Jonathan Gibbs

Jonathan Gibbs reviews books for The Independent and elsewhere. His novel Randall, about the contemporary art world and the fate of the YBAs, is published by Galley Beggar Press. He blogs on this aspect of his writing at tinycamels.wordpress.com

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The Valley of Unknowing, By Philip Sington

Philip Sington's novel has a lot going for it: the fashionably grim setting of 1980s East Germany, with its thrillerish ambience of paranoia and Stasi informers; a love story that crosses geo-political borders; and an eye-catching plot that hangs on a novelist passing off the work of a dead rival as his own.

This is Paradise, By Will Eaves

This is a novel about ordinary lives that, at times, dips – or perhaps rises – into the extraordinary. It is about an averagely muddled middle-class family, the Alldens, who live in a ramshackle three-storey house in Bath: parents Emily and Don, and children Liz, Clive, Lotte and Benjamin. The book starts in the late Sixties, with Emily pregnant with Benjamin, and ends sometime in the recent past, with the children coping, more and less well, with the deterioration and death of the older generation.

Noughties, by Ben Masters

God knows, the mind of the average British undergraduate is a bewildering and bilious mixture of the high and the low, with gobbets of barely digested knowledge bobbing up against the vilest gutterings of the demotic. I think I would have taken Ben Masters' word for it on all of that, but here, in any case, is Noughties, his debut novel, laying out the awful, beer-soaked truth of student life.

Portrait of America: Hector Tobar

The Barbarian Nurseries, By Héctor Tobar

The problem with State of the Nation novels is that, if you're going to be fair to all your characters and not just satirise them into the ground, and you're also hoping for a decent amount of dramatic intensity, then you're going to have a very delicate task in terms of making things happen.

The Tragedy of Arthur, By Arthur Phillips

In terms of sheer audaciousness there will have been few novels this year to match The Tragedy of Arthur, which includes - as its greater or lesser portion, depending on your tastes - an entire "lost" Shakespeare play.

The Truth About Marie, By Jean-Philippe Toussaint

It's a paradox of translated fiction that, the better the translation, the less foreign the book can feel. Settings aside, your Jo Nesbos and Roberto Bolaños sometimes read like they were written in English. Not so with Jean-Philippe Toussaint. His strange, spare novels are Gallic through and through, teasing in their philosophical play, and pointedly cavalier with regards to such solid Anglo-Saxon notions as plot and narrative point of view.

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, by Geoff Dyer

If ever there was a book of two halves, it is this, Geoff Dyer's first novel for over a decade. His last fictional excursion (though for Dyer the division is largely artificial) was Paris, Trance, a druggy elegy for 90s romanticism that was partly a reworking of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

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