Hilary Mantel, Michelle Gallen and Marina Lewycka: This week’s best new fiction

From Hilary Mantel’s cracking The Mirror & The Light to a funny debut by Michelle Gallen and Marina Lewycka’s latest, this week’s best new fiction

The Mirror & The Light

Hilary Mantel                                                                                      Fourth Estate £25

Fans can exhale – the final instalment of Mantel’s trilogy is a cracker: powerful, propulsive and amply worth the eight-year wait. 

Despite topping 900 pages, it spans just four years – the final four in the life of Thomas Cromwell, self-made blacksmith’s son and arch fixer to Henry VIII. 

Opening mere heartbeats after the last volume ended, with the execution of Anne Boleyn, and culminating in Cromwell’s own beheading in 1540, the novel is alive with intimate detail from menus (eels with orange, anyone?) to gossip, ducking and diving through a landscape made treacherous by plots and ghosts, lies and delusions. It’s the crowning glory of a towering achievement.

Hephzibah Anderson


The Good, The Bad And The Little Bit Stupid

Marina Lewycka                                                                                     Fig Tree £14.99

Sid Pantis is fed up with Brexit. It was on the fateful night of the EU referendum that his remain-voting mother, Rosie, locked her leave-voting husband George out in the rain – whereupon he promptly took up with ‘Brexit Brenda’ next door. 

But when George goes missing after claiming to have won millions on the Kosovan lottery, Sid, Rosie and Brenda must unite to rescue him from a macabre fate. 

Lewycka’s characters might veer too often into crude caricature, but her state-of-the-nation novel crackles with zingy one-liners and shrewd humour.

Amber Pearson


Big Girl, Small Town

Michelle Gallen                                                                            John Murray £14.99

Set in 2004, Gallen’s darkly funny debut delves into the lives of the inhabitants of a border town in Northern Ireland. 

It’s told from the perspective of Majella, whose life appears at first glance to be humdrum, a repetitive round of serving the gossipy locals in the chip shop, with Saturday nights in the pub. 

But slowly, another story emerges, as she reveals the legacy of the Troubles for her family and community, and the ways in which routine can be both reassuring sanctuary and horribly restrictive.

Eithne Farry 

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