Magazine article The Spectator

Philip Hensher

Magazine article The Spectator

Philip Hensher

Article excerpt

Philip Hensher

Neither of the two discoveries of my year were remotely new writers, but still worth sharing; the unique bitchy-sensitive Dawn Powell, and Surtees. Both I read with an amazed sense of `why has no one ever told me about this before?'; well, people had told me about Surtees, but I always thought he wrote about hunting. He does, but in much the same way that Stubbs paints horses; he turned out to be the most observant and evocative novelist of his age. It was a sad day, in both cases, when I finished their last novel.

New books were patchier. Helen Simpson's Hey Yeah Right Get A Life (Cape, L14.99) was simply tremendous. Collections of short stories rarely coalesce into a whole; this was a truly terrifying glimpse into the abyss, and all the time pretending to be nothing more than a little book about mothers and children in the London suburbs. She is a witch, with the surest hand in contemporary fiction. The novels I liked best were Jane Smiley's grand, rich, informed Horse Heaven (Faber, L17. …

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