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Friday, September 30, 2022

In brief: How to Be a Writer; The Saint of Lost Things; Widowland – review | Books

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Marcus Berkmann
Little Brown, £16.99, pp208

If you think being a journalist and author is a noble profession, Marcus Berkmann’s splendidly entertaining semi-memoir will enlighten you. This vivid trawl through a career misspent in New Grub Street offers hilariously candid anecdotes about (ever-present) failure and (far rarer) success in the writing profession. Whether musing on his career as the least appropriate Spectator rock music critic imaginable, or the joys of an afternoon nap, Berkmann’s book is an affectionate and uproarious ode to an existence lived precariously by the pen.

Tish Delaney
Hutchinson Heinemann, £16.99, pp448

Tish Delaney’s first novel, Before My Actual Heart Breaks, suggested that she was an author of rare promise and acuity. This follow-up confirms her as one of the most arresting voices of her generation. The tale of an aunt and niece living in uncomfortable proximity and mutual antagonism with each other in rural Donegal, it combines deep psychological insight with unexpected touches of lightness and humour. Delaney never succumbs to cliche, but creates a vividly realised narrative in which you long for her characters to break free and triumph.

CJ Carey
Quercus, £8.99, pp400 (paperback)

Novels exploring what would have happened if the Nazis had conquered Britain are one of the most popular “what ifs” in dystopian fiction, but CJ Carey brings an intriguing twist to well-worn tropes. Her protagonist, Rose Ransom, is a so-called “Geli”, one of the elite in 50s Britain, whose job censoring classic works of literature to make them acceptable to the “Alliance”, a thinly disguised Nazi party, leads her into the unexpected terrain of “Widowland”, a ghetto for subversive middle-aged women. And then the drama truly begins in this delightful page-turner.

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