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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

The page turners of 2023: Fiction

Fiction books that stood out and stole the show this year

The Telegraph Published 29.12.23, 10:03 AM
A likeness of Lucrezia de’ Medici (1545-1561), the fifth child of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, painted on the eve of her marriage to Alfonso II d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara — the subject of Maggie O’ Farrell’s 'The Marriage Portrait'

A likeness of Lucrezia de’ Medici (1545-1561), the fifth child of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, painted on the eve of her marriage to Alfonso II d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara — the subject of Maggie O’ Farrell’s 'The Marriage Portrait' Sourced by the Telegraph

Prophet Song
By Paul Lynch,
Oneworld

This year’s winner of the Booker Prize is a dystopian novel that is a dirge to the darkest of times.

Nights of Plague: A Novel
By Orhan Pamuk,
Hamish Hamilton

The themes of contagion
and containment offer Orhan Pamuk a brilliant, historically inventive means for reflecting on global history and imperial decline.

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The Birth Lottery and Other Surprises
By Shehan Karunatilaka,
Hachette

The winner of last year’s Booker Prize puts together a curious mix of eccentric characters who bear witness to the many moods and voices of Sri Lanka.

The Marriage Portrait
By Maggie O’Farrell,
Tinder

An adroitly composed literary portrait of the disastrous marriage between Alfonso II d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara, and Lucrezia de’ Medici that is also a fascinating study of female characters.

Liberation Day
By George Saunders,
Penguin

The cast of these absurdly funny stories is trapped by the rituals of hyper-capitalism. This is an intelligent investigation of the prisons that we — consumer-citizens — make for ourselves.

Victory City
By Salman Rushdie,
Hamish Hamilton

Salman Rushdie’s first book after surviving an attack by an extremist cocks a snook at the bigotry of muscular nationalism.

Look at the Lights, My Love
By Annie Ernaux (Translated by Alison L. Strayer),
Yale

A piercing social commentary on mass consumerism crystallised through the personal experiences of the Nobel laureate.

The Bee Sting
By Paul Murray,
Hamish Hamilton

An irresistibly funny, wise, and thought-provoking tour de force about family, fortune and the struggle to be a good person when the world is falling apart.

Birnam Wood
By Eleanor Catton,
Granta

Birnam Wood

Birnam Wood Sourced by The Telegraph


This grimly enjoyable climate fiction maps the overlapping turfs of climate activism and predatory capitalism as well as the subterranean webs that entangle these terrains.

The Memoirs of Valmiki Rao
By Lindsay Pereira,
Vintage

A battle scene from the Ramayana

A battle scene from the Ramayana Sourced by The Telegraph


At once contemporary and timeless, this is a fable that combines myth and reality to explore morality, hypocrisy, hate and faith.

Old Babes in The Wood
By Margaret Atwood,
Doubleday

Old Babes in the Wood celebrates the gift of mutual understanding, despite personal failings and foibles, that individuals may acquire in their twilight years.

Western Lane
By Chetna Maroo,
Picador

A family tries to navigate the grief of losing the matriarch by focusing all its energies on the game of squash. But there is no escaping the valley of grief.

The Wind Knows My Name
By Isabel Allende,
Bloomsbury

Isabel Allende imagines a land without borders in a world where the crises of homelessness and Statelessness have reached alarming proportions.

Age of Vice
By Deepti Kapoor,
Juggernaut

Wealth meets deceit in this searing crime thriller that is also an epic tale of political and moral corruption.

Crook Manifesto
By Colson Whitehead,
Fleet

From crooked cops to the exploitation of the Black community, this tale, which brings to life the New York of the 1970s, sizzles with the undercurrents of crime, corruption, thrill, and social satire.

Pearl
By Siân Hughes,
Picador

A poignant exploration of the grief that is felt first in the absence of a person and,
then, in the presence of everything the person leaves behind.

Black River
By Nilanjana S. Roy,
Westland

Emotionally-invested characterisation, visually-evocative geographies, and trenchant socio-political critique inform this treat of a noir fiction.

Following a Prayer: A Novel
By Sundar Sarukkai,
Tranquebar

A hauntingly intense, philoso­phi­-cal reflection on language and the pursuit of meaning that harnesses the power of persuasive storytelling.

The Light at the End of the World
By Siddhartha Deb,
Westland

An Anthropocene narrative that depicts the strangeness of the worlds we inhabit and think we know well.

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