Book reviews: This week's best new fiction

A Theatre For Dreamers

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Polly Samson                                                                                 Bloomsbury, £14.99

To a teenage girl from England, in mourning for her dead mother, the Greek island of Hydra seems like an earthly paradise.

The year is 1960 and the picturesque, car-free island has attracted bohemian types from all over the globe, including the young Leonard Cohen

Erica, Samson’s impressionable young heroine, soon finds herself on the fringes of an uncharted world of free love, nude swimming and heavy drinking.

It will all end in tears, inevitably, but this well-crafted novel beautifully captures the texture of a halcyon age in which anything seems possible.

Max Davidson

 

Jack & Bet

Sarah Butler                                                                                             Picador, £14.99

Kind, quiet Jack Chalmers is besotted with his wife of 70 years, the garrulous, glamorous Bet.

Age is taking its toll however, and their son, the oft-married Tommy, wants them to move into sheltered accommodation. 

A chance meeting with a Romanian student seems to offer a lifeline, enabling them to stay put while she helps out around their cramped flat, but her presence soon prompts the spilling of old secrets. 

This is a tender, unsentimental exploration of the bittersweet joys of lifelong companionship, beautifully capturing the pangs of ageing and the treacheries of time.

Eithne Farry

 

Aria

Nazanine Hozar                                                                                        Viking, £14.99

This intricate novel tells the story of Aria, an abandoned new-born baby who is found and adopted by Behrouz, a lowly army driver, and of the three different women who mother her at various stages of her life.  

Set in a vibrantly depicted Tehran and spanning a 30-year period leading up to the 1981 Iranian Revolution, Hozar’s serpentine narrative shows how the inequality and hydraclubbioknikokex7njhwuahc2l67lfiz7z36md2jvopda7nchid.onion corruption of Iranian society under the Shah gives way to something more sinister. 

While it could have done with a little more editing, it’s a spellbinding debut.

Simon Humphreys