iam Bell’s Man at Sea is a genre-defying delight that interrogates and reimagines the classic war novel. A domestic mystery set in Malta across the 1940s and 1960s, Man at Sea, follows the story of a former airman trying to reunite his old friend, Beth, with the son of her late wartime husband. The narrative is split between the airman, Stuart, and Beth’s stepson, with the former narrating the investigation alongside Beth during the 1960s. Beth’s Stepson acts as the second narrator, following his experience of the Siege of Malta through the 1940s. More than anything, this story is about the bonds people form through pain and fear and how complicated the love and relationships that arise from these shared experiences can be: ‘Could you not have left them a letter, huh? Just a word or two?’
Maaza Mengiste’s second novel, The Shadow King, was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2020 and bears all the hallmarks of the accolade. ‘Beautiful and devastating’ is Marlon James’ endorsement. What he means, we can assume, is that the writing is beautiful but its content devastating; the prose is vibrantly lyrical but the subject matter roams the darkest corners of conflict, something hard to reconcile with the word beautiful.
The Persian-Dutch writer Kader Abdolah was an opponent of the regimes of both the Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini, ultimately fleeing to the Netherlands as a political refugee in 1988. He has a degree in Physics, was Writer in Residence at Leiden University in 2006, and has written a large number of novels. The King (“De Read More