Books; NEW FICTION

Article excerpt

* The Kid by Sapphire in trade paperback by Hamish Hamilton, pounds 12.99.

Sapphire's new novel picks up years after her previous book Push, which was turned into award-winning film Precious, starring Gabourey Sidibe and Mariah Carey.

Following the tragic death of his mother Precious, nine-year-old Abdul Jones is left to fend for himself. With no guardian or other family, Harlem-based Abdul is forced to move from a foster home to the troubled St Ailanthus boys' school with other orphans, where he is abused, both mentally and physically, and later leaves to stay with a woman who claims to be his great-grandmother.

Discovering an extraordinary talent and passion for dance, the teenager uses the art form as his therapy as he tries to escape his past and heal his wounds through performance - but years of abuse take their toll.

Like Push, The Kid travels through time, flashbacks and memories to deliver a punchy story. While the use of street lingo for a stream-of-consciousness narrative may be challenging at times, it gives more authenticity.

It doesn't make light or easy reading, but it is a worthy follow-up. 7/10 * All That I Am by Anna Funder in hardback by Viking, pounds 18.99.

Anna Funder won the Samuel Johnson Prize for her first book, Stasiland, a highly personalised but non-fiction account of the secret police in Communist East Germany during the Cold War.

This time around the Australian writer takes pre-war Germany under the Nazis as her starting point, charting the lives of a group of intellectuals who opposed Hitler's rise to power and found themselves exiled from their homeland as a consequence. While based in fact and on real lives - one of the characters is a personal acquaintance who lived the later years of her life in Melbourne - All That I Am is written as a feat of Funder's imagination as she explores the personal hopes, loves and fears that her painstaking historical research could not unearth.

The result is, like Stasiland, an original and convincing take on an already intensively-trawled period of history. Poignant and moving.

8/10 * A Cruel Bird Came To The Nest And Looked In by Magnus Mills in hardback by Bloomsbury, pounds 12.99. The author of the McKitterick Prize and Booker-shortlisted novel The Restraint Of Beasts, Magnus Mills, returns with his seventh novel, A Cruel Bird Came To The Nest And Looked In.

Set in the fictional empire of Greater Fallowfields, the story explores the fate of the region's royal officers, who are each performing jobs they are under-qualified for - including an incompetent astronomer who doesn't know the differences between stars and planets.

This philosophical satire is told in Mills's deceptively simple narrative voice, with the allegories running through adding depth to his characters' simple lives.

A smattering of well-placed humour makes this a very well-told story.

7/10 * The Burning Soul by John Connolly in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 17.99.

Charlie Parker is the sort of private detective who gets every reader on his side by getting up the noses of all law enforcement officers.

Even though he is on the side of everything that is good and right he manages to flout almost every law and rule on his way to saving the day.

Best-selling author John Connolly, the first non-American to win the US Shamus award, delivers the usual fast-paced thriller as the Parker series reaches its 11th title.

Parker's latest mystery surrounds the disappearance of a child but the hero must work out who is lying, why they are lying and what to do about it, at the same time as figuring out what has happened to a teenage girl. …