful, haunting; at peace. The Trick To Time captures all of those. It’s suffused with the feel of the sea. Shifting sands through an hourglass, emotional tides that rise and fall like a sigh. Only, in de Waal’s hands, it is also impossibly subtle.

The protagonist, Mona, grows up on the Irish coast and, as a child, escapes to the beach from the sadness, pressure and confusion of a dying mother: “...over the yielding dunes and down to the fringe of the Kilmore shore. Sand as soft as powder all around the curve of the bay.” When her father finds her there, he tells her: “‘one day, you will want these hours back, my girl. You will wonder how you lost them and you will want them back. There’s a trick to time.’”


March 1, 2018

Buzz: Praised by Kit de Waal, Tor Udall and Emma Flint. 


This is a heartbreaking ache of a book: it explores some harrowing themes, opens doors to experiences we should all be aware of, and is gripping and terrifyingly tense. But there’s a joy glowing at the heart of Home that elevates it above your average tear-jerker or page-turner. A joy that belongs to four (and-a-half) year-old Jesika.

The story is told through little Jesika’s eyes. Words and facts are presented as she perceives them, rather than how they are. So the ‘mould’ on the wall becomes ‘moles,’ a ‘chest infection’ a ‘chesty fecshun,’ and one of the opening lines reads: “My fayvrit green pen is on the windysill, where I hided it from Toby, and I take it and squeeze ahind the telly to get to the peeling-paper.” 

It takes a little while to adjust to this idiosyncratic narration. At fir...

October 30, 2017

Buzz: Published on Galley Beggar Press, which has a stunning record of picking prize winners, including Eimear McBride's A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing.

We that are young is ambitious. So very ambitious, and so very good.

Most strikingly it’s a thorough and impressive academic exercise, but it’s also a great story, engrossingly told, a refreshing study of female sexuality and the male perception of it, and a Trainspotting-esque seminal moment in literature for young, wealthy Indians. And that’s not even mentioning the writing - which, by the way, is shockingly good.

This is a novel to spend a good amount of time with. It’s long already, before you factor in each sentence deserving to be poured over again and again. Every phrase works overtime, doing at least three jobs at once. The opening image is not only arresting - the sight of London from a plane - it also offers a decisive opening...

January 25, 2017

The buzz:

A New York Times 2016 Notable Book

Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Book of the Year

A Slate Top Ten Book

New York Time Bestseller

Nathan Hill compared to John Irving, John Irving compares him to Dickens.


No book could be simultaneously more timely and more timeless than this future classic. The Nix is fun, joyous, exciting and tender; full of both the outrage, anger and giddy momentum of political change and subtle layers of sympathy for the characters at the heart of it.

It is inescapably apt that The Nix reaches UK shores the very same week we watch aghast as President Trump celebrates his inauguration. The novel opens with the scene of a Trump-esque Presidential candidate getting hit with a handful of gravel thrown by an angry middle-aged women. How many people worldwide would like to throw some gravel right now?

Protest is at the centre of The Nix. After the gravel incident, the wo...

September 30, 2016

Winner Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017.  National Book Award Winner 2016. Man Booker Prize 2017 longlisted. 'Terrific' - Barack Obama.

This is not a historical novel. Not just because the facts of slavery in pre-Civil War America are strained through the wonderful, allegorical, imagination of an expert story-teller (the railroad of the title is not the metaphor of history books, but real steam trains in real tunnels). But because it’s a book about now: 2016. Not explicitly - but elliptically, powerfully, wonderfully.

At one point a flash-forward sees an ex-slave shake her head at a description of the “Great War in Europe” - as “The Great War had always been between the white and the black. It always would be.”

The character was speaking at a time before a black President was even conceivable, and with slavery still in living memory, but the author is saying it right now. Not just in this li...

May 5, 2016

I am shell-shocked by this book. It swept me up mercilessly and dropped me breathless and a little shaky: both with delayed relief and amazement that I survived my own teenage years, and with a gnawing fear for when my own two girls hit that age. It’s fresh and shocking - a whirlwind of rage, insecurity, hormones and gritty sexuality.

At it’s simplest it’s a high school tale; two girls whose intense friendship is kicked off by mutual hatred of the school’s queen bee. All of teenage life is there: embarrassing parents and dangerously dysfunctional families, fashion makeovers and the search for identity, blossoming sexuality and sexual assault. And the music. The story is soundtracked by grunge; Kurt Cobain is almost as much of a character as the protagonists themselves.

Dex and Lacey are the real main characters though, and the story is mainly narrated through their eyes. Tracking through e...

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