Hot reads

3rd August 2007 at 01:00
Consequences. By Penelope Lively. Fig Tree pound;16.99 (hardback)

Ancestor Stones. By Aminatta Forna. Bloomsbury pound;7.99 (paperback)

Gods Behaving Badly. By Marie Phillips. Jonathan Cape pound;12.99 (hardback)

Anyone coming to Penelope Lively's novel expecting breathtaking plot twists, breaking glass, car chases or graphic descriptions of violence will be disappointed. However, lovers of her work will find Consequences very much to their taste.

It tells the story of three generations of women, beginning just before the Second World War and ending almost in the present.

A house, as so often in Lively's novels, provides the framework. Wood engraving and printing play an important part in what happens. So does war, and the network of class and personal relationships are economically and tellingly sketched. There's much that's dramatic, but it's told in a measured way that allows the reader to absorb the tale quietly and thoughtfully. The characters and their narratives are interesting and this account of the times they live through will remain with the reader.

Lively knows the weight and value of every word and uses language with elegance and precision.

Women's voices tell the stories that make up Aminatta Forna's Ancestor Stones. She's a writer who's not afraid of laying on the colours and speaking directly of strong emotions. This book will sweep you away with its tales of a life lived in a place of enormous beauty, which is going through cataclysms of war and the after-effects of colonialism in Africa.

Abie, living in contemporary London, travels to Africa and meets her four aunts after she discovers she has inherited the family coffee plantation.

The aunts' stories create a fascinating and complicated tapestry about women's lives in an unnamed African country.

The first joke in Gods Behaving Badly comes in the title, and the rest of this much-hyped debut novel keeps up the standard. It's a terrific idea: the Greek Gods, no longer on Olympus, are struggling in a squalid house in North London.

Humans play out a love story of their own against a background of hilarious and imaginative takes on characters such as Artemis (now a dog walker) Aphrodite (a phone-sex operator) and Apollo (a TV psychic). Athena, my favourite, speaks entirely in business jargon.

If you use the London Underground, you'll never forget that one of its platforms is where you catch the train to Hades, with Charon a sinister ticket collector on the journey.

This novel is very funny, inventive and also quite touching. If it weren't for the sex and the swearing, it would be a perfect cross-over novel from the adult to the teenage market. Or maybe those things will commend it to a younger audience. Whoever reads it, it's a blas *

Adele Geras has just published a new novel for adults called A Hidden Life (Orion)

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