Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala review – coming out and coming of age

The son of devoutly religious parents realises he is gay in Iweala’s tentative follow-up to the acclaimed Beasts of No Nation

Related: The gentrification of Washington DC: how my city changed its colours

It has been 13 years since Uzodinma Iweala’s debut novel, Beasts of No Nation, was published to extraordinary reviews and a slew of prizes. The book, the moving story of a child soldier, Agu, caught up in an African war of relentless brutality, was turned into a film starring Idris Elba. The film was as forgettable as the book was memorable, highlighting the really remarkable thing about Iweala’s novel – the daring and unusual rendition of the protagonist’s perspective and linguistic register (something that Cary Fukunaga was unable to convey in his film). Agu’s voice in the book is a pidgin English that is, at first, difficult to comprehend, but increasingly forges a kind of ...

Women better represented in Victorian novels than modern, finds study

Analysis finds proportion of female authors and characters fell after 19th century, with male authors remaining ‘remarkably resistant’ to writing women

Women in novels have tended to “feel”, while men “get”; women smile or laugh, while men grin or chuckle. An analysis of more than 100,000 novels spanning more than 200 years shows how gendered even seemingly innocuous words can be – as well as revealing an unexpected decline in the proportion of female novelists from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century.

Academics from the universities of Illinois and California at Berkeley used an algorithm to examine 104,000 works of fiction dating from 1780 to 2007, drawn mostly from HathiTrust Digital Library. The algorithm identified both author and character genders. The academics expected to see an increase in the prominence of female characters in literature across the two centuries. Instead, “from the 19th century through the early 1960s we see ...

Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?

Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blog. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

First, three pleasingly positive reviews. George Saunders’ Lincoln In The Bardo has left conedison “reeling”:

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The cult of the unreliable female narrator must be stopped | Stephanie Merritt

In fiction and life, women’s testimony is held up to scrutiny and dismissed on the grounds that our biology makes us irrational

One of the recurrent responses to the flurry of #MeToo allegations, in Hollywood and beyond, was for those accused to cast doubt on the credibility of the women involved, either by implying that they were seeking publicity, or that they were too unstable to be taken seriously.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the case of Rose McGowan, a woman whose sometimes erratic behaviour, candid discussion of her troubled childhood and history of emotional fragility was pounced on by lawyers bent on undermining her version of events.

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Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi review – elegant satire

The winner of the international prize for Arabic fiction reimagines Mary Shelley’s classic in war-torn Iraq

“Be a positive force and you’ll survive,” a character repeatedly mutters in Ahmed Saadawi’s hallucinatory and hilarious novel. In war-torn Baghdad, where truck bombings are an unremarkable part of everyday life and where human life is a trinket to be tossed away, positive force is in short supply. It seems unsurprising in this present-day hell, then, that an opportunistic tinker and ne’er-do-well, Hadi, could seize upon myriad spare body parts covering the streets and create a patchwork human being. Saadawi suggests that, amid all the horror and spiritual degradation, there is nothing especially unlikely in the idea that this thing of shreds and patches should find reanimation from the soul of a security guard blown to shreds. Nor that the “whatsisname” should roam the streets, committing a series of murders.

Initially, the creature’s ...

How I beat anorexia by savouring the lavish meals of literature

Laura Freeman had the eating disorder since her teens, but the enticing food conjured by Charles Dickens and Laurie Lee set her free

Laura Freeman was first diagnosed with anorexia aged 14. A decade later she had begun to rebuild her life but still struggled with her attitude to food, eating small portions of the same thing for months on end. “At 24, I’d got to the point where I was recovered enough that I could eat, but only in a very formulaic way,” she says. “I had a pretty boring diet. It was more about getting through each day.”

Then one day she read a passage in Siegfried Sassoon’s 1928 Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man describing “a breakfast of boiled eggs eaten in winter”. It changed everything.

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