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THE PORPOISE by Mark Haddon (Chatto £ 18.99, 336 p.)


by Mark Haddon (Chatto £ 18.99, 336 pages)

Mark Haddon's bewitching but unsettling interpretation of Shakespeare's Pericles begins in the modern world – with a plane crash – and then drifts into the fantastic, where old enchants weave their magic over mythical characters.

Baby Angelica is the only survivor of the crash, and her billionaire father Philippe brings her up in wonderful isolation and sexually abuses her at the same time.

Hope for rescue comes in the form of dashing Darius, a rich young acquaintance of her father. But he's afraid of Philippe's watchdog. Darius escapes on a friend's boat and turns into the Prince of Tire, who sails on the seas of antiquity. He goes to battle with pirates, ghosts and adorable princesses.

Meanwhile, Angelica's grip on life grows weaker as she stands out from the bleak realities of her existence and dreams of a new fate.

Season Butler's CYGNET (Dialog £ 14.99, 256 pages)

Season Butler's CYGNET (Dialog £ 14.99, 256 pages)


by Season Butler (Dialog £ 14.99, 256 pages)

The narrator of this lively, poetic debut is The Kid. She is 17 years old, afraid of the sea, but lives on an island, hidden in a house that sways over a cliff and whose foundations are eroded by the crashing tides.

It is a meaningful metaphor for the state of your life. It is besieged on all sides, desperately clinging to an appearance of normalcy.

Her junkie parents left her on Swan Island – a separatist community of retirees who avoided the mainland and its youthful evils for the idylls of old age.

In contrast, The Kid is overflowing with the fears of youth, which are made all the more moving by their acute self-confidence. She is "somehow mysterious and damaged, a strange young thing in old women's clothes".

Lonely, lost and melancholy, The Kid looks at the shape of their (and our) future in a sinking world.

THE BOOK OF DREAMS by Nina George (Scribner, £ 14.99, 400 pages)

THE BOOK OF DREAMS by Nina George (Scribner, £ 14.99, 400 pages)


by Nina George (Scribner, £ 14.99, 400 pages)

Henri Skinner, 45, a former war correspondent, is in a coma after a car accident – a borderline between life and death. In the waking world, his estranged 13-year-old son Sam tries to connect with his father and tries to put his special gifts into Henry's submerged spirit.

Also concerned about Henry's recovery is Eddie, his former lover, who cleverly recognizes Henri as "always running away from himself and looking for his true identity".

She is ready to recover him and to remember her past together.

It is a tender, dreamy, melancholy story in which death hovers on the horizon and hope is constantly plagued by the harsh medical realities and the uncertain outcome of Henry's broken mind.


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