The Vogue

Eoin McNamee

Faber, £8.99

With its motif of the earth disgorging buried corpses and hidden secrets, an image that can’t help but have an uncomfortable resonance in Northern Ireland, The Vogue establishes a bleak, chilly atmosphere from the outset. The discovery of a woman’s long-buried body at an old RAF base in 2000 kicks off a mystery split between three time periods. In 1970, in nearby Morne, abused teenagers run away from a children’s home. Further back, in 1944, black GI Gabriel Hooper awaits a court martial and possible death sentence. Solicitor John Cole arrives in the oppressive, heavily-surveillanced Morne to investigate the woman’s death, but his enquiries are obstructed by Rev Wesley Upritchard, head of evangelical sect the Elected Brethren, who wields a great influence over the townsfolk. McNamee has carefully twisted the threads of this dark, forbidding novel so that it doesn’t become clear until quite late on what connects the three eras, and for all its bleakness it exerts an irresistible pull.


The Surreal Life Of Leonora Carrington

Joanna Moorhead

Virago, £10.99

Leonora Carrington, who died in 2011, was the last of the original surrealist group, though she didn’t class herself as one. She was the arty, rebellious daughter of a Lancashire mill owner, whom she outraged by running away to Paris with (the much older and married) Max Ernst. She was also Joanna Moorhead’s father’s cousin, and Moorhead grew up hearing tales of this eccentric relative, finally deciding to seek her out in Mexico City and get to know her. Making several trips to Mexico over five years, she writes of how Carrington hung out with the likes of Picasso, Dali, Duchamp and Peggy Guggenheim while her own talent flourished – and of her journey, via a Spanish asylum and New York, to Mexico, where she absorbed new influences, pursued her own evolving style and eventually became a cultural fixture. It’s a record of an eventful and fascinating life, Moorhead’s family connection bringing it an awkward intimacy and sense of emotional investment.


The Club

Takis Würger

Grove Press, £12.99

Strangely, this novel about class and privilege in Cambridge was originally a bestseller in Germany for Der Spiegel journalist Würger, and only appears here now in translation. It concerns Hans Stichler, whose idyllic German childhood is disrupted when his parents die and he is sent to a miserable Jesuit boarding school. His only living relative is his cold English Aunt Alex, who invites him to Cambridge, where she teaches Art History. In return for ensuring that his application to St John’s College is accepted, Hans agrees to help her investigate the Pitt Club, an elite institution dating back centuries. As he infiltrates deeper into the club, he finds a culture of misogyny, but is torn between his promise to his aunt and loyalty to his new friends. Even if it’s not the most memorable novel of the year, The Club is diverting enough, although it’s debatable how well it holds up as a rigorously thought-through commentary on toxic masculinity.