Find out what the critics are saying about new books from Margaret Atwood, Meg Wolitzer and John Bradshaw plus pin-ups, hatchet jobs and an Adam Thirlwell bonanza.
In The Omnivore Digest this week: what the critics are saying about new books from Margaret Atwood, Meg Wolitzer and John Bradshaw; Allan Massie gets angry with a poor marketing assistant; the latest Omnivore Pin-ups share their passions for Leonard Cohen, sea dog diaries and John Updike, plus an Author Pitch for Brontë fans.

Given his work has appeared in over 30 languages, it's quite fitting that Adam Thirlwell's latest book should concern itself with the difficult art of translation. In Multiples, he has gathered authors as diverse as David Mitchell, Sheila Heti, Laurent Binet and Zadie Smith and asked them to take part in an elaborate literary parlour game translating an unknown story into another language and passing it on.

Thanks to Granta and the London Review bookshop, we're giving away a pair of tickets to see Ma Jian, A.S. Byatt, Joe Dunthorne, Adam Foulds and Tash Aw discuss the project with Thirlwell on the 11th of September. The lucky winner will receive two copies of Multiples
James Urqhart in The Independent on Sunday called the book "a bit left-field, innovative and a touch risky" while in The Times, Maureen Freely, translator for Orhan Pamuk, thought it "subversive at heart, challenging just about everything we hold true about authenticity, originality and creative genius."   

For your chance to win, tell us what BYOBN alumni Adam Thirlwell has in common with Adam Mars-Jones and Kazuo Ishiguro. Entries to by Tuesday 3rd September.

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
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"...a writer of virtuoso diversity, with an imagination that responds as keenly to scientific concerns as it does to the literary heritage in which she is steeped ... cutting-edge science combines with reshapings of motifs from earlier fiction." Peter Kemp, Sunday Times VS "What began in Oryx and Crake as excruciating black comedy is now dulled to a kind of invasive jocularity, and the barbs at current affairs are getting less and less subtle." Tim Martin, Telegraph

Read or Dead by David Peace
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"… a passionate and intimate portrait of an obsessive character ... a love letter and an elegy to a kind of football, a type of character, and a way of life that no longer exist." Doug Johnstone, The Independent VS "Peace has taken 700 pages to depict a saint. Someone should have stopped him. No first novelist could have got this book published but Peace has become too big to edit." Simon Kuper, Financial Times 

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
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"...a wonderful novel. Intelligent and subtle, it is exquisitely written with enormous warmth and depth of emotion." Kate Mosse, The Times VS "The breadth of Wolitzer’s scrambled timeline enables her to whisk political and pop culture references into her narrative, which sometimes feel forced." Peter Aspden, Financial Times
Best of the rest
Unfaithfully Yours by Nigel Williams, Mr Lynch’s Holiday by Catherine O’Flynn, Longbourn by Jo Baker, Familiar by J Robert Lennon, The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth.

Pick of the paperbacks
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach
Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction by Tracy Borman
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'[A] thorough and beautifully researched social history of the early 1600s, taking in everything from folk medicine to James I’s sex life" Bella Bathurst, Observer VS "it is a surprise to find her writing so censoriously about the more lurid of the contemporary witchcraft pamphlets, categorising them as “sensationalist” and as “a commercial product sold for entertainment”. Her own work seems to fit both descriptions." John Carey, Sunday Times
The English in Love: The Intimate Story of a Social Revolution by Claire Langhamer
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"Compelling and humane... She has the confidence to write in clear, honest prose, without the mystifying, polysyllabic jargon in which lesser historians write about sexuality to hide the thinness of their ideas." Richard Davenport-Hines, New Statesman VS "A social scientist, Ms Langhamer writes in the language of her discipline. This means that her rich and intimate material does sometimes chafe against the deliberate non-subjectivity of her field. Her decision to exclude “cultural interventions”—as in novels, among other things—also seems a pity. " The Economist
Edward III and The Triumph of England by Richard Barber
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"In terms of narrative form, it is a rambling disaster. Yet it is rescued by Barber’s infectious passion for and deep knowledge of his subject matter, his elegant prose and rigorous historical analysis" Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times VS "...he takes Edward at his own value: a strong and wise ruler who did not let either the brutal realities of power or the tedious business of government get in the way of his own elevated conception of kingship. Could it be that Edward’s dazzle has blinded Barber to the limitations of this “perfect king”?" Nigel Jones, Telegraph
Best of the rest
Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Explained by John Bradshaw, Sounds Like London: 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital by Lloyd Bradley, Zibaldone: The Notebooks of Leopardi ed. Michael Caesar & Franco D'Intino
Pick of the paperbacks
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks, The Victorian City by Judith Flanders, Injustice by Clive Stafford Smith


The author gets a break this time as The Scotsman‘s Allan Massie lays into the poor marketing assistant charged with writing Rawi Hage’s blurb:

“When his blurb-writer declared that “Carnival is a tour de force that will make all of life’s passengers squirm in their comfortable, complacent backseats”, Rawi Hage should surely have thrown up his hands and cried, “For God’s sake, no!” The backseats are there because the narrator is a taxi driver called Fly, but how a backseat can be complacent beats me. Furthermore, how many people who might buy the book want to be made to squirm? Fortunately the novel isn’t half as bad as this recommendation makes it sound, or at any rate no more than half as bad.”

Read all reviews for Carnival

What are you reading at the moment?
Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn
Natalia, 31, London
Which book would you give someone you’re trying to impress?
If I were to say the book in John Updike’s Bech series in which a couple supposedly based on my parents feature as a cameo and a baby crying in the background prefigures my existence, that would bring home the infinitesimal impact I’ve had on the world of books ever since. Really – my contacts book, hand-copied in Bic, kissed by the rain.
Josh, 31, north London
What’s the sexiest thing you’ve ever read?
The Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen has some really beautiful poems that manage to be sexy, funny and devastating by turns, and sometimes all at once.
Beth, 28, Bethnal Green
What will you read next?
Have been gearing up to read The private journal of Captain G.F. Lyon of HMS ‘Hecla’ during the recent voyage of discovery under Captain Parry for a wee while now. Captain Lyon spoke fluent Arabic in North Africa and was tattooed by the Inuit in Hudson Bay. A bon viveur, naval captain and explorer, he is also a direct relation.
Gordon, 27, Maida Vale
Which author do you have a crush on?
A friend recently sent me a picture of a young Thornton Wilder. What a total hunk!
Georgia, 28, north Kensington

If you would like to ask out one of our Omnivore Pin-ups, or appear as a Pin-up yourself, email

Watching Charlotte Brontë Die by Ellie Stevenson

What’s your book about?
Watching Charlotte Brontë Die is a collection of short stories. Some of them are ghost stories, some are surreal and some include the murder word, but whatever the aspect there’s usually a twist or a surprise of sorts.

Imagine your ideal reader: which authors do they enjoy?
Audrey Niffenegger, Wilkie Collins, Susan Hill and Charlotte Brontë.

If you would like to appear in Author Pitch, email

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