Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng review – hidden passions

A burning house sparks tensions within an all-too-perfect suburban community in a story exploring race, identity and family secrets

Is it possible to plan a community; to construct it from scratch, instil it with virtues and benefits, and order it to your satisfaction? The founders of Shaker Heights, Ohio, certainly thought so: in 1905, railroad magnates the Van Sweringen brothers picked a wide place in the road and set about developing one of the United States’ first garden cities. Their intention was to create a suburban retreat, connected to the industrial powerhouse of nearby Cleveland but insulated from its fug and bustle: a place built on notions of harmony and cooperation, with rules regulating every aspect of communal life, down to the colours you could paint your house (“slate blue, moss green, or a certain shade of tan”) and how high (“six inches”) your lawn was permitted to grow.

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng review – hidden passions

A burning house sparks tensions within an all-too-perfect suburban community in a story exploring race, identity and family secrets

Is it possible to plan a community; to construct it from scratch, instil it with virtues and benefits, and order it to your satisfaction? The founders of Shaker Heights, Ohio, certainly thought so: in 1905, railroad magnates the Van Sweringen brothers picked a wide place in the road and set about developing one of the United States’ first garden cities. Their intention was to create a suburban retreat, connected to the industrial powerhouse of nearby Cleveland but insulated from its fug and bustle: a place built on notions of harmony and cooperation, with rules regulating every aspect of communal life, down to the colours you could paint your house (“slate blue, moss green, or a certain shade of tan”) and how high (“six inches”) your lawn was permitted to grow.

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Vladimir Nabokov’s dream diary reveals experiments with ‘backwards timeflow’

Newly published collection of the Lolita author’s notes shows him investigating theory that dreams can be inspired by future events

A 1964 diary in which Vladimir Nabokov recorded more than 50 of his dreams – ranging from the erotic to the violent to the surreal – is about to be published for the first time.

“Intensely erotic dream. Blood on sheet,” the novelist writes on 13 December 1964. “End of dream: my sister O, strangely young and languorous … Then stand near a window, sighing, half-seeing view, brooding over the possible consequence of incest.”

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa review – superior pet lit

Anyone who’s ever had a cat will be moved by this beautifully evoked feline roadtrip

Consider two famous facts about cats. One: on the night of 30 April 1915, the ship’s cat of the RMS Lusitania went awol in New York. The next day, the ship sailed for Liverpool without him; a week later it was torpedoed by U-boats and sunk. Two: in the ruins of Pompeii, there have been found no cat remains, although mosaics and statues indicate that cats were favoured pets. Countless people perished in the destruction of Pompeii, as did hapless dogs. But when they died, they did it cat-less.

I mention these feline feats of scarpering in times of crisis because the reader needs to be warned: Hiro Arikawa’s bestselling Japanese novel features a cat with a heart, who feels loyalty and gratitude and would never abandon his loving human master – not at ...

Anita Desai: my literary apprenticeship with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

The Booker-winning German Jewish writer, who spent much of her adult life in India, was compared to Jane Austen for her wit and precision. Anita Desai remembers their friendship

Alipur Road was a wide avenue lined with enormous banyan trees, and my mother and I would go for walks along it – to Maiden’s Hotel, which had a small library, or further on to the Quidsia Gardens. And, across the road, I’d see a young woman pushing a pram with a baby seated in it and a little girl dancing alongside it. She was a married woman clearly, and I a student at the University of Delhi, but glancing across the road at her, I felt an instinctive relation to her. Why?

She was revealed to be a young woman of European descent – German and Polish – who was married to an Indian architect, Cyrus Jhabvala, and lived in rooms in a ...

The Alarming Palsy of James Orr review – the collapse of normality

Perception and reality blur in a compelling fable about otherness, anxiety and the alienating effects of illness

Reading Eley Williams’s brilliant story collection Attrib., published earlier this year, I encountered a phrase – “unheimlich manoeuvres” – that captures perfectly the most notable element of Tom Lee’s writing. He has a pronounced ability to take normal, even mundane situations and nudge them out of true, propelling his characters into positions of strangeness and danger that they are often fatally slow to identify. He did it in the best stories in his first book, Greenfly, and now he does it at novel length in The Alarming Palsy of James Orr.

Lee wastes no time in setting things askew. “When James Orr woke up,” the book begins, “he had the sense that there was something not quite right, some indefinable shift in the normal order of things.” That shift turns out ...

Raymond Chandler attacks US healthcare in newly-discovered story

It’s All Right - He Only Died was found in The Big Sleep author’s archives with a note underlining his contempt for doctors who turned away poor patients

A lost story by Raymond Chandler, written almost at the end of his life, sees the author taking on a different sort of villain to the hardboiled criminals of his beloved Philip Marlowe stories: the US healthcare system.

Found in Chandler’s archives at the Bodleian Library in Oxford by Andrew Gulli, managing editor of the Strand magazine, the story, It’s All Right – He Only Died, opens as a “filthy figure on a stretcher” arrives at a hospital. The man, who smells of whisky, has been hit by a truck, and staff at the hospital are loth to treat him because they assume he will be unable to pay for his care. “The hospital rule was adamant: A fifty dollar deposit ...