Posts tagged fiction

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

This is a book of two halves. The first half is set in an unnamed African country that bears more than a passing resemblance to Zimbabwe, and the second half is set in the USA. Narrating both halves is Darling, a ten-year-old child in the first half and a teenager in the second. Her voice is compelling and beautifully written throughout, and I think it’s Darling’s voice that was the main reason for the novel’s Booker shortlisting. Here is Darling, for example, describing her Aunt Fostalina’s struggles with the English… Read More

The blurb has landed

Ah, things are really rolling now. After the mysterious appearance of a listing for my next novel on Amazon recently, now a blurb has appeared in my email inbox. It’s quite strange and in some ways depressing to see several years of work reduced to a blurb, but I think they did a good job of making it sound interesting. What do you think? For Jeff Brennan, juggling multiple identities is nothing new. In his online life he has dozens of different personalities and switches easily between them. In his… Read More

Lucky Seven challenge

British crime writer Tom Quigley tagged me a while back in the Lucky Seven challenge, which involves publishing an extract from a current work in progress. Travelling delayed my response, but here it is. The rules were to go to page 7, line 7 of my work-in-progress novel, and post the following 7 lines of prose. I chose to post from A Virtual Love, which is in the editing stage at the moment and is due to come out in spring 2013. Here it is: To anyone else she’d appear… Read More

The ingredients of fiction

Writing fiction is not really about making stuff up. It’s more about making sense of what you already have stored somewhere in your memory or subconscious, dusting it off, ordering it and making it intelligible to the rest of the world. The hope is that the things you write about will also resonate with other people, not by teaching them something new, but by helping them to see in a new way the things they already know. What that means for the process of writing is that things often take… Read More

“Too Loud a Solitude” by Bohumil Hrabal

The narrator of Too Loud a Solitude is an idiot. His boss despises him, others laugh at him. He drinks beer all day, and works in a cellar compacting wastepaper. He has been compacting wastepaper in the same cellar with the same hydraulic press for 35 years, and has picked out classics of world literature from the garbage, amassing a library which towers over him as he sleeps, always threatening to crush him. Other times he leaves the books in the compacter, but arranges them carefully so that each bale… Read More

“Saturday” by Ian McEwan

Not my favourite McEwan – that is Atonement by a long way. This was OK, a more meditative book, full of long meandering passages from the head of Henry Perowne, a successful neurosurgeon living in Marylebone with his successful wife and talented blues-musician son, awaiting the return from France of his beautiful and talented and successful daughter. A man so ridiculously successful, in fact, that you just know something really bad is going to happen to him. He’s got a big metaphorical “KICK ME” sign taped to his back from… Read More

“Evening is the Whole Day” by Preeta Samarasan

Update: I interviewed Preeta Samarasan about this book and her writing in general – to listen to the interview, click here.   This book grew on me. At first I found the amount of detail overwhelming, and thought the pace was too slow. Gradually, though, I got used to the style. By the end, I thought it was one of the best books I’ve read in quite a long time. It’s an interesting book in that it illuminates the politics of post-colonial Malaysia and the tensions of race and class,… Read More

“Brick Lane” by Monica Ali

Not sure what to write about this. I enjoyed the story and it was well-written, but to me nothing special. Hated the ending – don’t worry, I won’t give it away, but the last line just sounded so corny I was quite shocked. The book as a whole is not simplistic, but the ending made it seem that way. I think maybe this is one of those cases where the hype was so massive that the reality is bound to disappoint. It was an interesting depiction of a woman who… Read More

“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz

I quite liked this book. I think that, perhaps, if I had come upon it by chance in a neglected corner of a bookshop and read it without any preconceptions, I would have really liked it. But I did have preconceptions. A couple of years ago this was a hot book, recommended in all the end-of-year newspaper reviews, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the American National Book Critics Circle Award. I was expecting something “Astoundingly great” (Time), “Technical breathtaking” (Time Out), “A triumph of style and wit” (San… Read More