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Paperback reviews

The Man Who Rained by Ali Shaw (Atlantic, £8.99)

The element of magical realism in Shaw's tale of lonely Elsa Beletti, who has left New York after the death of her father who was in prison, is perhaps what has led him to use old-fashioned words like "beheld" and "befogged", but his choice of third-person narrative is yet another distancing effect, hampering true connection with his heroine.

Capital by John Lanchester (Faber, £7.99)

There's a very welcome echo of HG Wells's lesser-read social-realist novels (about 100 years after they were published, too) about Lanchester's excellent novel that looks at the lives of an array of characters in an ordinary London street, during the financial crash of 2007-2008. Compassion and insight are spread here across a suitably broad canvas.

In The Orchard, The Swallows by Peter Hobbs (Faber, £7.99)

Hobbs's love story, told by the respective participants in beautifully pared-back and poetic prose, as well as by an old man in flashback, brings together a young boy and girl in the social minefields of rural Pakistan village life, and is shot through with moments of violence and terror that offset the tender and tentative feelings between the two.

In Glorious Technicolor by Francine Stock (Pimlico, £12.99)

Stock readily admits hers is an "idiosyncratic" history of film that ranges from Birth Of A Nation through Bambi and Carrie to Avatar, passing through genres, experiments and even unknowns to examine the effect that films have on our lives. A more integrated structure, rather than an introduction followed by film summaries, would have worked better, though.

Lesley McDowell

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