Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks review – in the shadow of history

The author’s affection for the city drives the stories of a French-Algerian teenage immigrant and an American academic in Paris

Nineteen-year old Tariq falls in love with his reflection while taking a pee. It’s a nicely wry update of the old Narcissus myth: a shaving glass instead of a woodland pool and a north African boy in place of the Greek youth. Tariq is too busy admiring himself to notice that he’s managed to spray the tiles around the toilet. He’s working out the best angle from which to view his face.

The possibility of seeing ourselves from a different angle is important to Faulks. In Paris Echo, he explores this by delving into the tangle of the past – familial, romantic and national. The two narrators, Hannah and Tariq, realise that the histories of war and empire cast long shadows on to present-day Paris. Tariq smuggles himself there ...

Game Theory by Thomas Jones review – crisp comedy of modern manners

Contemporary relationships are slyly observed in a debut told through a series of games, from croquet to Scrabble

The English novelist Rose Macaulay once sagely described croquet as “a very good game for people who are annoyed with one another, giving many opportunities for venting rancour”. Smack goes the mallet against the ball and off it flies, powered by your politely simmering rage. It’s an underlying sense of this absurdity, perhaps, that makes croquet such an effective device in Thomas Jones’s debut novel. The book begins and ends with the game played by a group of thirtysomethings, uneasy in their friendships and not entirely comfortable in their skins. Jones notices seething excitations beneath the niceties, small acts of sabotage and determinations of desire that ripple through each roquet.

Game Theory is, as the subtitle pointedly explains, “a comedy”: a modern study of manners, crisply told and slyly observed. The hapless Alex ...

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne review – grime-infused tinderbox debut

Desire, desperation, fear and the slashed rhythms of Wiley and Skepta run through this tale of three young men in a jagged London suburb

Early on in Guy Gunaratne’s novel, a group of young men gather for a game of football in a dilapidated outdoor sports court, the players taking their places, emerging like a constellation of stars. They drift over from every corner of the Stones estate as word of the game spreads: the gang of “Serbian kids from down Cricklewood”, the “Somali boys”, then Wayne, Dan, Younes and Nico, who “brings his dog”. It’s an unremarkable scene, doggedly ordinary even, but Gunaratne meticulously details their greetings (that slightly awry “side-hug and a palm on the back”), their small acknowledgments and terse exchanges. Beneath it all are the quiet crosscurrents of schoolboy loyalties and the unspoken fellowship that comes of growing up in a place with limited opportunities ...