Kirsten Tranter

It is day one hundred and seventeen of the official ‘Shelter in Place’ order in Berkeley, California, when I finish Susanna Clarke’s surreal, heartbreaking novel Piranesi, having rationed the final pages over several days.

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For anyone feeling stir-crazy after weeks cooped up in self-isolation, A Theatre for Dreamers offers an appealing escape, a virtual vacation on the Greek island of Hydra. Dive into these pages and you can swim vicariously in a perfect horseshoe-shaped bay, dry off in the summer sun, admire countless young, scantily clad men and women, and end the day with a glass of retsina while you watch the moon set and listen to a young Leonard Cohen enunciate profundities about life and art.

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ABR asked a few colleagues and contributors to nominate some books that have beguiled them – might even speak to others – at this unusual time.

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Dervla McTiernan’s third novel consolidates her standing as a star of Irish detective fiction, following her breakout début, The Rúin (2018), and its follow-up, The Scholar (2019), all featuring Detective Sergeant Cormac Reilly. Dublin dominates the imagination of Irish crime writing, but McTiernan’s stories centre around the western city of Galway and the small towns that surround it, places with pretty, smiling exteriors that mask darker moral and economic realities. For every cheerful local pub and beautiful seaside terrace there is a building lot abandoned in the wake of economic crisis and a cheaply constructed block of units with no heating and a rent-gouging landlord.

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In 2004, New York-based publisher Akashic Books released Brooklyn Noir, a collection of short fiction written under a specific brief. Stories had to be set in that neighbourhood and feature noir themes: simmering familial revenge, cheating and double-crossing, sexual betrayal, domestic discord, murderous trysts, down-at-heel detectives ...

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Kudos concludes the extraordinary trilogy that began with Outline (2014) and Transit (2016). Following the distinctive format of the first two books, Kudos is structured by a series of conversations between the narrator (a writer named Faye, who seems to be a barely disguised version of Cusk) and various interlocutors, in which the narrator herself speaks barely at all. As before, there is nothing much in the way of a traditional plot or narrative ...

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The setting is a gorgeous, somewhat decayed, many-roomed Georgian mansion in upstate New York, near the Hudson, in 2012. Nine screens placed around a darkened gallery space each show a room of the house, most of them occupied by a person and a musical instrument: a willowy woman in a slip on a chaise longue, ...

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It begins with a car accident. Five friends are returning to college after a night of drinking. The driver, Cameron, hits a deer and overturns the vehicle. When the police and ambulance arrive, Dylan, who has drunk the least, claims to have been at the wheel. The others – Elliot, who narrates the story, Tallis, Brian, and especially Cameron – let him assume responsibility. It is, more or less, what Dylan does, what his role in the group is: a mediator, a defuser of tension, a solver of problems. Ten years later, shortly after he is killed in a traffic accident, the details of that night, and other similar instances of Dylan’s particular kind of timely assistance, will resurface as the four gather for their annual reunion in Las Vegas.

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