Book news

  • The Idiot review – Dostoevsky's good prince makes a quivering retreat from love
    Lyndsey Winship

    Print Room at the Coronet, London
    Saburo Teshigawara’s take on the Russian classic isolates its hero, creating striking scenes that leave you pining for a connection

    Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara has created a kind of homeopathic interpretation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, distilled down until there’s almost nothing of the original left.

    There are two people on stage: Teshigawara, as the “idiot” Prince Myshkin, and Rihoko Sato as the ultimate “it’s complicated” love interest, Nastasya Filippovna. Sixty-five-year-old Teshigawara (dressed in plain monochrome – nothing 19th-century here) captures facets of the Prince in enigmatic solos. There’s the wide-eyed innocent, walking stiltedly, arrested by the wonder around him; there’s the suffering epileptic, his body jiggering and shaking, feet frantic in a sort of soft shoe shuffle; and there’s the faithful Christian, face raised to God, framed in a single spotlight.

    At Print Room at the Coronet, London, until 30 March.

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  • The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup
    Laura Wilson

    Kill [redacted] by Anthony Good; The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath; The Mobster’s Lament by Ray Celestin; Casanova and the Faceless Woman by Olivier Borde-Cabuçon; Cruel Acts by Jane Casey; and A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself by William Boyle

    Anthony Good’s debut novel, Kill [redacted] (Atlantic, £12.99), is a delicate but merciless portrait of a man in the grip of a mental breakdown. When retired headteacher Michael’s wife is killed in a terrorist attack on the London underground, he decides to kill the politician whose policies he considers to be ultimately responsible for her death. Although the name is redacted throughout, as are some background details, and no dates are given, the fuzzy outlines of Tony Blair and 7/7 are discernible; the story is told through Michael’s self-justifying diary, the “self reflections” he writes for his therapist, and a few letters. His voice is a triumph: intelligent but pedantic and emotionally constipated, seething with barely suppressed rage, and unable to admit the truth about his marriage or motives. Whether this is an elaborate revenge fantasy or a factual account is up to the reader – either way, this outstanding novel is a fascinating and complex read.

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  • Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton review – slavery’s complex legacy
    Emily Rhodes

    A searing history of slavery combines with an interrogation of motherhood in this moving American debut

    “Most of what I’m about to tell you ain’t in no history book, no newspaper article, no encyclopedia. There’s a whole heap of stories don’t ever get told … ” In Yvonne Battle-Felton’s compelling debut novel, recently longlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction, this is how Spring begins telling her story to her son, as he lies dying in hospital in Philadelphia. The year is 1910 and he has driven a streetcar into a “No Coloreds Allowed” department store, causing racial tensions to erupt into riots.

    Spring’s story goes back to 1843, when Ella, a free black 12-year-old, is stolen by a white man, Walker, to be a slave on his Maryland farm. He intends to put her to work “breeding”, so as to break a curse of sterility there. The horrific brutalities Walker inflicts on Ella are difficult to read, but sadly come as no surprise; the violence enacted by the slaves is more complicated. The farm’s “curse” has in fact been brought about by the slave women’s determination: “No more slaves after us, the women swore on it.” They use poisonous herbs for contraception, and when Walker attempts to circumvent their efforts by bringing a baby to the farm, they exercise a twisted incarnation of maternal impulse: They “all hugged on it, loved on it and in the morning, one of them would love it to death. Love it to freedom.”

    The novel asks again and again: is the mother the woman who gives birth to a child, or the woman who raises it?

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