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LITERARY FICTION | Daily Mail Online


Tremor by Teju Cole (Faber £18.99, 256pp)

Tremor by Teju Cole (Faber £18.99, 256pp)

Tremor 

by Teju Cole (Faber £18.99, 256pp) 

It’s been 12 years since Cole wowed critics with his debut Open City, in which a psychiatrist wanders Brussels and New York musing on the legacies of historical bloodshed. 

Tremor doubles down on his discursive style, taking us into the mind of Tunde, a Harvard professor, in the weeks before Covid-19 struck. He thinks about everything from the colonial sack of Benin to the aesthetics of a French spy drama and the music of Mali. 

There’s a curveball in Cole’s use of second-person narration – part of the novel is addressed to an unseen ‘you’ – as well as a segment made up of two dozen voices from locals in Lagos. 

I can think of few writers whoportray so persuasively what it is like simply to be alive in the world, thinking and feeling. Sure, you might want a bit more ‘doing’, too, but there’s steady electricity in the analytical bite of Cole’s seamlessly fluent digressions. 

This Plague of Souls by Mike McCormack (Canongate £16.99, 192pp)

This Plague of Souls by Mike McCormack (Canongate £16.99, 192pp)

This Plague of Souls 

by Mike McCormack (Canongate £16.99, 192pp) 

McCormack’s previous novel, Solar Bones, was robbed when it only made the longlist for the Booker Prize in 2017. 

Centred on the everyman psyche of an Irish engineer, it had a poignant twist I’m not about to spoil here – but if you’ve read it, let me say now that the trick he pulled in that book has nothing on the high-jinks afoot here. 

Set in Ireland, this book follows a middle-aged father released from jail for crimes that, like much else, are kept teasingly vague. His wife and son mysteriously aren’t home, and he keeps having elliptical conversations with a shadowy interlocutor who menacingly seems to know more about his life than he does himself. 

Things get weirder still when there’s a nationwide terrorist attack in which he may or may not be involved. It’s all very slippery and endlessly suggestive, as the circular wandering gives way to dystopian horror and a parable of complicity and guilt on an interconnected planet. 

The Caretaker by Ron Rash (Canongate £16.99, 272pp)

The Caretaker by Ron Rash (Canongate £16.99, 272pp)

The Caretaker 

by Ron Rash (Canongate £16.99, 272pp) 

If it’s a gripping yarn you’re after, look no further than this stirring tale of intergenerational deceit set in small-town America during the Korean War. 

It centres on Jacob, a teenage conscript whose near-fatal wounding in the field is seized upon by his snobby parents as a way to prise him out of his love match to a chambermaid from the wrong side of the tracks. Never mind that she’s pregnant with his child – they know how to take care of that. 

Rash, a seasoned writer with multiple awards to his name, lets us see their wicked plot before focusing the action on Jacob’s boyhood pal Blackburn, caretaker of the local cemetery, as he wises up to the skulduggery. 

Along the way, our sympathy is aroused by every character involved, even Jacob’s parents, who overburden him with their aspirations after the deaths of their two daughters. A terrifically involving scenario from a consummate storyteller 



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