In brief: Tyll; Silence Is a Sense; The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer – reviews

A jester’s moral crusade in 17th-century Europe; a mute refugee adrift in an English city; and the story of Arthur Conan Doyle and the son of the village vicar


Daniel Kehlmann (translated by Ross Benjamin)
Riverrun, £18.99, pp352

Shortlisted for last year’s International Booker prize and a future Netflix series, Tyll is a hugely enjoyable journey into a 17th-century Europe beset with war, plague and witch-hunters. Daniel Kehlmann’s titular character, taken from a German folktale about a practical joker on a moral crusade, leaves his tiny village to entertain the various royal courts of Europe, zeroing in on their absurdities and telling unwanted truths. An anarchic read, but all the more entertaining for it.

Silence Is a Sense

Layla AlAmmar
HarperCollins, £14.99, pp256

AlAmmar takes a fascinating approach to the refugee crisis in this, her second novel. Initially, her mute, traumatised protagonist simply observes life in the unnamed English city that is her new home. As she tentatively begins to interact with those she has spied upon, revealing more about her own identity and history, the safety she seeks looks increasingly unlikely. Compelling and original, Silence Is a Sense is uncomfortably close to the bone, depicting a country riven by racism and violence.

The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer

Shrabani Basu
Bloomsbury, £20, pp320

It’s a brilliant true story fictionalised by Julian Barnes in Arthur & George; a young man, George Edalji, prosecuted for a spate of crimes in Edwardian Staffordshire, probably because he looked Indian (his father, the village vicar, was a Parsi convert to Christianity), convinced Arthur Conan Doyle to champion his cause for justice. Basu, a journalist and historian whose books include Victoria & Abdul, has great fun with this event, her retelling acting as a timely reminder that the unsettling tale of empire has been swept under the carpet.

To order Tyll, Silence Is a Sense, or The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer go to Delivery charges may apply


Ben East

The GuardianTramp

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