Summertime Sadness

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Early on in Munir Hachemi’s Living Things, we are presented with an apparently universal statement: ‘experience, we all know, is the sine qua non for creating literature’. The narrator, Munir (he shares the author’s name), is fixated on this idea, and it’s the desire to gain this ‘volatile, hazy, ill-defined thing’ that propels him and […]

Posted in 530 | Tagged , | Comments Off on Summertime Sadness

A Dream Deferred

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It’s 9 November 2008. I’m an eighteen-year-old high-school senior meandering around Grant Park, the throbbing heart of my hometown of Chicago. Tens of thousands of people chatter, chew lips, squirm. A dozen elderly black women beside me hold hands, close their eyes and pray. The whole world is watching us as we await the impossible. […]

Posted in 530 | Tagged , | Comments Off on A Dream Deferred

Three Men & a Toddler

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Tom Lamont’s protagonist, Téo, doesn’t choose to go home; rather, he has home thrust upon him. At first he intends merely to visit Vic, his ailing father, in Enfield, but when Lia, his childhood crush, dies, he agrees to look after her son, Joel. Leaving his own life in east London and his hard-won independence, […]

Posted in 530 | Tagged , | Comments Off on Three Men & a Toddler

Flight of Fantasy

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Fantasy benders. This is what the unnamed protagonist of Miranda July’s second novel, All Fours, calls her mental flights into weird, funny and often erotic alternate realities. ‘You can’t have everything you want, but you can want everything you want’, another woman tells her when she describes all this unsatisfied desire roiling inside her. She […]

Posted in 530 | Tagged | Comments Off on Flight of Fantasy

Living the Dream

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Hiromi Kawakami’s fiction has long been haunted by lonely women. ‘I took the bus alone,’ recalls Tsukiko, the narrator of her prize-winning novel Strange Weather in Tokyo (2001), ‘I walked around the city alone, I did my shopping alone, and I drank alone.’ The story portrays the solace Tsukiko finds in the unlikely bond she […]

No Country for Married Men

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The Heart in Winter, Kevin Barry’s first novel in five years, opens in Butte, Montana. It is the last decade of the 19th century and Butte, having been established as a mining camp in 1864, is now on the cusp of becoming one of the largest industrial cities in the American West. As with most boom towns of the period, its growth has been characterised by a furious influx of hopeful prospectors from across the globe, all of whom have little choice but to collide – in a simmering, spitting brew of class and culture

Posted in 530 | Tagged , | Comments Off on No Country for Married Men

Beyond Brooklyn

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Have you heard the joke about the Irish boomerang? The funny thing about the Irish boomerang, the saying goes, is that it never comes back. It just spends all of its time singing songs about how it wishes one day it could.  The diasporic experience is built into Irish identity. To be Irish is to […]

Do No Harm?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Butcher, Joyce Carol Oates’s sixty-forth novel, is ostensibly the story of Silas Weir, ‘Father of Gyno-Psychiatry’ to some, the ‘Red-Handed Butcher’ to others. A 19th-century doctor at the New Jersey Asylum for Female Lunatics, Weir devotes himself to the study and experimental treatment of female maladies that nobody else wants to address. But it’s also […]

Contemporary Congruity

Posted on by Zoe Guttenplan

I will only briefly summarize the plot since it is of small relevance to the nature, or stature, of this work. We are told, in the drunken soliloquy of a fifty-year-old electrical engineer, that he was the son of a Marx-fearing, collier father and dour mother, that he was clever, won a place at Glasgow […]

Posted in 071 | Tagged | Comments Off on Contemporary Congruity

Self-Portrait with Browser History

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Honor Levy shot to quasi-fame in 2020 when the New Yorker published ‘Good Boys’, which is less a short story than a hysterical collection of fragments. The central premise is that boys call girls bitches, but only some girls. The narrator is desperate not to be one of these. The story culminates in a skilful […]

Posted in 529 | Tagged | Comments Off on Self-Portrait with Browser History

Stranger in a Strange Town

Posted on by Tom Fleming

For Andrew O’Hagan, King’s Cross is more than just a place. In 1997, he reported on the area for The Guardian and evoked a site of contrasts: new sleek glass buildings, vulnerable people buying drugs outside the station, Tony Blair’s children on their way to school, homeless boys in sleeping bags being moved on by […]

Posted in 529 | Tagged , | Comments Off on Stranger in a Strange Town

Blast from the Past

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It is only May, but Kaliane Bradley’s The Ministry of Time might well be the loudest debut of the year. The author, a young British-Cambodian writer and editor, has won prizes for her short stories, including the V S Pritchett Award, and been named one of The Observer’s best new novelists of 2024. The novel […]

Springtime in Barcelona

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘It’s like Proust’s madeleine, see, him dying right as I’m about to go back,’ says Natàlia, the protagonist of Montserrat Roig’s novel The Time of Cherries, originally published in Catalan in 1977 and now translated into fluid, expressive English for the first time by Julia Sanches. Natàlia’s nostalgia rush is caused by something rather more […]

Written in the Stars

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In 2014, with the publication of her elegant, haunting debut, After Me Comes the Flood, it became immediately apparent that Sarah Perry was an extraordinary new talent to reckon with in English fiction. The novel, a powerful and mysterious fable about trust and deception that got far less attention than it deserved, was followed two […]

Double Trouble

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Shakespearean and para-Shakespearean fiction has been with us for a long time. Stand-out examples include Nikolai Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, and although a series (The Hogarth Shakespeare, with seven titles published between 2015 and 2018) dedicated to novelistic reworkings of Shakespeare’s plays might seem like overkill, its contributors […]

Back to the Future

Posted on by Tom Fleming

From his debut novel, The Impressionist (2002), onwards, Hari Kunzru has used his fiction to interrogate some of the central sources of contemporary disquiet and what it means to be human in an ever more connected but less cohesive world. Blue Ruin is the culmination of a loose trilogy that includes White Tears (2017) and […]

Posted in 529 | Tagged | Comments Off on Back to the Future

No Direction Home

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The Greeks called it epipothia oikou. In French it is mal du pays, in Arabic hawa, in German Heimweh. To suffer homesickness is to be human. Claire Messud’s profound and exacting new novel is an epic involving several generations of a diasporic family on a volatile earth – a fictionalised version, as the prologue tells […]

Posted in 529 | Tagged | Comments Off on No Direction Home

Old School Ties

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Michael Donkor’s second novel, Grow Where They Fall, is a clever braid of two periods in the life of Kwame Akromah. In one, ten-year-old Kwame manages his Ghanaian parents’ fraught marriage and high expectations while reckoning with new feelings brought on by the arrival of a charismatic distant cousin. Two decades later, Kwame, an openly […]

Toccata & Fugue

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

After the publication of her first novel, Monkey Grip, about the relationship between a single mother and a junky in bohemian 1970s Melbourne, Helen Garner tried to write the same book again. ‘My publishers said it was shit’, she told an interviewer a couple of years ago, ‘and they were absolutely right, so I threw […]

Called to Account

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

There is a deep-seated, if perhaps unexpected, affinity between storytelling and accountancy. To tell a story is to recount it, and a ‘teller’ usually works at a bank; tales and their tellers have always had a relationship with matters of counting, balancing and reckoning. Tell, the remarkable new novel by Jonathan Buckley, the co-recipient of […]

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March