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The Independent Culture
Swallowing Geography by Deborah Levy, Cape pounds 12.99. Not a novel for those who like their narratives straightforward. Fragments of incidents - sometimes arresting, sexy or bizarre, sometimes just over-written - add up to a 'story' around a young heroine, JK, her lovers, her gay friend Gregory, her mad mother, her travels in Latin America, and apparitions of Trotsky and Lenin, all against a background of the horrors of the Gulf war. There is a certain satisfaction, or daring experimentalism, in making connections between apparently disparate moments, but even at its most precise it's a kind of writing that frustrates. You can't help wishing Levy would abandon the pose and observe. Nicolette Jones

City of Light by Michael Doane, Faber pounds 14.99. In Paris ('just another African capital') Zane sits at his computer, monitoring the worst that people can do to each other. A coded message on his screen tells him one of his observers, a personal friend, has gone missing. He abandons his office for the dangerous streets and a search which takes him to the heart of Africa. Set in a spooked world where amnesty groups tread a line between the death squads and the CIA, this is a gripping, well-researched story, let down by a sentimental and over- tidy ending. Not suitable for the computer-phobic. Anita Mason

Guppies for Tea by Marika Cobbold, Black Swan pounds 4.99. With a mother so obsessed with germs that she disinfects her coat-hangers, a faithless lover who doesn't understand her jokes, and a beloved grandmother losing her grip in a retirement home, the lateral- thinking heroine, Amelia, musters pluck against grim odds. Strong on black humour, soppy about romance and unflinching on mortality, this is the debut of a Swedish- born writer with an ear remarkably well-tuned to English nuance and a grand penchant for farce. The jilted Amelia's response to her ex-lover as he redecorates their house for someone new is to drive his Citroen through the French windows and park it neatly in front of the fireplace: 'Car's

in the sitting room. Love, Amelia.' Maggie Traugott

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