In brief: Manchester Happened; Freshwater; Zonal Marking – reviews

Subtle stories from Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, autobiographical fiction from Akwaeke Emezi and a fascinating football study from Michael Cox

Manchester Happened

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Oneworld, £14.99, pp320

A surprise winner of the Windham Campbell prize for fiction last year, Makumbi’s collection of short stories reveals a thoughtful writer who quietly, engagingly, pierces the reality of relocating to Britain. Makumbi made the same journey from Uganda to Manchester that so many of her characters struggle with in this collection, which spans work from 2012 to the present day. Yet it never feels repetitive. Rather, Manchester Happened explores the emotional nuance of the immigrant experience, particularly so in the Commonwealth short story prize-winning Let’s Tell This Story Properly. An apt title: Makumbi definitely does.


Akwaeke Emezi
Faber, £10, pp240

Akwaeke Emezi is the first gender-fluid writer to be longlisted for the Women’s prize, and, via the mythic coming-of-age story of Ada, Freshwater certainly channels this remarkable Nigerian author’s interests in identity. A student inhabited by male and female spirits which become different parts of her psyche, Ada starts the book as a “she” and ends up a “they”, navigating rape, self-harm, alcohol and eating disorders on the journey to some kind of peace. Emezi has said Freshwater is a “breath away from being a memoir” but the real achievement is that it works as a strange, phantasmagoric fairytale that asks us to think deeply about who we are.

Zonal Marking: The Making of Modern European Football

Michael Cox
HarperCollins, £16.99, pp448

As Michael Cox suggests in this intricate study of football tactics, Manchester City’s success and the European dominance of English clubs this season didn’t come from nowhere. They came from Johan Cruyff and Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch mastery in the 1990s; Spain’s tiki-taka triumphs from 2008-2012; and, more recently, the rapid pressing game of the Germans. accessible writing masking some diligent research; this is a fascinating assessment of football in 2019.

• To order Manchester Happened, Freshwater or Zonal Marking: The Making of Modern European Football go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99


Ben East

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
In brief: Illuminations; The World: A Family History; From Manchester With Love – reviews
Alan Moore’s short stories enchant, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s dynastic history illuminates and Paul Morley’s biography of Tony Wilson is a moving portrait of Manchester

Ben East

16, Oct, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Juve!; The Heavens; The Beloved Children – reviews
Herbie Sykes tackles an Italian football great, Sandra Newman proffers a gripping time-slip romance, and Tina Jackson conjures a fairytale of wartime London

Ben East

15, Nov, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Howul: A Life's Journey; Revolutions; Thinking Again – reviews
David Shannon’s prose shines with sweet innocence, women cycle their way to freedom, and Jan Morris’s spry memoir captures the later days of an incredible life

Ben East

04, Apr, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Admissions; Mind on Fire; American Histories – reviews
The second memoir from neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, a personal history of depression and a fiery letter to Donald Trump from black America

Arifa Akbar

06, May, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
In brief: Harlem Shuffle; Two Brothers; The Queen of Dirt Island – reviews
Colson Whitehead on a heist gone wrong; a revisionary study of the footballing Charltons; and Donal Wilson’s latest fictional vignette of small-town Ireland

Ben East

21, Aug, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Washington Black; The Men on Magic Carpets; This Paradise – reviews
A flying machine takes a slave around the world in Esi Edugyan’s Booker-shortlisted tale and Ed Hawkins goes in search of superhuman hippies

Ben East

07, Apr, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Carrie Soto Is Back; High; All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days – reviews
A retired tennis champion defends her title and finds herself; Erika Fatland has an insightful Himalayan adventure; and a gripping true story of a woman in the anti-Nazi resistance

Hannah Beckerman

15, Aug, 2022 @1:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Home Remedies; A Frank O’Hara Notebook; Ghost Wall – reviews
A promising collection of stories about Chinese millenials from Xuan Juliana Wang, Bill Berkson’s impressions of his mentor and a striking chiller from Sarah Moss

Hephzibah Anderson

09, Jun, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
In brief: The Good Drinker; The Blue Flames; Exit Stage Left – reviews
Adrian Chiles gives entertaining advice on moderation, AM Burrage’s spooky short stories get their dues and Nick Duerden tells of the tolls of pop stardom

Alexander Larman

31, Oct, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
In brief: Beyond the Red Wall; The Golden Age of British Short Stories 1890-1914; Inside the Beautiful Inside – reviews
Deborah Mattinson’s report on Labour’s losses is timely

Alexander Larman

04, Oct, 2020 @12:00 PM