Browser: A tender story of love and memory

Brief reviews of The Vanishing Hours, Corregidora, Manchester Happened, Losing Earth, The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney and The Fallen

Barney Norris: Vanishing Hours explores memory and time. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

Barney Norris: Vanishing Hours explores memory and time. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

 

The Vanishing Hours 
By Barney Norris
Doubleday, €17

“…That’s the way with the past, it’s always vanishing.” Two strangers meet in a hotel bar and share the story of their lives: hers a quiet, heartbroken existence, his an astonishing account of time travel. Ostensibly by chance, you wonder if their meeting is really by design; predestination is one question this book explores, along with memory and time, how integral they are to a sense of ourselves. As the man reveals a wormhole of interlocking narratives in which he inhabits other lives, and the woman talks about her days of loneliness and fear, something else becomes clear: this is not only a philosophical, immensely quotable novel, but a tender and quite beautiful story about love. -  Ruth McKee

Corregidora 
By Gayl Jones
Virago, £9.99

Originally published in 1975, Gayl Jones’s Corregidora arguably blazed a trail for writers such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Ursa’s one mission in life is to “make generations”; produce children who will carry on the memory and learn the narrative of female slave experience that has traumatised and shaped her family. When a violent assault by her husband leaves her sterile, Ursa loses the fragile sense of self she has somehow managed to cling to. Jones writes viscerally and poetically about the abuse and consumption of women’s bodies, the complexities of womanhood, and the returning horrors of a nation’s unresolved past. Challenging and explicit, compelling and uncompromising, Jones’s book is as relevant now as it was when it was first published. – Becky Long

Manchester Happened
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Oneworld, £14.99

These short stories span generations who experienced migration from Uganda to Britain and back again. They explore harsh realities such as racism, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, family break-ups, alcoholism and the lingering effects of colonialism. But there is humour among the cultural misunderstandings, petty snobberies and petty jealousies. Roughly half the stories are set in Britain and the other half in Uganda. The title story gives the lie to the notion that established immigrants look out for the new arrivals and gives deep insights into the difficulties of straddling two cultures. The Nod subtly explores mixed-race attitudes of superiority. Wealthy Ugandans who educate their children to leave, never to return, and who grow old bereft of any family around them are at the core of The Aftertaste of Success. In Let’s Tell This Story Properly, a wife discovers her husband’s betrayal when he dies suddenly – they lived in Manchester but he also had a family in Kampala. It’s a powerful story. – Brian Maye

Losing Earth: The Decade We Could Have Stopped Climate Change
By Nathaniel Rich
Picador

This is a gripping and dramatic work of non-fiction. Rather than focusing solely on the science, Rich takes his reader into the lives of the people who fought to raise awareness. He has an eye for character, for identifying the moment at which things as we know them could have been altered. Always aware of the long tail of the 1980s, the book also addresses the now. “A major difference,” Rich writes, “is that a solution is in hand; many solutions in fact.” Making an impassioned call for the moral dimension of the climate discussion (which must supplement the political and economic dimensions), Rich’s book is rousing and shocking, and renders the most urgent issue of our time in plain and striking language. – Seán Hewitt

The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney
By Okechukwu Nzelu
Fialogue Books, £16.99

Figuring out who you truly are is the central theme of this open-hearted debut. Nnenna Maloney is turning 17 and wants to find out who her father is. Around her, characters (who are loosely or closely linked to her) also grapple with matters that threaten their sense of self. Race, religion, class, sexuality – these are never far from centre stage as we jump between Cambridge, 1992, and Manchester, 2009. In this book, it feels too often like a “point” is being made, like the author is scratching over lines he might have drawn more softly. Still, the characters are likeable and towards the end, when a quietly complex plot comes together and a lyrical epilogue takes over, we begin to glimpse the talents of this emerging author. – Niamh Donnelly

The Fallen
By Carlos Manuel Álvarez, translated by Frank Wynne
Fitzcarraldo Editions

“We are all riding one bicycle son, we are pedalling the bicycle of justice.” The Fallen is told from the perspective of four family members: father, mother, daughter and son. Set in modern Cuba, the father Armando is a firm communist in a country in motion. Corruption is rife and Armando is ignorant to the clandestine activities occurring within his own family. The wheels begin to come loose. The Fallen follows a disintegration of family. Discord arises between the ideals of one generation and the pragmatism of the next. In a dysfunctional environment, deception invades private family life. The lines between truths and lies are blurred. In a poetic telling, this short novel explores the human capacity to love and to hurt. – Brigid O’Dea

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