Category > Contemporary fiction

No Country

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No Country, Kalyan Ray, book reviewThis ambitious novel takes its title from Yeats and continues in an Irish vein bringing in everything that Bengali literature lovers know about Ireland, like the shadow of Ben Bulben, the oppressive landlords, beautiful Irish women with red hair and the Potato Famine, all of it written in the rhythms of Irish speech. No Country starts with a murder in modern America, with a cop from Hungary present, and then begins to move back in time. Kalyan Ray maps a violent past and present on a canvas in which identities are lost along with countries and lovers fall away.


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A Bad Character

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A  Bad Character, Deepti Kapoor, book reviewFor a long time the bad character in Deepti Kapoor’s debut novel seems to be Delhi which, with its coffee shops, its sleaze and its Sufi gathering dominates the book in poetic prose quickly delivered and very easy on the eye. The mysterious ‘he’ with his bulging eyes, dark skin and mouthful of teeth could quite easily be a metaphor for the city where a girl ripe for marriage and hemmed in by her Aunty looks for a chance of excitement and escape. Rana Dasgupta says as much in his blurb, this is 21st century Delhi shown up warts and all. Kapoor’s is a story of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, a search for self and a wish to damage on the heels of lost love.


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The Tea Chest

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The Tea Chest, Josephine Moon, book reviewThe Tea Chest is Josephine Moon’s first novel and it really is a welcome treat. It is the sort of book that you can lose yourself in for hours at a time as you get to know the characters and get drawn in to the story.

The Tea Chest in question is actually an old fashioned tea shop which sells a wonderful range of teas to suit every palate. Its former owner and inspired designer Simone has left her half share in the Tea Chest to her trusted employee Kate whose task is to continue the inspired and original concept as she tries to set up the store that Simone had planned in London. For this she will need a great deal of help and luckily two other women, Leila and Elizabeth, are both at a time of crisis in their own lives and are looking for employment.


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One Step Closer to You

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One Step Closer to You,  Alice Peterson, book reviewI love Alice Peterson’s books – what more can I say? I have never yet been disappointed by any of her books and each time I read the next one I can’t believe that it will exceed my enjoyment of the last – but it always does. Which is why I am heartily declaring One Step Closer to You as my favourite read of the year so far.

One Step Closer to You tells the story of Polly Stephens, a recovering alcoholic, and her young son, Louis. She has managed to put her troubled childhood and an abusive relationship behind her and is now a good mother to her son and also enjoys her job working in a local bakery. She still needs the support of her sponsor and her weekly AA meetings though and at one of these meetings she is surprised to see a fellow parent, Ben, from the school that Louis attends.


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Private India

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 Private India, James Patterson, Ashwin Sanghi, book reviewThis is a continuation of the Private series, one of James Patterson’s most popular worldwide which is based around the exclusive detective agency, Private, headed by Jack Morgan with offices across the globe. In India, the setting is Mumbai, the centre of Bollywood glamour, glitz and finance which results in a collaboration between Ashwin Sanghi and the world’s No 1 thriller writer.

Ashwin Sanghi has been making headlines with books like Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key. Given the fact that the thriller focuses on whisky swilling Santosh Wagh who is the Indian head of Private India, it is obvious that Sanghi’s contribution is vital to pad out the Mumbai crime details and to provide information that Patterson would not have had access to without in depth research. And one is tempted to give Sanghi credit for the Durga connection in the novel, which is probably not too presumptuous an assumption.

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Adultery

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Adultery by Paulo Coelho, book reviewAdultery by Paulo Coelho is a beautifully written tale of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to each other in the name of love, lust, boredom or depression. It’s a story where you’ll have to look quite hard to find anybody to like in amongst its cast of spoiled and over-privileged characters.

Linda is Swiss. She’s successful in her journalism career, she has a fabulous marriage to a man with lots of inherited wealth and whom she loves. Her husband who’d happily give her anything she wanted, and they have two beautiful problem-free children.


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In the Light of What We Know

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In the Light of What We Know  Zia Haider Rahman, book reviewA mysterious Bangladeshi friend thought long lost materialises at the door fresh returned from Afghanistan and a myriad wanderings. The friend is Pakistani and as pedigreed and privileged as the Bangladeshi Zafar is not. However rumours are rife about Zafar, ‘that that he had been spotted in Damascus, Tunis, or Islamabad, and that he had killed a man, fathered a child, and, absurdly it seemed, spied for British intelligence’. The list, tantalising as it may sound, is totally misleading. The conversations between the two friends consist of references to higher mathematics like Gödel’s incompleteness theorem which talks about claims that are true but cannot be proven. And in between the chapters are trending topics like the Wall Street crash, geopolitics, terrorism, the Bangladesh war.


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The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe

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Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe By  ROMAIN PUERTOLAS, book reviewThe Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir who got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas is one of those books whose title makes it a little hard to ignore. It’s an interesting technique to intrigue the potential reader with a title that seems to almost tell the story itself and I’m reminded by such classics as Salmon Fishing in the Yemen or ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’.

Romain Puertolas is a French writer and this book has already been a hit in his home country. His translator – Sam Taylor – has done an amazing job to take such a bizarre book with its many complex puns and jokes, and translate it into something digestible by an English speaking readership. Knowing a little about the reliance of French humourists on bad puns and word play, I’m impressed that Taylor has captured the spirit of that humour without forcing it on us too much.


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The Living

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The Living by Lean Cullinan, book reviewWorking on the website for the small publishing house Bell Books is hardly an exciting life. Even so, since it is Cate’s first job after graduating Dublin’s Trinity College, there is no reason for her to balk about it. She has her college friends and her choir – Carmina Urbana – to keep her busy and entertained after a boring day at work. Then Eddie MacDevitt’s memoire manuscript comes in, and strange things begin to happen. Her boss is hiding the book from everyone, there’s that dark car Cate keeps seeing, that new British tenor in the choir who is so secretive, and even her family are being unusually guarded. Surely, the meanderings of some ex-activist (who knew her uncle, and her boss, back in the day) can’t be all that hush-hush, even if there are still people who want him dead. This is The Living by Léan Cullinan.


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Living With It

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Living with It, Lizzie Enfield , book reviewLiving With It is a fabulous new novel from Lizzie Enfield. It is an immensely readable book that will involve the reader from the very first page. Alternating between two narrators, Isobel and Ben, it tells the story of the consequence of a decision made long ago and the devastating effect it has on all the characters in this wonderful story.

When 15 year old Gabriella was a baby, her mother, Isobel, made the decision not to give her the MMR vaccination. There had been a great deal of adverse publicity about the vaccination and Isobel had decided it was not worth the risk to her daughter and later on for her two sons that followed. It was something that she did not give much thought to in the subsequent years.


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Ajax Penumbra 1969

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Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan, book review“I should start at the beginning.”
“You should start with the basics.” The clerk settles back on his stool, crosses his arms. “What’s your name, friend?”
“Oh. Yes, of course. My name is Ajax Penumbra.”

For those of you who read Robin Sloan’s endearing debut novel Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, you will have read a wonderful story but also a story that left you with several burning questions. How did a narrow bookstore with such impossibly high shelves come about? How did Mr Penumbra come to run such an establishment? And indeed, how do you get a name like Ajax Penumbra? These questions must have been put to Sloan on a great many occasions, because now he has seen fit to release a short prequel: Ajax Penumbra 1969.


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Frog Music

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Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, book reviewSan Francisco at the height of a heat wave with small pox raging. In the middle of that two women caught in a crossfire that leads to murder, Blanche and Jenny. Both are French, though Blanche doesn’t know it and Jenny is a transgendered kind of figure on a bicycle encountered in a crash. Blanche earns her living from dancing in a musical hall cum brothel and her fancy man Arthur and his friend Earnest earn their livings off her. Blanche also has a baby that she rescues from a Dickensian London circumstances in a storm of indignation.

The book actually begins with violent death the way most murder mysteries do. Jenny is shot full of buckshot through a window at night and the pellets skim Blanche’s cheek because she happens to bend over.


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