In brief: Gratitude; Icebound; Amnesty – reviews

An elderly woman struggles to make sense of her past; the gripping story of an Arctic explorer; and a humane novel about an ‘illegal alien’


Delphine de Vigan

Bloomsbury, £14.99, pp160

Gratitude is Delphine de Vigan’s second bleak but poignant look at existence. Where 2019’s Loyalties focused on the insecurities of our early years, this book features an elderly woman, Michka, battling aphasia and degeneration. But as she attempts to piece together an unresolved childhood trauma, the comic edge to her muddled words in George Miller’s translation does lessen the authenticity and intensity somewhat.

Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World

Andrea Pitzer

Simon & Schuster, £20, pp320

More than 300 years before Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition, Dutch explorer William Barents set out to try to find a route through the most remote regions of the frozen north to China. On the third occasion, in 1597, his ship was encased by ice. What happened next is the stuff of castaway movies – Barents and his crew spent nine months fighting polar bears and the freezing cold – and Andrea Pitzer does a fine job of telling this gripping adventure, painting a convincing portrait of an obsessive who put his life on the line for glory and knowledge – and succumbed.


Aravind Adiga

Picador, £8.99, pp272 (paperback)

Aravind Adiga will probably never repeat the stylistic effervescence of his 2008 Booker-winning debut, The White Tiger, but his latest novel is a humane and deliberate tale about Danny, a Sri Lankan “illegal alien” in Australia. He is forced to decide over 24 hours whether to inform the police about a murder, which will put him at risk of deportation. Adiga’s insight into Danny’s situation and past is compelling, but the actual story falls short.

To order Gratitude, Icebound or Amnesty go to Delivery charges may apply


Ben East

The GuardianTramp

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