Kirsty Logan

Vintage, £8.99

Logan’s first novel, The Gracekeepers, saw her working out her own distinct brand of Scottish magical realism. The Gloaming is set on an island, rather than The Gracekeepers’ vast seascape, but it’s no less of a magical place, with a clifftop where people turn to stone when it’s their time to die. When central character Mara’s brother dies, however, he’s swept out to sea, so there’s no petrified statue to remember him by. Mara soothes her grief with books, but dreams of escaping her drab existence. Then into her life walks the exotic Pearl, who claims to travel the world playing the part of a mermaid in a tank. They fall in love, and the prospect of leaving the island comes that bit closer. Logan is equally adept at portraying both the superficial mundanity of the island and the enchantment lying beneath the surface in a novel that casts a spell of its own and rallies for a rousing finish.


Rachel Cusk

Faber, £8.99

The third of a trilogy in which Cusk has grappled with “annihilated perspective”, Kudos follows 2014’s Outline and 2016’s Transit. All three are related by author surrogate Faye, a middle-aged writer whom we first meet on a plane, where a stranger engages her in a one-sided confessional conversation. At literary festivals in two European cities, Faye drifts from one conversation to another, mainly with other writers, revealing as little of herself as possible while others bare their souls. Kudos lacks many elements we would expect from a novel, such as a plot and a climactic conclusion to the trilogy. Instead, multiple voices counterpoint and complement each other on such topics as family relationships, gender, literature and Brexit. Faye is the passive listener, the absence at the centre of the narrative, although the sameness of those voices suggest they could be projections of herself. Undoubtedly a noteworthy achievement, the austere Kudos is perhaps destined to be more admired than loved.


Patrick Gale

Tinder Press, £7.99

Diagnosed with thyroid cancer, Eustace, a Londoner in his early fifties, is given a radioactive pill and shut in a lead-lined room as part of his treatment. He must spend the next 24 hours in there, and takes an mp3 player full of cello music to keep him occupied. He can take nothing into the room that he can’t leave behind, not the first time the title of this novel strikes forcefully home. The music takes him back to his boyhood in Weston-super-Mare, where he felt like an outsider, both for playing his cumbersome cello and knowing he was gay. As Eustace gets holder, he finds himself in a more bohemian atmosphere in Bristol with cello teacher Carla Gold and the gay friends she lives with, but unknown to him his mother is also exploring her sexuality, with eventual consequences that will scar both their lives. Informed by Gale’s own experiences, it’s an involving and believable coming-of-age story, and elegantly written.