In brief: Hot Stew; Hope Not Fear; The Earthspinner – review

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Hot Stew

Fiona Mozley
John Murray Press, £8.99, pp320

Fiona Mozley moves from the rural, gothic Yorkshire of her 2017 Booker-shortlisted debut, Elmet, to a vibrant, sometimes grotesque Soho for Hot Stew. It’s a confident, assured transition, as Mozley brilliantly depicts a cast of misfits and minor miscreants connected to a brothel under threat of closure because of property developers. Witty and warm without ever tripping over into bawdiness or titillation, Hot Stew communicates a wonderful sense of community. A paean of praise for counterculture, it kicks against the faceless corporatisation of our urban spaces.

Hope Not Fear

Hassan Akkad
Bluebird, £18.99, pp304

If there is a story of our times, Hassan Akkad tells it in this remarkable memoir. Forced to flee Syria, his mobile footage of his journey to Britain, clinging to a sinking dinghy, was used in the Bafta-winning documentary Exodus. Finding work as a hospital cleaner, Akkad then got his phone out again in the first months of Covid-19, pleading for immigrant NHS workers to be given equal rights. Akkad writes with urgency, honesty and some generosity, finding hope and possibility amid the despair.

The Earthspinner

Anuradha Roy
Mountain Leopard Press, £16.99, pp224

Anuradha Roy’s bifurcated novel quietly and adeptly juxtaposes the tale of a lovelorn potter in an Indian village with the experiences of his apprentice, now studying at a prestigious English university. The Earthspinner revels in myth and magic realism too, as the potter’s desire to fashion a terracotta horse for a woman across the religious divide unleashes both longing and violence; a stray dog’s strange pull on the community layers further intrigue. Roy celebrates art, creativity and inclusion while simultaneously portraying a world on the brink of destructive fanaticism.

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