Daily Mail



HELD by Anne Michaels (Bloomsbury £16.99, 240 pp)

MICHAELS’S grave, graceful third novel is a timely, resonant reminder of the trauma of war and the wreckage that it inflicts.

On the battlefiel­ds of World War I, a shell- shocked, badly injured English soldier stares into the dead eyes of a young man killed in battle, desperatel­y trying to take refuge in memories of his beloved wife and their home. This episodic, poetical novel follows a cast of interconne­cted characters as they live through a century of conflict.

Michaels has such a delicate touch as she deals with these weighty matters, describing how, bombed into oblivion, ‘entire worlds vanished — the irreplacea­ble living communitie­s of shopkeeper­s, schools, street life, families’.

But she also quietly celebrates the domestic tenderness of husbands and wives, parents and children as they attempt to survive the damage done and muster the courage to hope, heal and love.

MARY: OR, THE BIRTH OF FRANKENSTE­IN by Anne Eekhout (Pushkin Press £18.99, 352 pp)

‘I WANTED to see things. Eerie, evil things,’ says 14- year- old Mary Wollstonec­raft- Godwin while on a visit to scottish family friends, the Baxters.

In this wonderful witches’ brew of a novel (atmospheri­cally translated from dutch by laura Watkinson), Eekhout envisages Mary’s inspiratio­n for her ‘hideous progeny’, Frankenste­in.

Making suggestive use of Mary’s sojourn in folklore-rich dundee, where a passionate crush on Isabella Baxter adds a hothouse atmosphere to her stay and the sinister Mr Booth, married to Isabella’s sister, adds a frisson of fear, Eekhout heads to rainy Geneva, where Mary famously began her Gothic novel.

Grappling with the grief of losing a child and suffering pangs of jealousy as her romantic poet husband shelley indulges in his free-love philosophy, unhappy Mary, and author anne, stir this cauldron of emotion and inspiratio­n into electrifyi­ng life.

SAME BED DIFFERENT DREAMS by Ed Park (Random House £25, 544 pp)

TAKING the establishm­ent of a secretive Korean Provisiona­l Government to protest the Japanese occupation of their country as a jumping- off point, effervesce­nt author Park imagines that the covert organisati­on still exists and has been making its disruptive presence felt through pop cultural history, assassinat­ion attempts and the civil war which resulted in the northsouth split that still divides the country today.

It’s a brilliantl­y bamboozlin­g narrative, brimful of references to slasher movies, traditiona­l Korean poetry, famous film stars, american presidents, political dissidents and a mysterious unfinished manuscript seemingly written by members of the KPG.

It’s far from straightfo­rward, but it is enormous fun, as Park zips back and forward in time and introduces a plethora of characters and ideas, in a book that revels in kaleidosco­pic, controlled chaos.

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