This week’s best fiction is a mix of Amor Towles’s brave adventure and Burntcoat by Sarah Hall. It’s a shining triumph by Elizabeth Strout, John Banville, and John Banville.

The Lincoln Highway

Amor Towles                                                                                          Hutchinson £20

Set in 1954, this rollicking road trip begins as 18-year-old protagonist Emmett is sent home from the penal facility where he’s been held after accidentally causing the death of a bully in his Nebraska home town. 

He is a recently orphaned boy who sets out on a cross country odyssey that doesn’t go according to plan. Towles fans will enjoy discovering links to other novels in a big-hearted adventure told full of brio.

Anthony Cummins



Sarah Hall                                                                                                       Faber £12.99

Edith Harkness is a sculptor who has been scarred by caring about her brain-damaged mom. She’s just fallen for Halit, a Turkish chef, when a virus deadlier than Covid-19 strikes. Deciding to spend lockdown together, they throw themselves into a sexual idyll – but then Halit falls sick. 

It’s an imaginative take on the pandemic, though Hall’s clinical prose makes it less affecting than it might be, and some will question if our own crisis needs any exaggeration.

Anthony Gardner


Oh William!

Elizabeth Strout                                                                                         Viking £14.99

This latest instalment in the life of Strout’s inimitable heroine, Lucy Barton, takes its title from an exclamation that often passes through her mind when dealing with her ex-husband. 

It’s accompanied by fondness, frustration and occasionally fury as William faces two unpleasant shocks and Lucy tags along for the ride. It’s a beautiful novel that shines, and it ponders delicately about love, loss, and the mystery surrounding others.

Hephzibah Anderson


April in Spain

John Banville                                                                                                Faber £14.99

Banville has put aside his Benjamin Black pseudonym to create this atmospheric thriller that features Quirke, a Dublin pathologist. On holiday in San Sebastián, Quirke sees a young woman he’d believed dead. 

This chance encounter opens a world of possibilities with its roots in Irish politics and sets the stage for a deadly game. A novel as long-winded as a hot Spanish afternoon before it plunges into the darkness of the night.

John Williams