Saturday, June 25, 2022

Holiday Reading: Indispensable fiction for your summer vacation

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Looking for a new novel to pack in your carry-on? We’ll cover you

Scottish fiction

Hex, by Jenni Fagan, Polygon, £10

In her time-travelling retelling of the true story of Geillis Duncan, who was hanged as a witch in Edinburgh in 1591, Jenni Fagan shows how the deep-seated misogyny and callous casual sexism of the 16th century are still relevant in our time. To add a magical realism twist to the story, on the last night of her life in prison, Geillis is visited by a person named Iris, who traveled through “Null and Ether” to be there. As you might expect, Fagan’s book is elegant and angry in equal measure. SK

Appliance, by JO Morgan, Jonathan Cape, £16.99

This captivating, fabulous novel by JO Morgan tells the coming of age story of a mysterious reinvented machine that may or may not transport matter. In each of its 11 chapters we have different protagonists, from the man who developed it to the journalist who thinks that the system hides a flaw, but there is only one constant: the machine. As far as the story arc goes, forget about the fugitive humans because the real story is about how technology changes, adapts, transforms, grows and warps us in its own way. It’s the binding novel of something inhuman, and it’s terrifying. SK

The Voids, by Ryan O’Connor, Scribe, £14.99

This stunning debut novel follows an unnamed narrator who lives in a Glasgow high-rise that is set to be demolished to make way for gentrified new developments. After most of the residents have moved, he begins entering the vacant apartments and taking stock of what he finds. Little by little we learn about his eventful past and in particular about his problematic relationship with alcohol and drugs. O’Connor packs a lot into 300 pages, but little of it seems superfluous. Perhaps the most intriguing Scottish debut in a decade. SK

Sea Fret, by Dilys Rose, Scotland Street, £9.99

Even those who claim not to be interested in short stories should make time for this latest collection from Dilys Rose. There are 30 here, some very short, just a few pages, and they can be described as scraps of life, or better perhaps as presenting moments of individual life to the reader. Not much happens in many of them, and yet the author’s eye is so keen, her hearing so keen, her imagination so vivid that they illuminate these moments and bring characters to life. AM

Companion Piece, by Ali Smith, Hamish Hamilton, £16.99

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