CAT BRUSHING by Jane Campbell (Riverrun £14.99, 256pp)


by Jane Campbell (Riverrun £14.99, 256pp) 

Well-heeled, silvery-haired and clever, the heroines of these 13 refreshingly spiky stories from octogenarian author Jane Campbell are facing up to their futures and reliving their pasts. 

Once controlled, elegant and charming, they now are wryly attempting to take a new stance — ‘so in the absence of being able to please I try to be useful. And not disgusting,’ says the mother of a rich financier son, as she shares his Bermuda home, and recalls her own sexual adventures (Cat Brushing). 

Elsewhere, the chilly calculating narrator of Kindness, who ‘brushes up well’, exacts a toothsome revenge on a surgeon who used his looks to ‘touch up every woman within five miles’, while sinuous-limbed Linda returns to the watery plains of the Zambezi to reconnect with the careless man who once called her his ‘Little Serpent’ (Lamia).


by Arinze Ifeakandu (W&N £14.99, 224pp) 

Bold, bruised and charged with emotion, these nine heartbreakingly beautiful stories unspool the lives and loves of gay Nigerian men, who are besieged by society’s homophobia, battling their families’ hostility and in thrall to their yearning hearts and bodies. 

There are frank descriptions of desire, delicate delineation of feelings and a clear-eyed, unflinching squaring up to the destructive violence inflicted on men for their sexuality. 

In this world, parents condone the beating of their gay son by a church minister (Good Intentions), marriages falter and fail (Where The Heart Sleeps) and sweethearts part (What The Singer Says About Love). 

But there’s also joy and an intense sense of wondrous connection — ‘sad things and happy things, everything vibrated at the tips of his fingers’. Passionate, profound and pulsing with life, this is a remarkable debut. 

LIFE CEREMONY by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori (Granta £12.99, 272pp)


by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori (Granta £12.99, 272pp) 

Surprising, sometimes sweet and often sinister, this debut collection of short stories from the best-selling author of Convenience Store Woman is decidedly off–kilter. 

Food, sex, death and friendship are her themes, but her approach to these familiar subjects is disruptive and unpredictable. Dead bodies are repurposed into furniture and jewellery (A FirstRate Material). 

Elsewhere, children keep a middle-aged man as a pet, while the brilliant Body Magic offers a protective charm for young women who are unsure about their desires — ‘our pleasure is ours …and we don’t betray our own pleasure, we don’t betray our own bodies.’ 

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