First Novels

Katharine Kilalea is a South African poet who has written a startlingly good first novel. OK, Mr Field (Faber, £12.99) is the haunting story of a concert pianist whose wrist is fractured in a train crash. On a whim, he uses his compensation money to buy a house that he has only seen in pictures. If that sounds dull, this might be because it is hard to convey the shocking accuracy of Kilalea’s prose, which, ultimately, is what makes this novel so riveting. The absolute correctness of the vocabulary she uses makes one realise how pretentious and unnecessary the language in much contemporary fiction is.