Daily Mail



ORBITAL by Samantha Harvey (Cape £14.99, 144 pp)

SAMANTHA HARVEY never writes the same book twice: her novels have included All Is Song, drawn on the life of an ancient Greek philosophe­r, and The Western Wind, a medieval murder-mystery with a back-to-front timeline.

Now she is going into space. Orbital is a gorgeous novel giving us a day in the life of six astronauts on an internatio­nal space station turning around the Earth. We feel the joy and grind of the astronauts’ lives in its rhythms and textures as they carry out routine safety checks, communicat­e with loved ones and generally contemplat­e the bewilderin­g nature of existence while observing the planet from afar.

Things do happen here — a typhoon ravages Asia; someone’s mother dies — but it’s no spoiler to say that no one goes rogue on board, à la Alien.

Yet, despite the lack of convention­al drama, it offers an intensely charged reading experience, sustained by the sensory thrill of Harvey’s imaginativ­e attention to detail.

RUN TO THE WESTERN SHORE by Tim Pears (Swift £12.99, 208 pp)

ENGLISH author Tim Pears is going back in time. In 2011 he published Disputed Land, a family saga set in a discreetly dystopian near future.

Next came In The Light Of Morning, about wartime Slovenia in 1944. His new novel — compact and engrossing — is a tale centred on an unlikely pair of runaways in the early days of Roman Britain.

Olwen is a Celtic princess who finds herself offered as a makeweight in a peace deal cut by her chieftain father. She decides to make a break for it with Quintus, an enslaved interprete­r for the occupiers.

So begins a narrative of chase and pursuit told in bright, direct modernsoun­ding prose. As our duo hurry through ancient Wales, there are violent encounters but also a reverence for the natural beauty of the landscape — and if there are no shocks in the duo’s blossoming cross-class love, this is a quiet pleasure of a novel.

FANATIC HEART by Thomas Keneally (Faber £20, 464 pp)

KENEALLY, a Booker winner for Schindler’s Ark, is now deep into his 80s and he is still publishing hefty novels at a clip — and he isn’t shy to mix it up either: protagonis­ts of recent novels range from the son of Charles Dickens (in The Dickens Boy) to an aboriginal in the Stone Age (The Book Of Science & Antiquitie­s).

His new novel is a crowded historical narrative returning to a figure Keneally has previous tackled in his equally compendiou­s output as a historian — 19th-century Irish patriot John Mitchel, deported to Tasmania for anti-English activity.

At the centre of the story are the moral contradict­ions of a man who, radicalise­d by the ravages of the famine, fought for Irish liberty yet endorsed slavery in his second life as a journalist in the U.S.

Keneally’s retelling thunders along on a tide of detail — sometimes too much, true, but by now he knows all the tricks to make a novel tick.

 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom