PositiveThe Observer (UK)Incisive ... Written in wry, sometimes repetitive prose ... It is some measure of Connolly’s skill that we retain sympathy for her flawed, messy heroine.
RaveThe Observer (UK)Dark...impressive ... Walsh brilliantly conveys the cruelty, self-absorption and vulnerability of teenagers, their shifting allegiances and betrayals, as well as their love for one another ... Walsh’s characterisation is superb, and he has a vivid turn of phrase ... Confidently plotted.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)Setton is good at conveying the anxiety of millennials confronted with endless possibilities. She writes perceptively about the destabilising effects of vulnerability and loneliness in an unfamiliar environment. There’s also plenty of humour in Daphne’s overthinking and her cynical approach to dating ... Things take a darker turn when she becomes convinced she is being stalked by a rejected boyfriend. Daphne’s not a particularly sympathetic character, but we begin to care about her when we realise just how off-kilter her life has become. Setton builds her growing paranoia and sense of dread to terrific effect in this unsettling, compelling read.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)Although Joseph has created an affable raconteur, he occasionally informs rather than involves the reader ... Joseph is at his best when on familiar ground and the story ignites with his description of Sancho’s short-lived attempts to tread the boards as Othello. But while uneven, this fictional account of a real man’s life resonates with compassion and offers a welcome insight into the presence of Black people in Georgian England.
Nathacha Appanah, trans. Geoffrey Strachan
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Appanah’s fragmented narrative mirrors the lives of her characters. Through lyrical prose, flawlessly translated by Geoffrey Strachan, she unpeels the layers of the family’s turmoil.
RaveThe Observer (UK)Set in Osun state in the early 00s, Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s compelling second novel explores the country’s inequalities and contradictions ... This immensely readable novel is a blistering indictment of the abuse of power (political and domestic) and the ubiquitous violence that can destroy lives overnight.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)Rachel is well drawn, someone we can root for, but her all-consuming quest means Shearer’s other characters are less nuanced ... The harsh world of slavery is the backdrop, but the heart of the novel lies in its celebration of motherhood and female resilience. This is a tender exploration of one woman’s courage in the face of unbelievable cruelty. The possibility that Rachel will lose everything she has fought so hard for immerses us in her plight.
RaveThe Observer (UK)Masterly ... This is a literary thriller of the highest order. The incarnation of O’Flaherty, the Irish Oskar Schindler, is sublime. What often elevates a writer is compassion, and O’Connor has it in spades – paying tribute to the courage of those who resist tyranny. Beautifully crafted, his razor-sharp dialogue is to be savoured, and he employs dark humour to great effect. The plot twists keep on coming until the novel’s coda, where a final joyful conceit is revealed.
RaveFinancial Times (UK)There’s something majestic about The World and All That It Holds, Aleksandar Hemon’s latest novel ... Not surprisingly, given its ambition, the novel took Hemon 12 years to complete ... The passages depicting bloodshed are so relentless on occasion I had to pause reading. But the brutality of conflict and displacement is beautifully contrasted with the tenderness of the men’s love story ... In his acknowledgments, Hemon mentions Damir Imamović’s album, a contemporary take on Bosnian traditional music inspired by The World and All That It Holds. He calls it \'an outrageous masterpiece\', and I couldn’t think of a more fitting description for Hemon’s own work.
MixedFinancial Times (UK)Yu, who is Chinese-born, offers vivid descriptions of contemporary Beijing. She sensitively conveys Yan’s melancholy and disconnectedness. She writes in clear, unadorned prose and deftly threads the magic-realist elements through the main narrative. However, the competing plot strands involving Bowen and Bai Yu prove distracting and we can never fully empathise with Yan’s central predicaments — her desire for independence, to exist on her own terms, to play the piano without pressure. This dilutes our enjoyment of a haunting journey towards self-fulfilment.
Samanta Schweblin, trans. by Megan McDowell
PositiveThe Observer (UK)... meticulously translated ... Schweblin skilfully directs our unease until it mirrors that of her protagonist’s ... Part of the pleasure of Schweblin’s fictions is how she subverts expectations ... Schweblin is good at depicting the destabilising effects of grief and absence. Occasionally a story misses the mark or is too ethereal to fully satisfy, but her fractured worlds make compelling reading.
Michelle de Kretser
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)The novel’s reversible format, with different covers on each side, invites us to choose which narrative to read first and, in so doing, de Kretser asks what is most important: the past or the future? ...
The casual racism and treatment of migrants Lili witnesses in France serves as a precursor to de Kretser’s terrifying vision of a surveillance state in Australia that detains asylum seekers \'on an offshore island forever\'. In this part of the novel, de Kretser allows her scary monsters free rein, while her evocative descriptions are replaced with cold exposition ... De Kretser clearly relishes demonstrating how close we are to this dystopian future where \'government hatespokespersons\' dominate the media and a \'climate no-policy\' has already wreaked havoc. What lingers in the mind, however, are the connections she makes between past prejudices and a future society devoid of values or compassion.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)Kohda’s debut is memorable for the refreshing perspective of her conflicted heroine: a vampire of mixed ethnicity and recent art graduate ... Kohda is excellent at conveying Lydia’s alienation and sense of powerlessnes ... While Lydia is well drawn, several of Kohda’s characters feel sketchy. The fellow artists who rent studios are names rather than personalities. Certain plot strands are left hanging ... However, there is much to admire in this original take on millennial angst. Kohda’s depiction of a young woman’s appetites...and Lydia’s loneliness are perceptive. Kohda makes some sharp observations about the world of modern art, its elitism and the precarious nature of jobs in the creative sector.
Elena Ferrante, tr. Ann Goldstein
RaveThe Financial Times (UK)Despite her determination to keep her identity secret, Ferrante drops clues in these essays, implying an author whose cultured background has shaped her writing. If there’s any lingering doubt about Ferrante’s gender, this homage to female talent, impeccably translated by Ann Goldstein, suggests otherwise.
MixedFinancial Times (UK)The Sisters Mao almost feels like two books. One set of Gavin McCrea’s characters is shaped by personal concerns, the other, predominantly, by societal forces ... It is impeccably researched and he interweaves the personal and the political to great effect. But the novel is also uneven — by turns frustrating and inspiring — and could have been considerably shorter. Although some may consider his flawed, egotistical narrators nuanced, I found them irritating.
Paulo Scott, tr. Daniel Hahn
RaveThe Observer (UK)...seamlessly translated ... This is an artfully plotted tale about race, privilege and guilt. Scott circles around the inflammatory event that occurred decades before – a racist comment that provoked a violent fight among teenagers – and demonstrates how quickly prejudice spreads, often with lifelong repercussions ... Scott’s characterisation is superb. Federico’s complexities are revealed through his interactions with others, their different views of him, his public image and inner angst ... The stream-of-consciousness narrative, long sentences, paragraphs that run over pages and lack of speech tags are challenging, but careful reading proves richly rewarding. Phenotypes educates and entertains in equal measure.
RaveThe Observer (UK)A multilayered debut about identity, race, the power of elites and the marginalisation of the poor ... [A] damning indictment of a world where the value of linen is prized more highly than compassion ... The author cloaks her polemic in page-turning prose. This deeply satisfying and nuanced novel shines a light on political corruption and the limits of capitalism. It’s also a study of the psychological fallout of poor parenting and a tender exploration of love in its many forms.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Bernhard Schlink’s latest novel about an ill-fated couple is quieter, more reflective than his international bestseller The Reader ... The letters confirm Olga’s stoicism, her love of simple pleasures and contain two secrets that, frustratingly, Schlink has already given away. Olga is a poignant portrait of a woman out of step with her time, but too predictable to truly satisfy.
Samira Sedira, Tr. Lara Vergnaud
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Samira Sedira believes that a writer’s role is not to judge or take sides, but to \'attempt to get closer to the shadows\' ... her taut novel, deftly translated by Lara Vergnaud, does precisely that ... Although the Guillots swiftly befriend the Langlois family, it’s a troubled relationship from the outset. When Anna agrees to work as their cleaner, Sedira brilliantly conveys the damage inflicted by her subservient role ... Sedira lays bare the perils of a callous society dominated by money and status, and the insidious racism that drives an ordinary man to murder. There are no monsters, she claims, \'only humans.\'
Pajtim Statovci, tr. David Hackston
PositiveThe Observer (UK)... a stark, powerful portrayal of the dehumanising effects of trauma, shame and fear.
Omar El Akkad
RaveThe Financial Times (UK)... a powerful indictment of the west’s treatment of vulnerable, often traumatised, refugees ... As well as exploring the migrants’ reasons for risking life and limb, El Akkad’s clear-eyed account conveys the increasing desensitisation of ordinary people on the island, from the rescue team who move among the corpses and \'carefully pocket anything that sparkles\', to the exasperated tourists whose tranquility has been disrupted and the coast guard who dismissively tosses aside a washed-up life jacket ... However, small acts of kindness restore our faith in humanity ... this compassionate novel could not be more timely.
RaveThe Observer (UK)... another profound meditation on suffering ... Sri Lanka, a divided island, is a presence throughout. In dense, hypnotic prose, Arudpragasam explores the desire for independence that enflamed the decades-long civil war, the violence that ensued and the emotional scars that refuse to heal.
Claudia Hernández, trans. by Julia Sanches
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... immersive novel, superbly translated ... Using stream of consciousness and indirect speech, she creates a vivid sense of multiple voices overlapping and interrupting each other. Slash and Burn is undoubtedly a challenging read, as we have to unpack a layered narrative, but it is a brilliant evocation of civil war and its bitter legacy—the invisible scars, distrust, exploitation and the personal and political vendettas that persist long after the peace accord is signed.
Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, tr. Iona MacIntyre and Fiona Macintosh
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)The Adventures of China Iron certainly passes the Bechdel test. It focuses on two plucky women who cross the pampas in search of a new way of life ... Cámara gives the classic narrative of macho men corralling the natives and cultivating the vast grasslands a deliberately queer slant ... Brilliantly translated by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre, this is a heartfelt, dreamlike paean to Argentina’s past and what might have been had the pampas been left alone.
Jenny Erpenbeck, Trans. by Kurt Beals
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Erpenbeck’s refreshing frankness and incisive thinking permeate this collection ... The essays explore the subjects – walls and borders, truth and silence, identity and memory and the limitations of language – present in her fiction while her autobiographical accounts give valuable context ... Erpenbeck’s anger is palpable and this collection reveals both her creative process and the injustices that drive her to write.
RaveThe Observer (UK)... [a] courageous and timely novel, deftly interweaving fact and fiction, memoir and history ... It’s hard to convey the breadth and brilliance of this work. Exploiting his skills as playwright and essayist as well as novelist, Akhtar depicts an immigrant family’s experience of the American dream through a son’s relationship with his father, and dissects the erosion of truth, decency and hope in a nation shaped by debt and money.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)A prolific writer, Neuman delights in language and linguistic ambiguity. In Fracture, he explores the fragmented nature of memory, emotional scars, a city’s wounds after a disaster and the cracks in a relationship caused by cultural difference. He draws profound parallels between collective traumas ... poignant lyricism ... Perceptively translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia, Fracture is a novel for our times and astonishingly relevant. Radiation, like coronavirus, is an invisible killer. After Fukushima, the official communications about the catastrophe prove unreliable.
PositiveThe Financial Times (UK)Adiga suggests another level of indignity endured by the undocumented migrants who, like Danny, are forced to exist on the margins ... Amnesty takes place over the course of a few hours, from 8:46 in the morning through to the evening, but Adiga’s structured timing does not always work ... However, it is a tremendously humane read. Adiga underlines that it is the legitimate fear of being detained for an extended length of time that forces migrants underground ... Adiga is unwavering in the spotlight he trains on Australia’s hypocrisy — a country that promises a \'fair go\' for all but treats its asylum seekers with hostility and contempt.
PositiveThe Independent (UK)It is the corruption, cultural and political oppression, orchestrated by the Kremlin, that increasingly occupies Pomerantsev ... Pomerantsev is particularly entertaining when observing the changing fads of the television industry, but for the most part he focuses on the sad, sometimes surreal, form corruption takes today. Most political intrigues lead back to the Kremlin and, as Pomerantsev amply demonstrates, Putin’s authoritarianism has many guises.
Fleur Jaeggy Trans. by Tim Parks
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... superbly translated by Tim Parks ... Jaeggy explores the thin line between order and madness and illustrates with perfect precision how swiftly loneliness can turn into despair.
Norberto Fuentes, Trans. by Anna Kushner
PositiveThe Independent...[an] impressive English translation ... Castro is renowned for having delivered some of the longest speeches in world history, so it is no mean feat that Fuentes impersonates his bombastic tone without boring us to tears. He illuminates the Cuban leader\'s pettier concerns through vivid descriptions of his political point-scoring, grandiose obsessions and macho posturing ... There are some wonderfully playful moments in The Autobiography, such as when Castro is caught, quite literally, contemplating his cojones (testicles) or when he declares: \'Sometimes it\'s hard for me to act like a professional soldier instead of the intellectual that I am\' ... Fuentes has produced a fascinating portrait of one of the most controversial figures from the past century as well as a meticulously researched account of the Cuban revolution and its legacy.
Scholastique Mukasonga, Trans. by Jordan Stump
RaveThe Observer (UK)... [a] tender paean to motherhood and community ... This bloodshed haunts and propels the narrative ... an extraordinary tribute to \'Mother Courage\', as well as a timely reminder of war’s devastation.
RaveThe GuardianA brilliant critique of an authoritarian regime on the verge of collapse ... multi-layered, lyrical prose ... [Altan\'s] outrageous detention makes the reading of his vibrant, engrossing novel, lucidly translated by Brendan Freely and Yelda Türedi, all the more urgent as an act of solidarity. Altan is writing the fourth volume from his prison cell.
Yuri Herrera, trans. by Lisa Dillman
RaveHuffington Post...[a] superb novella ... In extraordinary prose he creates stark landscapes and surreal scenarios which remain with you long after the final pages ... There is an epic quality to Herrera\'s tale ... In his brilliant, multi-layered narratives he captures some of the conflicting forces shaping (and distorting) Mexico today and the impact of violence and xenophobia on ordinary people\'s lives.
PositiveThe Financial TimesJones’ terse lyricism, together with his repetition of resonant images and motifs, encourage the reader to fill in the gaps ... Jones strips the story down to its elemental core and much of it reads like a prose poem. His vivid descriptions allow us to feel the man’s physical discomfort and flagging spirit ... Cove is a slighter work than Jones’ previous novel, The Dig, but explores similar themes. Just as The Dig was about the rhythms of rural life, Cove is about the dangerous, unknowable rhythms of the sea. Both are about devastation — one emotional, the other physical — and both examine love, loss, memory and the will to live. Cove is a haunting meditation on trauma and human fragility.