Book reviews: New from Louise Nealon, Rahul Raina and Jhumpa Lahiri

Snowflake by Co Kildare Louise Nealon
Snowflake by Co Kildare Louise Nealon

Snowflake by Louise Nealon is published in hardback by Manilla, priced £12.99 (ebook £9.99)

TOO many debut authors are being dubbed ‘the new Sally Rooney’, their books lumped in with Normal People. Louise Nealon is one such author – blame the fact she’s Irish, the book features Trinity College Dublin, and the rights have been sold to the same people who adapted Normal People. But in content, Snowflake is more spry; it agitates and shifts your sense of certainty. Debbie’s smart and used to it, but starting university – even just commuting from her family’s dairy farm – means leaving her drunken troubled uncle, Billy, and her unreliable mother who’s caught up in dreams, for too-long stretches of time. But she makes a go of it, somehow attracting the friendship of the glamorous Xanthe, and throwing herself into obliterative nights out – until family drama gets its claws in and drags her back. Nealon tackles uneasy conversations around trauma and grief, sex and consent, self-delusion and the fear of what you might be capable of, deftly and with humour (there’s a debacle with a coffin that provokes actual out-loud laughs). Mythic elements aren’t quite so distinct, but the rough edges of Debbie, and the descriptions of life in rural Ireland, ground the rest in a story that’s sharp, clever and affecting.


Ella Walker

How To Kidnap The Rich by Rahul Raina is published in hardback by Little, Brown, priced £14.99 (ebook £8.99)

A SATIRICAL crime thriller and profound social commentary rolled into one, How To Kidnap The Rich is an uproarious ride through the caste system of Delhi, new and old. Energetic wit pours out of Rahul Raina’s prose, while an acerbic bite highlights inequalities in race, sex and social class with candid clarity. Clever, impoverished Ramesh and rich, lazy teenager Rudi make an unexpectedly successful double act, careering around the city in high jinks that involve extortion, butchery, kidnap and cross-dressing. Veering from ridiculous to heart-wrenching, Raina’s exhilarating debut is pure entertainment from start to finish.


Rebecca Wilcock

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced £14.99 (ebook £10.49)

WHEREABOUTS, by Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Jhumpa Lahiri, is the novelist’s first self-translated work from Italian, a language she learned after relocating to Rome a decade ago, and where she partly lives today. The book is a series of short chapters, mostly located somewhere different. The nameless protagonist, a single university professor, lives a solitary existence in an unnamed Italian city, moving from place to place and pondering life. Plot is almost non-existent, but there are glimpses into her life beyond the pages of the novel – an almost affair with the husband of a close friend, memories of a past relationship, regrets and jealousies. Evocative descriptions of meals, books and conversations will stay with you long after the train has taken her to another city.


Jessica Frank-Keyes