February 11, 2017

The buzz:

Picked as best new book choices for 2017 in The Daily Mail, Stylist, Mail on Sunday, Buzzfeed, ELLE, Book Riot.

There are at least two generations too many in this multi-generational tale; it would benefit from losing the first chapter perhaps, and definitely the last 20% or so. But while that may sound a little damning, without that extra weight this would be a near perfect book. It’s elegant and skilful, thoughtful and refined, and for the insight into the Korean experience in Japan, and a depressing and hopeless examination of Motherhood, this epic is worth reading.

It starts in Korea in 1910 with an ageing fisherman and his wife who become boarding house keepers, but the main plot follows their granddaughter Sunja. Sunja falls pregnant out of wedlock and her honour is saved by a visiting church pastor who asks her to come to Japan with him as his wife. We then follow Sunja’s l...

January 18, 2017

The buzz:

One of the most talked about books in the US after it's publication last year.

National Book Foundation's '5 under 35'

Recipient of National Book Critic's Circle John Leonard Prize, for outstanding first books in any genre.

There is no question this book is stunning: in its scope, its ambition, in what it can teach us and in the skill on display. In Homegoing, a portrait of a West African family in 1754 feels as true to life as dialogue between kids at a California pool party today. But if to read it is to be in a constant state of awe, it is also to experience a sense of loss. Not just from of the painful lessons of history, but also, as a reader, in the necessary incompleteness of the stories it contains.

Towards the end of the novel a modern day student, Marcus, considers the monumental task of writing an academic paper on an aspect of black history. His task is also Yaa Gya...

January 12, 2017

The buzz:

Laura Kaye is one of the Daily Telegraph’s four new voices in literature for 2017

English Animals is one of Stylist Magazine’s ‘Big January Reads.’

It is also one of Reader’s Digest books for January.


Anthropomorphic taxidermy may not be something you’ve thought much about, but put it into a Google image search and it becomes strangely compelling: rats playing dominos, mice on a ferris wheel, frogs in a Victorian classroom and Walter Potter’s Kitten’s Wedding. And it’s on a picture of this strange wedding that the fortunes of English Animals’ protagonist, Mirka, pivot.

Mirka is a lost soul - a Slovak immigrant who left her own country due to her sexuality and a scandal. She finds London impossible, and so joins an agency and applies for a poorly defined job as a general assistant in a grand country house. There she meets Sophie and Rich...

November 5, 2016

There are the odd few things about The Wangs vs. the World that might feel a little familiar to lovers of the great American novel: three flawed, grown-up children spread out across the USA, an unravelling and slightly hysterical parent determined to gather them under one roof again, and all set against the backdrop of a financial crisis. It’s also an ambitious book with initially unlikeable primary characters, packed with interesting psychological insights and told from multiple perspectives, jigsawing together to build a picture of a modern family.

But this is not the modern classic by Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections, it is the much-hyped debut novel from Jade Chang. And instead of a traditional Midwest family suffering through a modern America they no longer feel at home in, the Wangs are are an immigrant family who have made their home in LA.

Charles Wang, himself the child of Chines...

October 5, 2016

Neat, lean, smart. When I try to describe this book I keep coming back to how impressively sparse it is. Targeted, intense and precise, it has all the tension of a mystery while posing as many questions as any literary great.

Lib is a nurse, or more specifically a ‘Nightingale’ trained by none other than Florence during the Crimean War. Now she’s been hired to watch over a mysterious 11 year-old girl. Anna O’Donnell has apparently not eaten a bite of food in 4 months, and is being hailed as a miracle by her Catholic community. Lib is to join forces with a nun to watch over the girl 24 hours a day, to either verify her story, or unmask a fraud. The nurse herself has no doubt at all it will be the latter.

For me The Wonder started like an inversion of the classic Henry James ghost story Turn of the Screw - but instead of a governess arriving at the children’s home all too ready to believe in...

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...

September 4, 2016

Halfway through reading this book, I was considering telling a real life lie. I caught myself worrying my ‘smoke’ would betray me. For that’s how tangible the m

August 5, 2016

Lead down dark paths of infatuation, need and circumstance to a brutal decision - would we make the right choice? What might we be capable of? These questions haunt both the main character and the book.

The Girls is a love story, a murder mystery and a coming-of-age tale, all propelled by a delicious moral ambiguity and a hopeful, lust-filled confusion.

Set in North California in 1969, it’s the tale of one particular 14 yr-old’s own personal Summer of Love - complete with long hair, flowing dresses and plenty of drugs. But Evie Boyd admits no opinion of politics, and despite being a stone’s throw from San Francisco she didn’t hang out in the Haight. Her Summer of Love was narrow, naive and personal: one girl - Susan, one place - the ranch. The rest just came with it.

Susan leads ‘The Girls’ of the title, a small tribe devoted to Russell - a character inspired by Charles Manson. The girls ar...

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