Irish author Roddy Doyle is often heralded for his snappy dialogue and humor, but his literary greatness comes from routinely providing readers with a heartbreaking kick in the gut alongside. This rough juxtaposition grounds his working-class Dublin stories in the hard-scrabble world he knows so well: days full of work and disappointment, as well as the humor and love needed to see them through. Despite it all, Doyle seems to say, there’s still a bit of hope.
Not so in Doyle’s latest novel, Smile, which has a whiplash ending so tragic and unexpected reading it feels like being knocked to the ground by your own mother: a startling and tragic turn that changes the way you see everything that came before.
When the tourists leave town, when the sun fades for the winter, that’s when author Alannah Hopkin gets to work. Her short stories, collected here for the first time, feature the barflies, the skippers, the outsiders who settle in when the rest of the world has turned away. And lucky for us, they’ve got some great stories to tell.
Many of the ones collected here, in The Dogs of Inishere, feature women on the brink of a life-altering decision: a bookish young girl seeks out solitude at any cost; a mother of six, fed up with her cheating husband, goes out into the Christmas night with a shotgun; a budding arts journalist lands an interview with a reclusive old movie star, with unintended consequences. Read full review
Beyond the Rice Fields by Magalasy author Naivo is the first novel from Madagascar to ever be translated into English and, if Naivo’s debut is any indication, it certainly won’t be the last.
Set in the 1800s, Beyond the Rice Fields is the story of Tsito, a slave, and Fara, his master’s daughter. While Tsito’s main duty is to serve and protect the family, he and Fara are largely raised together: playing when chores are through, attending school when they are able, and confiding in one another about their hopes for the future.
As they get older, Tsito dreams of securing his freedom and one day making Fara his wife. But the world Tsito knows is changing rapidly, as a stark divide has formed between the new Christian missionaries and the queen, creating “deep-seated animosities that would eventually tear (the) community apart.” Read full review