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Archive by tag: Paraic O’DonnellReturn
May 06, 2022

As the lives of a physician, an SS officer and his wife intersect at Buchenwald, so too do their lies and self-deceits, in this lucid and careful novel

The Holocaust novel is a relatively recent phenomenon. For decades, fiction maintained a respectful silence, deferring to the testimony of survivors. Even those survivors tended towards circumspection, with Primo Levi warning that such memoirs as his own should be read “with a critical eye”; that the Holocaust could not be wholly apprehended even by those who had endured it.

The present generation of novelists has proved less reticent and, in many cases, less punctilious. If bestselling fiction can, God help us, “raise awareness”, it can just as easily numb the senses. In a spate of popular titles, Auschwitz has been made the site of cosily redemptive parables, the historical frame cropped to Instagram dimensions.

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Mar 11, 2021

In the poet’s first novel, a richly textured account of the Essex witch trials, the persecuted women are brought vividly to life

“There’s men, and then there’s people.” So remarks one jaded widow to another, a little way into The Manningtree Witches. The two are merely gossiping, but the aside is slyly placed, for the man who afterwards happens into view will more than prove her point. AK Blakemore’s first novel is a fictional account of the Essex witch trials, and though it brims with language of arresting loveliness, it speaks plainly when it must.

We meet the young Rebecca West in 1643, amid the early convulsions of the English civil war. Her mother, known as the Beldam West, is a doughty widow with a fondness for drink and confrontation. Rebecca must share her mother’s mean lodgings and taint of disrepute, but though she chafes at the narrowness of her existence, she is not without resources. “I am useful,” she says of herself. “I have taught myself to watch and listen.”

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Sep 16, 2020

The Jonathan Strange author returns with a mysterious tale that examines the nature of fantasy itself

“The beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite”: this is the reverent pronouncement of Piranesi, who believes he has occupied the house in question “since the world began”. Indeed, the house and the world, for Piranesi, are one and the same. Birds congregate in its cloud-wreathed upper halls and fearsome tides surge through its lower levels, but although Piranesi has journeyed widely – as far as “the Nine-Hundred-and-Sixtieth Hall to the West” – he has glimpsed nothing beyond it. And but for the bones of the dead, and an enigmatic visitor known only as “the Other”, he wanders this world entirely alone.

Related: Susanna Clarke: ‘I was cut off from the world, bound in one place by illness’

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