Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed review – a misogynist dystopia

The influence of The Handmaid’s Tale is clear – but this is a skilful novel full of suspense

Gather the Daughters is set in the alternative reality of a misogynist dystopia. On an island just out of sight of “the Wastelands” (the mainland, or the rest of the world), the descendants of 10 families live in a closed community with no technology later than pen and paper, no money and some disturbing sexual practices.

The island is ruled by “the Wanderers”, a group of elite adult men who make regular trips to the Wastelands, returning with a small selection of useful commodities to eke out the produce of small-scale subsistence farming. Other men follow the kinds of trades one might find in a small medieval town: blacksmithing, weaving and carpentry (though the population is so limited that when the papermaker dies, the islanders simply run out of paper). The ...

The Trees by Ali Shaw review – nature’s revenge on the modern world

Can a mild-mannered antihero save the day in this English ecological version of The Road?

One night, when 44-year-old English teacher Adrien Thomas is alone in his flat sleeping off a lot of beer and a nasty takeaway, giant trees push up through the ground destroying the surface of the earth and everything on it. The trees crush buildings, vehicles and their occupants in scenes reminiscent of catastrophic earthquakes. Britain, and perhaps the rest of the world, returns in a few late-night minutes to its forested state. Electronic devices are just toxic metals; oil and petrol merely pollutants. Adrien bumbles around the wreckage looking for the police and the army to tell him what to do; with his wife away at a conference in Ireland, he has no ideas and no resources. Fortunately, he is about to meet Hannah, a professional gardener and competent naturalist, and her teenage son Seb, and together the three ...

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein – a quirky debut with shades of Woody Allen

Boy meets girl on this surreal journey from New York City to Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands

Rebecca Dinerstein’s debut novel follows the lives of two young adults from New York City to the Lofoten Islands in Norway. Frances is a new college graduate awarded an artist’s residency at a Viking museum in the Arctic archipelago, while Yasha wants to bury his father “at the top of the world” but finds his plans compromised by permafrost and transport problems. Yasha was born in Moscow and is followed to the islands by his Russian mother– a piano player with heaving cleavage and high heels – while Frances is fleeing parents who seem to have been borrowed from a Woody Allen film. Boy, inevitably, meets girl. The cover recommendation from Jonathan Safran Foer tells you exactly what to expect: self-consciously quirky fiction fresh from an MFA at NYU.

If you can overlook the ...