THE HEAV­ENS

Daily Mail - - Books Fiction -

by San­dra New­man

(Granta £12.99, 272 pp) WHILE it’s a critic’s ba­sic duty to tell you what an author is try­ing to do, you also need to be hon­est, and I ad­mit that I just don’t get what San­dra New­man is up to here.

At the start, an artist, Kate, hooks up with a PhD stu­dent, Ben, in New York in 2000, when — coun­ter­fac­tu­ally — there’s peace in the Mid­dle East, and the U.S. pres­i­dent is a woman.

This al­ter­nates with Kate’s dream­world of El­iz­a­bethan Lon­don, where her ac­tions as Shake­speare’s lover drag the book’s utopian-tinged 21st cen­tury into re­al­ity as we know it (9/11 even­tu­ally hap­pens).

The ec­cen­tric de­tail, in­clud­ing a baby named Qued, born to a Latino ex-Navy SEAL and a Ukrainian mail-or­der bride who doesn’t like wear­ing clothes, left me no wiser.

If it’s about the dif­fi­culty of do­ing good, it’s a fussy way to drama­tise the law of un­in­tended con­se­quences. But I’ll gladly stand cor­rected . . .

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