Golden Child by Claire Adam

Golden Child.jpg

Twins make up only a small fraction of the population but loom disproportionately large in literature. They are handy for storylines involving mistaken identity and creepy synchronicity, and offer the chance to show how people whose lives begin in the same place can take drastically different paths. A contrast between dissimilar twins is at the heart of “Golden Child”, Claire Adam’s assured and compelling first novel, which is set in rural Trinidad, where she grew up, during the 1980s.

Unlike Viola and Sebastian in “Twelfth Night”, Peter and Paul Deyalsingh do not appear to be “An apple, cleft in two”. Not at all. Paul “tends to slink around”, while Peter “walks with a bold step”. The boys—aged 13 when the book opens—have been treated differently from the beginning. Paul was deprived of oxygen at birth; a doctor suggested to the twins’ father, Clyde, that “mental retardation” might have resulted.


Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People, Sally Rooney’s extraordinary second novel has already been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018 and at 27, she could be the youngest writer ever to walk away with the prize. Anyone who has read her first novel, Conversations with Friends (2017), will hardly be surprised as they will know that she writes with breath-taking fluency. She wrote 100 000 words of her first book in just three months, by often writing for 17 hours a day and prior to this was a European debating champion. This might partly account for why the dialogue in her novels is so startlingly good.


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.


Lullaby by Leila Silmani

Leïla Slimani’s second novel won the Prix Goncourt and became the most read book in France in 2016. Now translated by Sam Taylor, it is being marketed as this year’s Gone Girl.

Myriam and Paul are blissfully happy after the birth of their first child, but shortly afterwards “the clocklike perfection of the family mechanism jammed”. When Myriam, who is of North African descent, visits a childcare agency, she is assumed to be a prospective employee.